LOS ANGELES MAKERS SEE FALL REBOUND

Byline: Kristi Ellis

LOS ANGELES — Just wait ’til next year.
Southern California converters and fabric manufacturers preparing for next week’s Los Angeles International Textile Show said they suffered through a soft third quarter, but expect business to pick up. Sales started to rise in September, boosted by strong demand for prints and denim.
They said they expect fabric buyers shopping the event, which begins its three-day run Monday, to snap up novelty styles as they fill out spring-summer 2001 lines. While the show is formally intended to focus on the fall 2001-winter 2002 retail season, in recent years most of the action at the October event has been focused closer to need.
At Los Angeles-based converter Emser International, marketing manager Shawn Ghodsian reported, “July was horrible, August picked up a lot and September was better.”
He said he expected things to continue to improve this month based on the business apparel manufacturers generated at this city’s apparel market in early October.
Emser, which focuses on stretch wovens, has doubled its sales volume over the past five years, he said, adding that he expects the company to grow again this year, although not as dramatically.
He said that prints and denim will drive business at the show.
The strongest prints will include geometrics, large daisies, ditsies and multicolors.
Ghodisan also noted that Emser carries spandex-containing denim, which offers a 6 percent shrinkage rate on basic 8-ounce denim.
“Denim will be the number one product for spring and summer,” he proclaimed.
Another key element of the spring season will be foil coatings, he predicted, noting, “A lot of the foiling from fall and holiday will continue into spring and summer.”
All-over foils in gold, silver, red, blue and violet will be strong, he noted. In addition, he said Emser expects animal-skin prints, tie-dye and multicolors on denim, twill and poplin to drive business.
At Vernon, Calif.-based vertical knit-fabrics converter Modern Patterns Inc., president Ken Davami also reported a recent uptick in business following slow times for much of the year.
“Business this year has been tough, but we are seeing more demand at the end of the year,” Davami said.
He blamed the third-quarter downturn on imports and competition.
He predicted that natural fibers — Modern’s specialty — would be in demand at the show.
“People are switching from polyester and synthetics to cotton and natural fibers,” he claimed. “There are lots of bargains in natural fabrics now because cotton prices are the lowest they’ve been in the past four to five years.”
He noted that Modern’s cotton fabrics are currently running for $2 to $5 a yard.
Not everyone was convinced that cotton would be taking off.
At Hoffman California Fabrics, a converter based in Mission Viejo, Calif., designer Deborah Small said the company is beefing up its offering of polyester, while keeping its base in cotton and rayon.
“There has been an increase in demand for polyester because it’s soft and comfortable,” she said. “Synthetics have been popular for young men’s activewear and women’s has developed a presence based on the popularity of men’s.”
Despite the increase in demand for polyester, Hoffman too has suffered through the recent soft market, acknowledged Walter Hoffman, president.
“Business is not as good as it was last year,” he said. “Last year was a big Hawaiian print year, but this year they were off.”
Overall, he expects 2000 sales to be flat with last year, he noted.
“We are still going to sell prints, but not a lot of Hawaiian prints,” he said.
Hoffman declined to specify what other trends the company would follow. He also noted that there is one market the company plays to that has pretty consistent demand for Hawaiian prints — tourists vacationing on the islands.
“In our trade,” he said, “we sell a lot of goods in Hawaii and people will always buy a shirt or two.”
He added that demand for better Hawaiian shirts in rayons and high-count cottons will remain strong but inexpensive polyester shirts are out.
At Hyman Hendler & Sons Inc., vice president Shelley Hendler said that she’s seen strong sales this year.
“People want something unusual because that means more profit,” said Hendler. “We have novelty items and our business has done well.”
For spring-summer, the Los Angeles-based novelty converter and importer is banking on iridescents, opalescents, multicolors, sequins, laces and eyelets. Hendler sells novelty fabrics to a wide array of manufacturers, covering a range of categories including junior, misses, contemporary, eveningwear and activewear. In the junior market, the strength will be in sequins on mesh and iridescents on satins and tafettas, Hendler added.
Acker & Jablow Fabrics, a Los Angeles converter catering to the after-five and social-occasion dress manufacturers and a producer of linings, will show spring and summer at the show, which is used mainly for exposure, said Mike Alonzo, a sales representative.
Alonzo noted that business was slow in the third quarter but has picked up in the fourth.
He said he expects to do well with iridescents, double-faced satins, tafettas and glitter prints, which include abstract patterns, all-over glitter and multi-color polka dots.
Recent market softness aside, this city’s textile industry has enjoyed a period of remarkable growth over the past seven years, at a time when mills in many other areas of the nation have withered.
Government statistics paint a clear picture of the smaller, knit-focused companies that make up this city’s business.
Los Angeles County boasts 312 textile mills and 383 fabric finishing and coating plants, according to Jack Kyser, chief economist for the Los Angeles Economic Development Corp. However, total shipments came to $944 million in 1997, the most recent data available from the Census Bureau.
Textile employment in the county has risen from 10,400 in 1992 to 16,600 in 1999, according to the California Employment Development Department. In the state, the total number of textile employees grew from 15,600 in 1992 to 26,800 in 1999.
“They turn out short runs, custom orders and quick deliveries,” said Kyser. “That is the only way they can survive against Asian imports and the growing textile industry in Mexico.”
Knitters and importers account for the bulk of the business, according to Leonard Horowitz, executive director of the Textile Association of Los Angeles, which has 850 members.
The one noticeable absence is hefty woven-fabric mills, which essentially don’t exist on the West Coast. Woven fabric is either imported or produced by East Coast mills.
The textile show, held at the CaliforniaMart, will feature 350 exhibitors, according to show organizers. That figure is about even with last year’s participation.
In addition to converters and mill exhibitors from this city and elsewhere around the U.S., the show will once again feature the Texitalia group of 28 Italian mills, up from 16 in May.

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