QUALITY VS. QUANTITY AT THIS YEAR’S IFFE

Byline: Joshua Greene / Daniela Gilbert

NEW YORK — Last week’s International Fashion Fabric Exhibition was quieter than usual, with overall traffic down as many out-of-town buyers and exhibitors stayed away from New York. But buyers who attended — many of whom had canceled trips to recent trade shows in Europe or elsewhere in the world — were ready to get a look at fall-winter 2002-2003 fabric trends.
Lace emerged as a key trend, though prints remained strong and patriotic-themed fabrics for immediate deliveries were also in demand. The show closed its three-day run at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center on Oct. 17.
While vendors said that overall traffic was off, they said they were not shocked by that in the wake of the recent terrorist attacks on New York. Show producer Magic International declined to release attendance figures, citing company policy.
“The attendance is down,” said Jeffrey White, president of New York-based importer Shamash and Sons. “But it’s pretty good under the circumstances. We’ve seen people from out of town like Philadelphia and parts of the Midwest that need this show.”
Despite the lull in foot traffic, some vendors reported decent sales.
“Though traffic is off+the quality of people here is up and the orders we’ve written have been good,” said Raymond Hill, of Union City N.J.-based Haymoss Industries. “But there hasn’t been as many West Coast and Canadian clientele as normal.”
Overall, exhibitors were hawking a wide range of styles, but many cited novelties, especially laces and prints as being key.
“The fancies are definitely getting attention,” said Symphony Fabrics designer Nina Aronson. Glitter looks and the firm’s caviar beading were well received.
At high-end French mill Billon USA, president Gera Gallico said, “Both meshy laces, some with prints, and engineered crochet looks have done well this time around.”
Pearl Ann Marco, a principal at New York converter De Marco California Fabrics said her company’s “buttermilk” printing fabric, a polyester-spandex blend, was selling well.
“We’ve printed a variety of looks on this fabric, everything from Western themes, abstract designs and florals to street signs and Americana motifs,” she said.
Susan Williams and Cathy Rusek of Tommy Hilfiger Golf said the show was their first chance for an overall view of trends on the market since they didn’t travel overseas.
“We’re seeing a lot of patriotic prints, which is nice, because red, white and blue is pretty consistent for our company,” Williams said.
At D&N Textiles, it was the laces that were garnering attention. “Our laces have been doing well,” said Michael Shapiro, president. “Some have burnout effects, while others feature shine.”
Anthony Manfredonia, design assistant at Chaiken, also cited lace as an important trend.
“Laces are still very strong, and are carrying over from spring as an important trend,” he said, as he sampled netted looks and chantilly styles.
Pamela Thompson, head of design at Betsey Johnson, said she was pleased to see a wide variety of different laces. “The selection was great,” she said, “there were reembroidered laces, stretch and non-stretch laces and others that featured Lurex or were two-toned.”
In addition to lace, prints were also on the rise.
“I feel it’s going to be a good print year,” said Bernie Gardner, co-owner of Impala. Everything from cherry and plaid to faux denim and stripes were on display at his company’s booth.
Ribbon laces were selling at Sequins International, according to Laurie Grepo, market support manager.
Phillip de Leon, owner of Los Angeles-based Alexander Henry Fabrics, said prints were selling well.
“The black and white themes are still strong. This time around, we added red on some of the looks,” he said. Popular motifs included garden florals plucked from the firm’s late Sixties archives as well as Twenties inspired prints atop geometric grounds.
He said he remained confident that his Japanese fabric suppliers would not be disrupted by the actions in Western Asia.
“We’re diversified in our markets,” he said. “So we’ve been okay.”
While some attendees at the show said they had tweaked their sourcing strategies to reduce their reliance on countries around Afghanistan or largely Muslim nations where civil unrest is a possibility, most said they remain committed to foreign sourcing.
CK Jeans technical specialist Doris Bobik was pleased to see that some foreign exhibitors had come to the show.
“It’s a good opportunity to see Asian mills that are ready for holiday and spring 2002-2003,” she said.
Debbie Schaefer at G-Star Raw Denim said she was looking for casual sportswear fabrics from Hong Kong.
Geraldine Farrar of Wildlife, a missy clothing line, said her company was re-evaluating its manufacturing ties with Uzbekistan, and also focusing on promoting its domestic production — Wildlife currently produces 70 percent of its apparel in New York. The company has changed its labels to read “Made in New York City, USA,” instead of just providing the country of origin.
Barbara Shortall, a trimming senior product manager at Tommy Hilfiger said her division is not experiencing any problems in Hong Kong or in Mexico, but noted other parts of the company have pulled out of the mideast.
Shelley Hendler, vice president of Los Angeles-based converter Hyman Hendler & Sons, said, “We import about 60 percent of our fabrics from East Asia, but we’ve had no need to make any changes.”
De Marco’s Marco said she thought people would be looking more closely at where things were made, and looking for domestic companies to avoid potential shipping problems.

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