LATE DATE IRKS INTERSTOFF EXHIBITORS
Byline: Sophie d’Aulnay
FRANKFURT — The continuing problem of late scheduling, coupled with a large number of low-price offerings, especially from the Far East, put a damper on last week’s Interstoff apparel fabric fair.
The three-day show, which ended here Thursday, featured 1,050 exhibitors and drew about 22,000 visitors, about the same as last October’s event.
Interstoff, many exhibitors continue to argue, comes too late, scheduled this time four weeks after Premiere Vision in Paris. That, in turn, means there is little new product at the fair, which cuts into the turnout of foreign visitors. Interstoff, as a result, has become primarily a fair for the German market.
While the organizers of the show said they realize exhibitors have a legitimate complaint, there appears to be no imminent solution.
“These dates are the best compromise to suit our broad spectrum,” said Thomas Wolenik, Interstoff’s project manager. “We’re in discussions with exhibitors as well as visitors and some are in favor of an advance show while others prefer a late show.” Wolenik argued that the current April/October dates are perfect for printers, which comprise the bulk of exhibitors.
“There are fewer Western European exhibitors, but this just reflects the state of the textile industry,” says Wolenik. However, the underlying problem, said exhibitors, may be that Interstoff magnifies the industry’s biggest threat, an invasion of cheap goods from countries with low labor costs.
But, on the other hand, Premiere Vision’s focus on protecting European textiles creates resentment among American manufacturers who feel the Paris fair is more suited to them, if only they could participate.
Wolenik said that the selection of new exhibitors is very tightly controlled, especially for Asian resources.
“Asian companies apply by the hundreds, but it’s not our idea to be a bazaar, so we look closely at the company structure and the quality of the product,” he said.
“Our main concern is that more and more fabrics are coming from the Far East instead of traditional places like the U.S. and Europe,” said Gerry Ross, president of New York-based lace supplier Alpine Textiles. “The problem is not so much the quality. Their quality is top notch now, but they used to do basics and now their focus is on novelty.”
Nevertheless, Ross noted: “The mood of the show is sour and somber, but for us it’s been very busy. Our turnover is up. We are expanding with new staff, bigger quarters and new agents in Germany and in the U.K.
“The reason we’re doing well is novelty and quick service. Delivery is more important than price. And coming from the U.S., our prices are very competitive because European currencies are so strong,” he said, adding his company is exporting to 28 countries.
Markus Hammerle, president of Hammerle & Vogel, a Lustenau, Austria-based manufacturer of fancy lace and novelty embroideries, said he feels Interstoff is losing importance, while Premiere Vision gains strength.
“We’re thinking of reducing our booth to half its size here and doubling our space at Premiere Vision,” Hammerle said. “This is due to the dates of [Interstoff] and to its organization, because there are a lot of poor quality stands from the Far East.”
Hammerle said his solution for improving Interstoff lies more in the quality of exhibitors than in show dates.
“[Interstoff organizers] should do two shows: one a week or two after Premiere Vision, with exhibitors from the Far East and other low labor-cost countries,” Hammerle said, “and another, at those same dates, for European, American and other high labor-cost countries.
“Interstoff is so late that our mind is already on summer 1996,” said Hammerle, whose firm is represented in the U.S. by Gordon Textiles, New York.
Some American resources said they are thinking of joining forces to try and find ways to be able to exhibit at Premiere Vision, or even form a parallel show in Paris.
“Maybe we can put some pressure on the European commission, on ATMI [American Textile Manufacturers Institute] or on lobbying groups in Washington, D.C.,” says William Coffey, director of international marketing for Greenwood Mills. “We could also try Premiere Vision organizers, but they haven’t been answering any letters in the past.”
Greenwood Mills does about 10 to 11 percent of its roughly $400 million volume in exports, primarily in the U.K. and Italy.
“But we have hardly any of those clients coming here,” said Coffey. “This show has changed a lot just as the European jeans industry has changed with denim coming from low-cost, high-volume producers in Morocco, Turkey and Tunisia. “There’s hardly any German jeans industry today,” he added. “The only big jeans manufacturers are in Italy. This may be the last time we come here.”
Avondale Mills, another U.S. denim supplier, is also considering exiting the show.
“We’ve been showing here for about 20 years, but it seems that most of our customers are going to Premiere Vision and not so much here,” said John Hudson, vice president of merchandising for the Avondale Fabrics division, noting that his company is focusing on furthering its overseas business, even as business is active in the U.S.
“The denim market in the U.S.,” he said, “is very strong, and it looks like it will remain strong for the next year because more and more people are addressing casualwear and interested in denim.” As for the key trends at Interstoff, textured fabrics with dark colors, sheers and shiny looks were attention-getters. Transparency and shimmer were key at German print manufacturer KBC, which had plenty of animal or floral printed sheer rayon georgette as well as shiny satin-like rayon Persian or Baroque motifs. KBC also dipped into the textural trend with men’s wear-inspired tie-printed baby corduroy or cotton velvet. Alpine featured blends of sheer and shine as well as dimensional chenille embroideries.
“There’s a movement toward twist surfaces, and it doesn’t matter what it is as long as it’s not flat,” said Jeffrey Schechter, vice president of operations, Horizon Textiles Corp. “People are interested in cross-dyes. They want some pop.”
Schechter said the company has developed new fabrications for fall such as rayon, wool and acetate blends as well as corduroy crepe. Schechter said there’s also been a growing interest in Tencel.
Texture was important at Hammerle & Vogel.
“People are going for yarn effects and special optic embroideries,” said Markus Hammerle, whose firm spotlighted such ideas as leather-embroidered chocolate velvet and a chenille-embroidered gray corduroy and bouclé yarn with contrast embroidery.
Heft was key in knitwear, especially at Italian manufacturer Texapel. The company’s collection was full of thick, textured bouclé surfaces for cuddly sweaters. “We’ve developed a tweedy felted wool that’s 30 percent cheaper than the typical Tyrolean sweater fabric,” claimed Enrico Gatti, owner of Texapel, which also does fake leather with a worn look and fake fur.
The focus on texture did not escape even jeanswear fabric suppliers like the German firm Hof, which showed some denim chenille ring, ribbed denim and a crushed crepe cotton and rayon blend for denim shirts.
Despite the lateness of the fair, some suppliers were still showing fabrics for next summer as well as fall 1995.
“We sell quantities for summer, but for winter we do only sampling,” said Peter Mauch, KBC export manager. As for business generally, he added: “We’re suffering from currency problems. Italians can sell much more than us because of the low lira. In the U.S., we’ve always sold large quantities. France is a good market for us, and Spain is gaining ground, too.”
Another manufacturer selling two seasons at the fair was Horizon Textiles.
“Even though this is a fall show, and late at that, we’ve had more requests for high summer than serious inquiries about winter,” said Horizon’s Schechter, adding that the summer demand is for bright colors or black and white.