Byline: Scott Malone

NEW YORK — IFFE’s going to have a new feel this time around.
A few things will be different at next week’s staging of the International Fashion Fabric Exhibition. For starters, the event, which kicks off its three-day run on April 11, will be held in a different hall of the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center here. It will also have a contingent of European exhibitors, who are in need of a new spring venue since the dissolution of the European Textile Selections event.
This will mark the second edition under the ownership of MAGIC International, which bought the show last summer.
The expo will continue to have its core group of converters, fabric importers, private-label apparel manufacturers and computer-aided design and manufacturing exhibitors.
As they prepared for the event, which is intended to be a showcase for spring 2001 fabrics, exhibitors said they were noticing an increased demand for prints, particularly animal-skin patterns, as well as treated fabrics. That has given a boost in business to converters and importers specializing in those areas.
In explaining French mill Billon Freres & Cie.’s decision to join IFFE, Gera Gallico, head of the company’s U.S. sales office, based here, said, “Basically, it’s the only game in town” for exhibiting spring 2001 fabrics.
While the organizers of Premiere Vision — the top Paris fabric event — are slated to hold a new show they’re calling PV Preview here in July, Gallico said she felt it was important to show in April.
Florence Perkins, the Philadelphia-based North American agent for European Stretch Fabrics, another French mill, said her company will also be coming to the IFFE event.
“Because of the dissolution of the ETS show, there is now no other venue to show our collections in New York,” she said. “I’ve never walked the show at IFFE, but I’m just keeping a really open mind about what will happen.”
These exhibitors of high-end fabrics said that, overall, they’re pleased with the tone of their business recently and hope that momentum will carry into the show.
Gallico said that Billon Freres sales in the U.S. are up 20 to 25 percent so far this year, on the strength of the company’s novelty fabrics. She’ll be showing pointelles, crochets, jacquards and treated fabrics for next spring.
While the entire textile industry has felt a price pinch in recent years, Gallico said there’s still a niche for high-end product.
“Price resistance is always an issue,” she said. “But when you deal with novelty fabrics, they have a hard time making the comparison to something else. So if they’re after the novelty, price is not too much of an issue.”
Another European company joining the show is E. Boselli & Co., the New York arm of the Italian mill Marioboselli. Thanos Kamiliotis, president, said his company will be showing a variety of jacquards and prints.
“There is no direction in the market anymore,” he said, adding that the fabrics cross over many markets.
Converters said they hoped the recent pickup in print interest would grow.
“Thanks to designers like Prada, the conversational print is back, in a wild way — lips and hearts and that sort of thing,” said Phillip DeLeon, designer at Alexander Henry Fabrics, a Burbank, Calif.-based converter. “We’re having a lot of fun with that this season. Tropical continues to be really strong. From Versace, you’re getting a lot of brilliant blues and greens. We’re doing a lot of that.”
DeLeon also said he’d be interested in seeing the new layout of the show.
“It’s a new floor plan, so things are not going to be quite so rote in terms of what is going on,” he said. He noted that the show has developed more of a buzz on the West Coast and predicted that more fabric buyers from that area might make the trip to New York.
Bernie Gardner, chief executive officer of Impala Industries International, a stretch-fabrics importer with headquarters in Los Angeles, also reported a pickup in demand for prints.
“Our prints business has just exploded,” he said. “There’s been a tremendous reaction to skins of all types, and we’ve just introduced a clear, shiny overlayer that gives a real animal type of feel. That’s generated a new direction and impetus for prints.”
He also reported that Asian fabric prices, which have been quite volatile over the past 18 months, seem to have leveled off.
Fabric pricing is now “pretty much stable,” Gardner reported. “Korea has been firming up on their prices over the last few months. There’s no fire sales going on. We’re holding price on everything.”
He also said that the company recently experienced an uptick in sales through its Web site, Lycrafab.com.
“We’re seeing a pretty good pickup from overseas accounts that we’d not seen before,” he said.
He noted, however, that the site has also attracted interest from consumers, and as a result, he’s imposed a 10-yard minimum order requirement. Previously, Impala had prided itself on having no minimum order size.
While Asian fabric prices may have stabilized for now — after wild swings during the region’s economic crisis — the upward movement in synthetic fiber prices is likely to begin driving them upward again at some point.
And price increases may not be limited to synthetics, noted Jeffrey White, president of S. Shamash & Sons Inc., a New York importer specializing in silk, rayon and linen.
“In addition to polyester, which everyone has seen, I think we will see increases in linen and silk,” resulting from a pickup in demand for those fibers in parts of the world where consumer spending has been depressed over the last few years, he said. This would follow the pattern of cashmere pricing, which, after being depressed during the Asian crisis, picked up again this year, according to market observers.
Arnold Kobelt, president of New York converter Nipkow & Kobelt, said his firm is emphasizing animal prints and coated fabrics for spring.
He also said that spandex-containing fabrics are moving down into lower price points than they had traditionally occupied as apparel makers focus on smaller bodies and lower spandex content as a way of keeping costs down.
Kobelt also noted that, in keeping with the continuing trend of apparel makers working closer to season, he expects much of the action at the show to be in fall and holiday fabrics.
Michael Shapiro, president of D&N Textiles Inc., a converter based in Beverly Hills, agreed.
“Normally, we do a lot of sampling for spring, but people are always still looking for holiday at this point and filling in for fall,” he said. “Not the big companies, but the little companies are still looking for immediate items. Everybody has a different calendar, everyone goes by a different season.”
Consoltex-Seatex will be emphasizing its new collection of fabrics using DuPont’s new Ispira stretch nylon, according to Steve Nahorniak, director of sales at the New York-based mill.
“We’ve been having very much a successful run on this so far,” he said, noting that the woven fabric collection has caught on with golf and casual apparel makers.
Ribbtrim Inc., which distributes Mokuba ribbon in the U.S., will be emphasizing both holiday and spring collections at the show, according to sales manager Richard Goldfeder.
For holiday, a key item in Mokuba’s collection is beaded trim, while for spring, the company is offering stretch organza in pastel colors.
Goldfeder also pointed out that since the company opened its new storefront location on Manhattan’s West 39th Street, Ribbtrim has begun carrying a larger inventory to fill immediate orders.
Jeffrey Gladstone, director of marketing at Sequins International, a trimmings supplier located in Woodside, N.Y., said his company has recently noticed a pickup in demand from the junior market.
“Glitz is back, and therefore, our products are very popular for them,” he said.
At New York converter Symphony Fabrics, president Seymour Schneiderman reported a continuing shift in demand toward woven fabrics.
“Wovens are getting more important than they had been,” he said.
“A year or two ago, our ratio of sales was 50-50 wovens to knits. That was for five or six years. Now, wovens are probably 60 to 70 percent of our sales.”
He attributed the shift to both a greater fashion interest in woven fabrics and to the fact that woven products take longer to develop and are harder for his competitors to copy.
The show will once again feature a series of seminars on design and technology issues.
On April 11 and 12, speakers will address design. Presenters are to include David Wolfe, creative director at The Doneger Group, who will speak on his top 10 trends at 9:30 a.m., April 12.
April 13 seminars will address technology issues.