Byline: Michael McNamara

NEW YORK — Trade shows are emerging as an important — and profitable — segment of the domestic textile industry.

Spurred by a soaring interest in global sourcing and a textile industry hungry for increased business, the four major U.S. fabric shows — the International Fashion Fabric Exhibition, Texitalia and Jardins d’Elegance (a combined showing of upscale European fabrics) and Yarn Fair International, all held in New York, and the Los Angeles International Textile Show — are reporting substantial increases in both exhibitor and buyer attendance.

Each of the shows has a distinct flavor, although IFFE, Yarn Fair and the Los Angeles event all feature a mix of domestic and foreign fabric offerings, with overseas mills comprising about 20 percent of the exhibitors.

Exhibiting at one of the shows could cost a firm as much as $50,000, depending on the size of the booth and travel expenses.

“It’s not a cheap proposition by any stretch,” said A.C. Corbiere, president of Cortex, Marcy L’Etoile, France, who shows at the IFFE and Jardins d’Elegance. “But the contacts we make and the sampling we do is starting to pay off. It is a necessary evil to pay, but we do.”

The show’s sponsors said exhibitors are recognizing that although there’s not a lot of business written at the shows, contacts and sampling lead to filled order pads.

“The U.S. is a huge market, and people are realizing there’s an incredible amount of business to be done at a trade show,” said Jonathan Larkin, president of The Larkin Group, sponsor of the twice-yearly IFFE. “Up until a few years ago, there were no viable trade shows here. You had several smaller, regional shows, without a lot of drawing power.”

“The key is to be able to get firms not only from the U.S., but also from Mexico, Canada, Europe, the Far East, wherever there’s a textile industry. Variety is the key,” said Ruth McKeown, director of markets and trade shows for the California Mart, which along with the Textile Association of Los Angeles sponsors the Los Angeles International Textile Show.

As for the buyers, Melinda Besnoin, an owner of Melivier, a designer bridge resource in Los Angeles, said that while she usually attends Premiere Vision, she has begun shopping the Los Angeles show to “support the market here.”

Here, a look at the four top domestic textile trade shows.

The International Fashion Fabric Exhibition, Oct. 18-20, Jacob K. Javits Center, New York

The largest of the four shows, the IFFE was born out of two previous events, the now defunct New York Fabric Show — which ran twice a year, from the fall of 1984 through the spring of 1991 — and the International Fabric Expo, which made its sole appearance in March 1992, three weeks after the initial IFFE.

From its March 1992 debut, the IFFE has grown from 80 companies and slightly more than 3,000 buyers to 320 companies and more than 8,000 buyers — including about 1,200 from overseas — at the most recent event, held this past March. Larkin said about 380 companies are signed on for this coming October.

To tie the show with other Larkin-sponsored events at the Javits Center, IFFE has become part of “Fashion Week at the Javits Center,” grouped with such events as the International Fashion Boutique and the International Kids Fashion Shows.

The IFFE also has created a comprehensive seminar series, established an area of the show for computer-aided design and manufacturing suppliers, and, for the October show, has established a committee of color forecasters to develop a projection palette for fall 1995.

“One of the main strengths of the European shows is that they highlight trends and colors,” Larkin said. “So we felt that could be one of our strengths as well for the U.S. market.

The show has also begun to overcome a major hurdle, securing several New York-based converters and mills of the Textile Distributors Association, most notably Cranston Print Works, Pressman-Gutman, de Marco California Fabrics and Lawrence Textiles, Cone Mills, Milliken, Wellman and DuPont.

Still, Larkin said the show has plenty of room to expand. One such effort includes putting posters touting the show in 13 Helmsley-Spear buildings located in the Seventh Avenue area, something Larkin has done for the past three shows. In return, Helmsley-Spear gets a booth at the show.

Los Angeles International Textile Show, Oct. 24-26, California Mart, Los Angeles

Much like the IFFE, the Los Angeles International Textile Show, which started in May 1993, was created from a previous show, last held eight years earlier.

In early 1993, TALA, along with the California Mart, decided to revive the old show and had a strong start, securing 40 New York TDA firms. Nearly 250 firms showed at the initial event, and 320 showed this past May. Attendance, too, has grown, from 5,000 to 7,500.

However, McKeown said there has been a problem — a lack of space in the mart. For the first three shows, most of the exhibitors were housed in 144,000 square feet of the mart’s 13th floor and 35,000 square feet in the mart’s exhibit hall. For future shows, McKeown said, the mart is investigating making part of the 12th floor available.

“Space is an issue, as we have a list of 50 people waiting to get onto the 13th floor,” she added. “While most of our buyers have come from the West Coast, it’s been a large number,” McKeown said. “And, with 5,000 apparel makers in the Los Angeles area, it’s a pretty big base from which to draw.”

She also said the implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement should draw even more Mexican buyers to the show; in May, there were about 125. “Our proximity to Mexico will help us a great deal,” she said.

In October, “Leather Under the Sun,” a showcase of about 30 leather suppliers, will be moved to the mart lobby, McKeown said. The mart also is putting 13 textile designers into a space on the market mezzanine level, creating a Textile Design Studio Pavilion.

Yarn Fair International, Aug. 16-18, Sheraton New York Hotel & Towers, New York

The oldest of the four shows, Yarn Fair started in 1979, adding a Computer-Aided Design Expo in 1992. And unlike the other events, it is held only once a year. It has been at the Sheraton since 1992, when it moved from the Ramada.

The exhibitor base, which has grown steadily from about 35 in 1979, now stands at about 200, including 35 CAD companies and about 75 foreign yarn and fiber companies.

“We took a one-year hiatus in 1990 because the show had gotten too out of focus,” said Eric Hertz, show director of the National Knitwear and Sportswear Association, the event’s sponsor. “We decided to make it a fashion yarn event, giving the design community a first opportunity to look at color and texture and fashion direction, not just yarn.”

Hertz said the show has been sold out since April, creating the need to add about 5,000 square feet of space at the Sheraton.

“Now, with a combined space of more than 19,000 square feet, we’re about 10 percent bigger than we were at the Ramada,” he said.

In terms of expanding Yarn Fair International, Hertz said, “We are going to take it one show at a time. It is a very market-sensitive show.”

Texitalia and Jardins d’Elegance, Nov. 8-10, Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, New York
The two shows, which only a few years ago were floundering, have become key showcases for European fabrics.

After a four-year hiatus, Texitalia, sponsored by the Italian Trade Commission, the Italian Federation of the Apparel and Textile Associations and the Association of Cotton and Linen Manufacturers, returned on its own in October 1992. From 1985 to 1988, the exhibit was part of the New York Fabric Show. The most recent show, held in March, featured 44 firms.

The October 1992 event drew about 750 buyers, while both shows last April drew about 1,400.

Jardins d’Elegance, after a two-year run at the Hotel Macklowe in 1991 and 1992, teamed with Texitalia in October 1993 to show jointly at the Waldorf, under different sponsors. The show is sponsored by the French Trade Office and Centre Textile de Lyon Region. Jardin’s last show showcased 15 French companies.

Still, while the shows remain solely Italian and French, Gaspare Asaro, deputy trade commissioner for the ITC, said he hopes it can become a “European fabric showcase.”

To beef up Jardins d’Elegance, several British firms will show in October, although the exact number hasn’t been determined, said Florence Roussell, an FTO representative.

“I don’t think it can become a huge show, however,” Asaro said. “I think may 60 to 80 companies, 100 at the top; companies that will service the bridge, better and designer markets.”


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