HONG KONG — Interstoff Asia Essential tried on its new name last month when it opened to 220 exhibitors and more than 8,700 buyers from 58 countries and regions.
Organizer Messe Frankfurt “wanted to make it very clear that our show has evolved…to another level,” said Katy Lam, director of trade shows.
Many of the companies that previously participated — Interstoff is in its 21st year — felt they were familiar with the show, Lam added. The name change tells them they&’re getting the same quality with the Interstoff brand, but a different show.
The highlight of Interstoff Asia Essential Spring, which ended its three-day run on March 16, continues to be functional fabrics and eco textiles.
“People are well aware of the functions…these days fabrics include one or two functions,” said Cindy Chee, trade fair manager for organizer Messe Frankfurt.
So instead of a demonstration area, there were two display forums for eco and functional fabrics in addition to trend information.
Although eco fabrics are still a relatively small niche, especially for buyers in Asia, visitors are asking “even more specifically about the process,” Chee said. Interstoff has had exhibitors with eco fabrics for the past few years but has now added seminars on the topic to help people “understand why they need to use eco textiles” or why the cost is higher, she added.
There are about 60 exhibitors showcasing their eco-textile product to the show. In addition, there are 21 companies displaying their eco-textile fabrics at the display forum.
Claire Chen, who handles sales for Taiwan fabric manufacturer DJIC Ltd., estimated that about 50 percent of people were looking for eco fabrics. DJIC offers a natural, charcoal-based fabric that&’s “expensive,” she said, but couldn&’t specify how prices compared with other fabrics.
A booth featuring organic cotton from Japan got a lot of interest.
“It&’s a new concept item for us,” said Shin Yamazaki, who works for Y.S. (H.K.) Co. Ltd.
The company started offering organic cotton for the domestic Japanese market in recent years, and sales have grown incrementally, Yamazaki said. It&’s now opening up the business to the international market.
The organic fiber comes from the U.S., where it is certified, then Y.S. spins, weaves and dyes it in Japan, which is also a certified organic process, Yamazaki noted.
Although it is 30 to 40 percent more expensive, the organic yarn is softer than normal cotton, he said. Clients are testing the market reaction with small quantities before taking the leap, Yamazaki added, noting that part of that equation is education.
Y.S. clients for its normal cotton include brands ranging from Prada and Club Monaco to Gap and Calvin Klein.
While there was a learning process for potential clients — people were still asking what organic meant when Y.S. showed it at Interstoff for the first time last year, Yamazaki said — the company also now understands the product better.
Education also is a factor for Karen Kwok, a sales manager with Hong Kong&’s Akko. The company was offering recycled fabric, especially for the U.S. market, but Kwok admitted that she&’s still learning exactly what recycled means so she can explain it to clients. The pressure isn&’t on, though, because only one out of 100 customers who stopped at the booth during Interstoff asked what the green leaf — symbolizing a provider of eco fabric — on the booth meant.
“In Hong Kong, it isn&’t yet the trend,” Kwok said. Nevertheless, “Americans are desperate for it.”
Akko&’s customers include Ann Taylor and Gap. The company has more than 20 mills in China, as well as fabric and garment manufacturing factories in Thailand, Vietnam, South Korea and Taiwan.
Marcia Ray, director of apparel, research and development for Fruit of the Loom, agreed that Americans are hungry for eco fabrics, but it isn&’t yet a reality for Fruit of the Loom. Ray said she was looking at organic cotton and bamboo, but it would be a year or two before those kinds of fabrics are in Fruit of the Loom&’s product line.
It also might be some time before eco fabrics make it into high street retail.
The fabric&’s hand and fashionable quality was more important to Patricia Ng, a senior designer for Canborn in Hong Kong, which designs and manufacturers for clients including Mango.
Ng said she was looking for a balance of cost and quality, adding that she sources most fabrics from China and some in South Korea that are more cutting-edge and higher quality. Eco fabrics are too expensive for Canborn&’s customers and they really aren&’t looking for it, she said.