BASKING IN THE GLOW AT IFFE
Byline: David Grant Caplan / Daniela Gilbert
NEW YORK — Anticipating the demand from buyers and designers for shiny fabrics and geometric prints, many of the exhibitors at last week’s International Fashion Fabric Exhibition stocked their booths with a dizzying selection of fabrics that blinded and delighted attendees.
“These are unbelievable conversationals,” said Pamela Thompson, a designer with junior brand Dollhouse, as she perused the thrift-shop-chic prints at Burbank, Calif.-based converter Alexander Henry Fabrics. “I’m going to die if I don’t leave with them.”
Phillip de Leon, owner of Alexander Henry, said business was brisk, although he noticed there were few high-end buyers at the show.
“The bulk of attendees is smaller-to-mid manufacturers,” he said. “There’s only a smattering of high end. But, I’m still getting new business.”
Al Bokhour, president of New York-based Excel Fabric Corp., also noticed a dearth of upscale buyers.
“There are a lot of people who are serious, but they are small businesses,” he said. “About one in 15 can actually help our business.”
Over at leather manufacturer Italian Expo’s booth, where president Nilsa R. Cordova showed off her company’s multicolored leather, she said that “traffic is very, very busy. I am very pleased with the outcome.”
Unlike Cordova, Jim Barteck, an account executive at Rosebar Textile Co., said business was sluggish.
“We’ve been busy and we’ve gotten new business, but not as much as we would like,” Barteck said.
Still, he maintained that “generally speaking, this IFFE is more upbeat+the atmosphere is better than the last show.”
Alexander Henry’s de Leon also said the mood was positive at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, where the event was held.
“This is always an energetic show, where people are excited about what they are doing,” he added.
Raymond Hill, vice president of Sequins of Distinction, based in North Bergen, N.J., said traffic was “very good.”
He added: “The show is important for us because we participate in four shows worldwide, and this is number one because of the buyers, who are our customer base — American.”
While Hill benefitted from the large domestic presence, many exhibitors noticed there were few buyers from abroad.
“I’m finding less international buyers — they are definitely here, but I’ve seen them here before in greater force,” said Alexander Henry’s de Leon.
“I find it distressing that there were not more international people,” said Rhandy Diaz, a sales associate with Symphony Fabrics.
Never one to shy away from controversy, De Marco California Fabrics principal Pearl Ann Marco said it is time for the government to become proactive in courting overseas buyers.
“There are a lot of New Yorkers, some South Americans and other international people, but not as many as we would like to see,” she said. “This is a situation where the U.S. government needs to help advertise the shows.”
Marco, a proponent of the Caribbean Basin Initiative, prominently displayed in her booth a sign that read: “We Have: CBI-Eligible Fabrics.”
“But,” sighed Marco, “very few manufacturers know about it and they ask me what CBI is.”
Trends at the show included the continuance of shine and glitter, most notably in gold, as well as prints in geometric and floral motifs.
Gold and glitter were everywhere. Examples included: a gold sequins and embroidered selection at France’s Mahlia Kent; a metallic shantung at Excel Fabrics Corp.; a windowpane tweed with Lurex and a Lurex lace layered over a wool blend at Euromaglia; a red jacquard stretch fabric with Lurex at Italy’s Idealtex SRL; square sequins at Sequins International; cracked-ice glitter at Symphony Fabrics; and a shiny laminate on top of prints at Impala Industries International.
“Anything iridescent or shiny has been real important for us at this show,” said Excel’s Bokhour.
Symphony’s Nina Aronson, said, “Glitter, shine and foil in gold and copper have all been key to our collection for the fall 2001 season.”
Designer Betsey Johnson was thrilled with the selection of metallic fabrics at the show and said, “They’re great for my holiday 2001 line. I was happy to see that some of the firms had taken the Lurex trend to the next level and added colored Lurex to their offerings.”
Most notable on her wish list were fake furs, velvets and crochets, all with colored Lurex yarn mixed in.
A number of mills, meanwhile, were mixing shine with interesting textures. At Sequins of Distinction, for example, a guipure texture combined with sequins was offered in black or white.
“It’s very expensive, so it’s appealing to most of our higher-end customers,” said company vice president Hill. “There’s been a great response to it so far.”
Shiny looks aside, prints were also a continued trend for the fall 2001 season. Largely geometric in nature, many of the prints were featured on silk and silk-like textures.
At Shamash & Sons, a pleated polyester that featured a geometric print was “an extension of the geometric print trend,” according to Kevin Kiley, executive vice president. “The pleated effect really adds a new dimension.”
Alexander Henry Fabrics’ new collection continued the geometric trend.
“The collection was inspired by the retro-Calico style from the Sixties,” noted de Leon.
The mix of these geometrics with botanical prints was also key.
“I’m still seeing a need for florals,” said de Leon, “yet they’re larger in scale and slightly romantic in nature, with a palette of softer hues that include dirty pink, mauve, turquoise and salmon.”
Floral prints were also attracting buyers at De Marco California Fabrics, where selections included larger-scale looks.
“Floral prints, in addition to geometric ones, continue to do well for us,” said principal Marco.
At D&N Textiles, two of the show’s top trends were combined: a print with an element of shine. A men’s wear-inspired plaid was covered with a clear heat-transfer to give it a more feminine spin.
“It’s the next level for all these plaids we’ve been seeing in the past seasons,” said president Michael Shapiro.
While many selections at the show were lighter in look and feel, traditional fall fabrics were also getting a nod. At Ben-Tex, a space-dyed, mohair blend was the focus.
“I think it’s going to be a very ‘sweatery’ season next fall,” said president Ben Paniri. “This chunky look is getting a great response.”
Paniri also noted that the mohair blends were created to attract outerwear buyers, a market where he is looking to do business.