Byline: Katherine Bowers

LOS ANGELES — What’s a traumatized nation looking for? Along with comfort foods, Americans are ready for soft, casual fabrics, predicted exhibitors preparing for next week’s Los Angeles International Textile Show.
“When your mood is tight, you don’t want to feel closed into your clothes,” said Burt Shank, director of finished apparel with AmeriCo International, a Turkish fabric importer with U.S. headquarters in Los Angeles. “We’re going to gamble on a big transition period where the mood is going to be very casual.”
Shank said the company will be promoting soft rayons, among other fabrics.
Mike Sachdeva, vice president of Kavita Textiles, an importer of taffeta and other dressy fabrics, is going to offer cottons at the show, to try to capitalize on the softer mood.
But a comfort trend doesn’t necessarily mean sherpa and cotton jersey will be the only things in demand, exhibitors said.
Jim Siewert, manager of creative services for Charlotte, N.C.-based Celanese Acetate, said he’s seeing interesting uses of fabrics traditionally thought of as formal in casual, sportswear pieces.
“Particularly with satin, we’re seeing a lot of mixing — satin with denim, a satin skirt for daytime worn with a hand-knit top,” he said.
Siewert’s observation is in line with trends from the junior apparel market here, which showed a plethora of casual drawstring pants and fleece tops dressed up with lace and satin trim.
Sales representatives also said they planned to show stars-and-stripes themed fabrics for immediate deliveries, for apparel manufacturers who are rushing patriotic-themed goods to retail.
Darlene Ritz, West Coast director of sales and merchandising for European Textile Collection, said a “tossed flag” print featuring the banner pointing in many directions has been attracting a lot of interest. The New York-based design studio is also working on abstract treatments of red, white and blue for looks with more longevity.
Mary Wortman, president of Santa Monica, Calif.-based Caldelle Leather, said her company has reworked its Old Glory from last season, made in patchwork leather, by adding a distressed finish.
Several leather vendors predicted distressed leather will surpass the glossy lambskin of recent seasons. Caldelle will show leather with sanded designs ranging from florals to cave-art motifs, said Wortman.
Although Caldelle’s sales are running down 10 percent versus last year, Wortman said she was hoping a strong belt business would help offset the dip in revenues.
Vendors said demand for lace has been on the rise, following J. Lo’s lavish wedding dress.
Requests for chantilly lace have surged, according to Joyce Aquino, a rep with Mond Tex Inc. in Los Angeles. Aquino said the company has also been booking lace with oblong beads and little sequins.
“Everything is lace driven,” proclaimed Karen Rossman, a rep for Ulmia Textiles, a line of imported Italian fabrics. Ulmia is also using lace and pearls to embellish animal prints. Printed lace, lace transfer prints and bouquet florals with burgundy or black grounds are all part of an ongoing Victoriana feel, explained Jennifer Lee, a sales rep with Alba, Italy-based Miroglio. Lee will also show stylized animal prints, such as gold-tone feathers printed on a black ground, as well as flocked stretch twills in ombred wines and browns with dashes of dusty pink.
Several reps said they expect strong demand for small, dense florals, following Dolce & Gabanna’s use of them in spring and fall 2002 collections.
For fall 2003, many textile companies are showing vintage florals, conjuring up images from Fifties toss-bouquet looks to turn-of-the-century Art Nouveau looks.
Design studio European Textile Collection, for one, is offering Art Nouveau prints in “really funky color combinations,” said Darlene Ritz. “Burgundy with yellow, brown with a rich red. They’re kind of flat florals, with an abstract, watercolor effect. You wouldn’t be able to place them botanically.”
Tapestry prints, recently seen mostly on luggage, are making a bit of a comeback with junior manufacturers, said Michael Levin, a local independent rep. He speculated the fabric is being used for vests.
Men’s wear fabrics have also been making their way into the women’s market, and vendors expected to see that trend continue next week.
“We’ve had a lot of calls for men’s wear done in a feminine way. Argyles with glitter, herringbones with metallic chevrons,” said April Booth, national sales manager with knit fabric house Eclat Textile Co. Ltd.
While pinstripes seem to be saturating in the better market, other traditional men’s wear looks such as plaids and checks are picking up, said Jim Gordon, ceo and president of New York-based Gordon Textiles.
“We’re seeing everything from windowpane [plaid] to traditional Prince of Wales,” he said. The color story is warm, focusing on browns, camels and rusts.
Gordon has also seen a revival in what he calls “classic Chanel mohair boucle” as opposed to the brushed mohair strong in recent seasons.
Max Brooks, who reps woolen mill Forstmann Co., said he’s done extremely well with Donegal tweeds. The company is offering muted, country plaids in shades of green and brown, though Brooks said he expects key accounts to develop custom plaids.