Byline: Elaine Glusac

CHICAGO — Amid heavy sampling, this month’s Chicago Fabric and Trim Show received strong support from large and small apparel manufacturers in the Midwest.
The showcase of fall-winter 1995 fabrics was attended by nearly 400 buyers, a number organizers said exceeded their expectations by 60 percent. The two-day show was at the Chicago Apparel Center Nov. 7 and 8.
“We wanted a show for young designers who can’t afford New York [trips],” said Nancy Berman, executive director of the Apparel Industry Board Inc., which sponsored the show.
Most designers and manufacturers in attendance agreed the Chicago show was a good idea, but said it must grow beyond its 55 booths to be truly useful.
Founded by the AIBI in 1990, the show was adopted by the Apparel Center in 1992, but poorly attended and fostered through 1993 by local sales representative Bob Morrison before Midwest fabric representatives appealed to Berman for official management.
The AIBI, a not-for-profit group dedicated to encouraging manufacturing in Illinois, plans to continue hosting the show.
Although orders were placed for spring and fall, exhibitors reported that it was largely a sampling crowd that earned them new contacts.
“For leads, it’s been great,” said Mike Miller, a sales representative for Jo-Mar Textiles, Philadelphia.
Jobbers like Jo-Mar were popular with small producers. Miller said 15 percent of those browsing ordered fabric, but twice as many requested mailed samples.
He sold out 5,000 yards of mohair on the first day of the show. Drapey rayons, wool gabardines and jacquard prints were also popular.
According to rep Morrison, serving small manufacturers is mandatory in Chicago.
“For every 500-yard customer, there are 10 that want 100 yards,” he said.
Morrison said the Robert Kaufman fabrics from Los Angeles were popular, especially polyester crepe-back satins and microfiber polyester jacquards in sophisticated colorations like olive and muted red.
Still, Morrison admitted, orders were slow.
“Everyone’s playing it close to the belly,” he said. “Nobody wants to commit.”
For larger manufacturers, the show was another place to browse.
“My purpose is to get familiar with the reps and do research,” said Cathy Eisler, designer for Joyce Sportswear Co., a moderate line based in Chicago.
Eisler, who travels frequently to New York for fabrics, found that the ones shown here cost more than those Joyce normally buys. Yet, she said, she enjoyed working with trims, especially M&J Trimmings, New York, a new resource for Joyce.
Volume buyers such as Marsha Anderle, designer for Caron Inc., a moderate-priced dress and separates producer based in Chicago, liked the showroom layout.
“It’s more conducive for buying, more private,” said Anderle.
The designer regularly sources Chicago as well as New York and Los Angeles for fabrics. She left fall orders with Cranston Apparel Fabrics, New York, and De Marco California Fabrics, New York, for “synthetics with fluidity.”
Other showgoers complained there were too few exhibits.
“This show definitely needs to be bigger. It’s small compared to New York and L.A.,” said designer Marie Bernat who, with partner Rhonda Endreas, runs Kickin’ Up Country, a country and western apparel line made in Chicago.
They travel to both coasts in search of 100 percent cottons for their line of embellished western-cut shirts and prairie-style skirts, which hold the high-starch look country-and-western wearers like.
In their first time sourcing fabric in Chicago, they planned to order denims and cottons from Robert Kaufman and Glick Textiles, Houston.
Designers came from more than half a dozen Midwestern states. Katherine Peterson, owner of a shop in her name, made the trip from Royal Oak, Mich.
“Chicago is easy,” said the sportswear designer, who creates clothes for her shop. “I’ll do about 50 percent of my spring orders here and the rest with call-backs.”
This was Peterson’s second visit to Chicago for fabric. She liked F. London’s linens and also left orders with Stylecrest Fabrics Ltd., New York; Bali Fabrications, San Rafael, Calif., and Exotic Silk, Mountain View, Calif., where she ordered washed silks.
“I’m going for a little more color in pinks and tangerines, but beige and black, those sell,” she said.
For some big area firms, the show was a chance to expose more employees to fabric resources. A trio of fabric testers from Spiegel’s was on hand to “get a feel for what’s out there,” said one of them, Dawn Carter, who tests fabrics for stability and color fastness.
It was their first time to the market and they found it “very impressive,” said Carter. “We’re seeing where the trends are going. Usually, we’re just looking at palettes.”

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