FIRMS SEE AN UPBEAT IFFE

Byline: David Grant Caplan

NEW YORK — The strong turnout of buyers — not browsers — at the recent International Fashion Fabric Exhibition was a welcome sight for exhibitors whose industry is going through some tough times.
“It’s been great…it’s packed,” said Ron Kaufman, a sales representative with Los Angeles-based Robert Kaufman Fine Fabrics. “I’m amazed, given the market+we’ve been busier at this show than at any other previous IFFE show.”
At Los Angeles-based Impala Industries booth, co-owner Howard Klein said “the show has been terrific for us.”
“The people have been coming by and buying, as well as learning about our company — they are not just wandering around,” he said.
Jeffrey White, president of New York converter Shamash & Sons, said: “It’s been a very good show for us. It’s one of the best show in five years.”
White maintained that many domestic attendees “cut back their budgets to go to Europe, so they come here instead.”
Peter Harris, a designer with Los Angeles-based converter and linen importer Noveltex Inc. said “traffic has been very good for us and very brisk.”
At De Marco California Fabrics booth, which was situated in a Textile Distributors Association-designated area near the front of the exhibition floor of the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in Manhattan, principal Pearl Ann Marco said that “it’s been steady traffic coming off of the escalator” for the New York converter.
Not all exhibitors experienced a steady stream of business at the show, however.
“It’s been slow I suspect because the industry is not as active as it was at the last show,” said Raymond Hill, vice president of North Bergen, N.J.-based Sequins of Distinction. “The positive side to it is that people are giving us more serious orders.”
Danny Pour Rahmani, sales manager for Textile Secrets International of Los Angeles, said the company had 45 percent fewer visitors to its booth than at the last show, held in October.
“I don’t see any quality customers walking around,” said Rahmani.
Some exhibitors at IFFE, which is managed by Woodland Hills, Calif.-based MAGIC International, noted an increase in buyers from overseas.
Barry Davis, a sales representative with New York converter Symphony Fabrics, said that “there’s been a steady flow of people from all over the world. It’s more international now because the people you deal with domestically don’t have to come here. They can come to our showroom or we can go to them.”
Both exhibitors and attendees at IFFE, which wrapped up its three-day run April 4, sought ways to take advantage of free-trade opportunities with nations of the Caribbean Basin Initiative, which went into effect last October.
Ken De Palo, sales manager at New York converter Nu Image Fabrics, said: “We’ve had a lot of people from South America, Mexico and Central America, which is good since we’re trying to attract the CBI region.”
At Lucerne Textile’s booth, the New York-based company posted a sign that read “CBI Lining in Stock.”
Vice president of sales Charlie Lewis said the purpose of the sign was “to educate the people what it is and to let them know that we offer certificates of origin with our products.”
Gail Strickler, president of New York converter Saxon Textile Corp., said she met with “a ton of people that are sourcing in the CBI.”
Trends at the show, which focused on the spring 2002 buying season, included stretch denim, iridescent fabrics, animal prints and small floral motifs. Popular colors included pink, turquoise and other soft hues.
“There is always a market for florals,” added De Marco California Fabrics’ Marco. The company’s floral offerings included a camouflage print combined with floral images.
Noveltex’s Harris agreed that “florals are always popular. Black-and-white-inspired flowers, in particular, are very strong.” Harris said blue hues were popular, but added that the company offers many colors because of the various markets its customers serve.
“We always have to be prepared with neutral colors,” he said. “We cater to so many markets and the end use is really different for every customer, so we have to accommodate them.”
Florals were also blooming at Saxon Textiles, which showed a flocked corduroy with a floral pattern embossed on it.
Attendee Bonnie Hall, a product development manager at Totowa, N.J.-headquartered Mandee, said the chain “does a huge career business in florals,” so she was searching the exhibition floor for eye-grabbing prints.
Another attendee, Debbie McLaughlin, a New York-based fabric manager with Hampton, Va.-based sportswear firm Newport News, was also in search of florals.
“We’re a big floral company,” she said. “Our customer likes roses.”
Patrice Weinblad, a technical specialist with CK Jeans’ knits and sweaters division, said she was also in search of “little soft florals” for the women’s line. Saxon Textiles showed a jacquard stretch denim — another trend at the show — which Strickler said was “sampled extensively.”
Sequins of Distinction showed its sequin-embroidered cotton and Lycra spandex denim, which Sequins of Distinction’s Hill said was launched a month ago and was popular among buyers representing moderate-priced lines.
Stretch denim was also a key item at Robert Kaufman Fine Fabrics.
“Our stretch-denim business keeps growing,” Robert Kaufman said. “Denim is popular because it is so wearable and it is a classic.”
Linen, like denim, was also a hot-selling item for some exhibitors. Kaufman said “linen is a very strong category for us and we’re soon launching a Tencel linen for spring.”
At Sequins of Distinction’s booth, Hill said: “Linen is doing very well…it’s very trendy.” The company showed linen embroidered with multicolored sequins.
Bart Coopersmith, vice president of Skinprints, a New York finisher and printer of suede and leather, said the most popular animal print was crocodile shown on leather and suede.
At Impala Industries, Klein said “animals are always strong.” The company showed various animal prints on a polyester and spandex blend.
Jimmy Hill, sales manager for Irving, Tex.-based Haber Fabrics said, “Animal prints had their run,” but buyers and designers at the show were still in search of animal-inspired prints. The company showed dalmatian, cheetah, jaguar and tiger prints on polar fleece.
Iridescent satin and chiffon was also snapped up by attendees, exhibitors said.
“For us, iridescent satin is a good item because it sells at retail,” said Kaufman.
Ally Hanson, vice president of the dress division at Lucerne Textiles, said: “The iridescent satins have been outstanding — the more iridescent the better.” She added that top colors were coral hues and pink.
Kevin Kiley, vice president of sales at Shamash & Son, commented, “silk chiffon and sheer fabric by far are the most popular.”