Byline: Michael McNamara

NEW YORK — As U.S. fabric producers seek to make exports a larger part of their collective business mix, the two leading domestic textile trade shows are out to give them an assist.
Whether it’s through creating export seminars, soliciting more buyers from foreign countries or teaming with trade shows from abroad, organizers of the International Fashion Fabric Exhibition, held here twice a year, and the Los Angeles International Textile Show, the twice-yearly West Coast fabric showcase, said they are out to make their respective shows more export-oriented.
For textile firms, it’s a welcome move.
“The shows have gotten to a point where they are doing the job from a domestic standpoint, but they need to take on more of an export focus,” said Fred Baumgarten, president of corduroy fabric converter Majestic Mills, here, which exhibits at both the IFFE and Los Angeles events. “We’re getting more interest from overseas manufacturers with every show we attend.”
Majestic currently generates between 5 and 10 percent of its business through exports. Baumgarten hopes to jump that total to 15 to 20 percent.
One executive vice president of a textile mill’s international division, said even though it has an established presence in Mexico and exports about 15 percent of its product, “you need to continue to see new overseas accounts.
“In some ways it’s just like doing business here,” he added. “You have to make sure you’re seeing as many different people as you possibly can.”
Of the two textile events, the IFFE thus far has been the most proactive in generating potential export business for its exhibitors.
According to IFFE sponsor The Larkin Group, roughly 15 to 20 percent of buyers attending the show are international, primarily from Mexico and Canada.
However for its ninth edition, slated for March 18-20, the IFFE for the first time is actively soliciting European buyers.
“We’ve had European buyers here in the past but it’s almost been by accident,” said Jonathan Larkin, Larkin Group president. “We’ve put ads at the European shows, and we expect at least 150 to come to the March show.
The Larkin Group is also working with the South American textile show ColombiaTex, held in Medellin, Colombia, and will host a delegation of South American exhibitors and buyers at the March show.
“In order to survive, the companies that show here want a greater breadth of buyers,” Larkin said. “By the same token, as a market, we’re trying to offer a global menu. We want to make New York the textile and fashion capital.”
As for the Los Angeles show, although only about 10 percent of its attendee base comes from outside the U.S., show management is making plans to increase that number.
The California Mart, through its retail development division, is seeking increased buyer attendance from Europe, Canada, Mexico and South America. The Mart draws significant numbers of buyers from those areas for its apparel and accessories shows.
“When it comes to exporting textiles, it’s amazing how far back on the learning curve we are,” said Maurice (Corky) Newman, president and chief executive officer of the California Mart, which along with the Textile Association of Los Angeles sponsors the event. “We are years behind the Far East.
“When you get down to it, exporting is paperwork, and because of the amount of it, people get frightened by it,” said Newman, who before joining the mart in 1994, was an executive at several apparel firms, including Cherokee Inc., Calvin Klein, Cole of California and Sirena Swimwear.
To help textile firms become better acquainted with the nuances of exporting, at the next Los Angeles show, set for April 29 through May 1, Newman said he is in the midst of organizing “a massive seminar on exporting,” the details of which are being worked out.
As reported, the mart is also undergoing a vast remodeling. For the April show, additional space for textile firms will be available on section C on the mart’s ninth floor. Newman said the added space should allow the show to hit a total of 350 exhibitors.
Additional reconfiguration of the layout should allow for more exhibitors at future shows, Newman said.
As for upcoming shows, the timing of the October editions of both Los Angeles and the IFFE remains up in the air. The reason: both are scheduled for Oct. 21-23. Each show hopes the other will change its dates, but as of last report, neither side has budged.
“October is a tough month for us to try and reschedule something,” said Newman, with the mart’s calendar packed. He noted the Mart hosts the California collections preview on Oct. 5-6, ISAM — a swimwear and activewear show — is set for Oct. 7-10, and the Los Angeles junior and contemporary market is also set for Oct. 7-10. Early November brings the Los Angeles Fashion Week, Nov. 1-5.
“We’re loaded for bear,” Newman said. “But something has to be worked out. You can’t have two textile shows going on at the exact same time.”
“Ours is tied in with other shows,” Larkin said.
Another show setting up for expansion is the Yarn Fair International/CAD Expo. It is adding KAE International, an exposition of machinery and technology for the knitting industry. The show had been held sporadically since 1920 at Atlantic City. Organizers of the new show, slated for July 21-26 at the Javits Center, are calling it a mega-event.
Attendance at the Yarn Fair, held mainly at the New York Sheraton Hotel and Towers, reached more than 6,000 at the last edition held in August.
“With the machinery in there, plus the fact it’s at Javits, we’re looking at getting a lot more people,” said Leslie Levy, president of the National Knitwear and Sportswear Association, sponsor of the show. Levy is also president of Heritage Sportswear, Marion, N.C.
“I think that by having the machinery people there, we may attract more international buyers,” added David Lyttle, director of marketing and merchandising at acrylic producer Cytec Industries. “We’re trying to promote a value-added acrylic product and the export market should help. The overseas customers want better products from U.S. companies.”
While not a show for U.S. fabrics, the Texitalia and Jardins d’Elegance shows here are nonetheless looking at broadening their mix. The joint showing of upscale Italian and French fabrics, for its past edition, also featured nine Spanish mills.
Gaspare Asaro, deputy trade commissioner at the Italian Trade Commission, said more expansion is likely.
“We are negotiating with other countries,” said Asaro. While he couldn’t say which ones may join the next edition, set for April 10-12 at the Hotel Inter-Continental, he noted, “We do anticipate more than just three countries showing.”

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