NOSTALGIA AND OLD LACE DRIVE L.A. SHOW

Byline: Katherine Bowers

LOS ANGELES — Lace and velvet were much in demand at last week’s Los Angeles International Textile Show. Buyers were on the hunt for fabrics that would inspire feelings of comfort and nostalgia in the wake of the recent terrorist attacks on the U.S.
However, price remained a prime concern. With consumers appearing unwilling to part with their cash in a time of uncertainty, vendors were focusing on textiles that had a luxurious feel but a modest price tag.
Exhibitors also said they were relieved to see a solid stream of buyers who were ready to sample at the event, which closed its three-day run Wednesday. Other recent textile events in the U.S. and overseas had become much quieter than usual in the wake of the attacks, with some buyers unwilling to travel and others reluctant to commit to future purchases.
“I was very pleasantly surprised,” said Gera Gallico, president of the U.S. division of Billon Freres. “Not in the quantity of the traffic, but the quality. There was serious sampling, 10 to 20 meters so you’re talking about duplicate yardage.”
A CalMart spokeswoman said traffic was slightly down from last year’s show, but said she’d received good feedback about the French textiles pavilion and the open-booth format.
“We worked to get together a show wider in scope, and I think we succeeded in that,” she said.
Manufacturers at the show sampled large amounts of lace — ranging from a $6-a-yard lace printed with butterflies at Nu-Image Fabrics to a $150-per-yard beaded confection from importer REI Textiles.
“Anything with lace they’re trying to get right into the stores,” observed Fred Wunderlich, president of New York-based converter Nu-Image Fabrics. “They’ve had nothing new floating into the shops for six or eight weeks.”
Self Esteem president Richard Clareman, who sampled stretch lace at Los Angeles-based importer Welcomtex, predicted lace is “here to stay.”
“I clearly see movement toward Bohemian vintage, romantic florals,” he said.
Buyers’ focus on plush and romantic looks meant that satiny jacquards, velvets and outrageous fake furs were in, while items with a techy look or dry hand were out.
Micheline Ip, who works with local designer William Beranek on his namesake line, said she was on the hunt for “something that looks luxurious, but doesn’t cost a zillion dollars….I have a strong feeling for fabrics that are comforting, not so hard-edged.” Beranek is beefing up his sales force and opening his first William B. corporate showroom in the New Mart in downtown Los Angeles as part of his efforts to make the line more visible during the economic slowdown.
Vendors also showed updated velvet looks, in acid-dipped and burn-out versions.
J.L. de Ball debuted a washed velvet, which had the look of distressed denim. Several manufacturers sampled the fabric, said Steven Bhereur, national sales manager for the Canadian company.
Paul Serror, vice president of California Sunshine Activewear, which holds the license for Playboy sportswear, shopped for velveteen.
“It has come back from the Seventies,” he noted. “We’ve been having a good run on the trend in France.”
In addition to corduroy and velvet, companies showed a wide range of textured fabrics.
Workaday textures like thermal, terry cloth, and Braille plaids, in which a ribbed plaid is knitted into a solid fabric, did well for Vernon, Calif.-based Shara-Tex Inc., according to designer Darcy Hughes.
Italian firm Picci showed a fabric with an avant-garde texture, made with loosely knitted acrylics and mohair twinkling with coppery threads.
“We’re getting more bold and aggressive. It’s important to see the quality of the yarn,” observed Fred Rottman, executive vice president of the company’s U.S. division.
Tweeds replaced pinstripes as the men’s wear fabric of choice. Vendors showed plaids that were tonally colored — in shades of green or chocolate, for example — with a Seventies feel.
Toiles continued to be strong, especially those with whimsical motifs or in colorways complimentary to denim, according to exhibitors.
Barbara Strasmore, co-owner of South El Monte, Calif.-based Romans Apparel Inc., which sells private label apparel to junior specialty chains, shopped for interesting home-furnishing fabrics to use in junior fashions.
She stopped at Portfolio Textiles, an apparel-related division of home-furnishings supplier Kravet Fabrics, where she purchased crewel laces and brocades for vests and corsets.
Many exhibitors showed red-white-and-blue — including a U.S. flag at Vigvano, Italy-based Arteca made from strips of dyed rabbit fur. But they said the surge in demand for patriotic colors that followed Sept. 11 had eased off.
Brian McLaughlin, a partner in Costa Mesa, Calif.-based converter 58/60, said he moved 30,000 yards of red, white and blue stock fabrics directly after the tragedy.
“Now I can’t give it away,” he said. “Anybody who wanted it already got it.”
But the somber national mood was reflected in renewed interest in cozy, vintage prints.
“There seems to be safety and comfort in nostalgia,” noted J.J. Jenkins, vice president of Arcadia, Calif.-based American Folk & Fabric. “When the future looks scary, the past has some romance to it.”
Jane Fawke, a new exhibitor, sold about 20 of her vintage textile samples to designers browsing the show. Fawke, who is based in Tarzana, Calif., employs six “hunters” worldwide to track down unusual, non-copyrighted textiles from the Forties or earlier.
“People are gravitating toward crochets for things airy and lacey, and toward Pearl Harbor-era rayons,” she said.
Also strong: fruit motifs plucked straight out of the Fifties.
“It won’t be the biggest, but it’s definitely a trend,” said Nu-Image’s Wunderlich.
He said the company had been doing well with a print of free-floating berries as well as a photo-realistic fruit collage.

Trend List

LOS ANGELES — Some of the key trends at last week’s Los Angeles International Textile Show included:
Bouquet florals on a dark ground.
Drab tweed with colorful flecks.
Glen plaid.
Printed stretch lace.
Lace prints.
Micro-wale stretch corduroy.
Novelty velvet.
Coppery threads and foils.
Fruit prints, especially cherries.

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