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NEW YORK — Foreign mills exhibiting at trade shows here last week found buyers were less interested in buying and more interested in getting a first look at how the season’s trends are shaping up.

Sales representatives and textile executives from around the globe noted that brands and retailers are often not ready to commit to specific fabrics and designs for the winter season at July trade shows. However, for the majority, the allure of potentially landing a big-name American customer is more than enough to make it worthwhile.

The 10th edition of the Turkish Fashion Fabric Exhibition at the Grand Hyatt New York on July 11 and 12 featured 36 exhibitors, slightly less than in years past, as some of the mills that traditionally exhibit opted to move to the Première Vision Preview show.

Ahmet Oksuz, vice chairman of the Istanbul Textile & Apparel Exporters’ Association, also known as ITKIB, a group of 28,000 manufacturers that organizes the event, was confident in the exhibiting companies and their collections.

“We were a bit pessimistic coming in, but we have been very pleased,” Oksuz said. “We hope we can have some of our exhibitors return. But even if not, we have strong exhibitors here.”

Oksuz said show buyers were looking for higher-quality items at affordable prices. He stresses to other Turkish mills the need to have a U.S. representative, and he touts Turkey’s ability to turn around finished goods in about eight weeks compared with what he said is a four- to six-month wait for finished goods from Asia.

Oksuz, who is also the chairman of Kipas Textiles & Apparel, has tried to set the example with his own company and has first-hand experience with the difficulties mills can encounter trying to break into the American market. Oksuz saw the need for a constant U.S. presence and recently established his own office here. The first six months, he said, were spent cultivating current and new customers.

“After six months you start receiving orders,” Oksuz said. “At the end of this year, we will reach our targets.”

Cihat Beyazit, a representative with Abaci Tekstil, which specializes in man-made fibers and has been in business for more than 30 years, said he found himself offering buyers more trend information, rather than buyers expressing desires for specific items.

This story first appeared in the July 18, 2006 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

“They’re just looking, trying to understand and smell the market,” Beyazit said. “We give them what we feel will be big for next season for colors, as well as patterns and fibers.”

Gokhan Kocur, a customer representative with Tup Merserize, said serving the U.S. market requires striking a balance between quality and cost.

“Some customers are looking for not cheap quality, but not expensive,” Kocur said. “To follow fashion, [fabric] must be economical, because the fashion changes so quickly.”

Men’s wear fabrics, including traditional plaids, herringbones and stripes, were prevalent, many in light weights and featuring new finishes that add a luxe appeal. At Altinyildiz, managing director Sami Arditti said the mill is upgrading its line to create a niche product.

“I keep hearing that customers want lower and lower prices,” he said. “There is no end to how low they want to go, so here we wanted to do something that would bring the quality up while keeping the prices competitive.”

Arditti pointed out a selection of new, lightweight wool gabardines, some featuring a slight iridescence. There were also two-ply wool crepes that Arditti hopes will compete with the finer Italian wools.

“By upgrading the yarn and the finishing processes, we are looking to offer something different — it shouldn’t all be about price,” he added.

At Ozbucak, checks, plaids and stripes were the main focus. Wool and wool blends that included lots of rayon were prevalent, as were denim-looking stripes with stretch. Dodo, meanwhile, dressed up its men’s wear-type fabrics with a soft, neutral palette, as well as floral flocking on chevrons.

Marni Mirman, an agent for Kivanic Tekstil, said she has seen a shift toward more basic and muted looks.

“The last 10 years have been so embellished and over-the-top,” Mirman said. “We’ve had a good response with things that are a little simpler.”

Robert Caplan, a director with Kipas USA, said he had consistently heard buyers looking for organic denim.

“There is a buzz among the denim buyers,” Caplan said. “There’s momentum, but whether there’s anything behind it, we’ll see.”

Exhibitors at the first edition of Texworld, which ended its three-day run on Thursday at the Penn Plaza Pavilion, saw many buyers coming to their booths to get a look at trends while placing few orders.

Corne Schenkels, head of marketing at PanAsia Filament, an Indonesian manufacturer of woven apparel, said buyers were interested in two specific trends.

“The two main things are to find something natural — something that feels or looks natural but has the ease of care of a polyester,” said Schenkels, adding that linens were another key trend.

Schenkels said although there were many more smaller customers available to pursue in the European market, the U.S. market is attractive because of its size.

“The American market is much more competitive, but it’s much more difficult to find good customers in Europe,” Schenkels said. “Once you catch a reasonable customer, the quantities can be enormous, which makes it more cost-effective for us. We are looking for a big customer here.”

Avakash Lohia, a marketing director with PT Shinta Budhrani Industries in Jakarta, Indonesia, said his company works with clients such as Liz Claiborne and Macy’s. Lohia met with Victoria’s Secret, Calvin Klein and Jones Apparel at the show, viewing it mainly as an opportunity to make contacts, not to book orders.

Because of “the timing of the show, I think customers are not very focused right now,” said Lohia. “It’s only in September, when they see what’s going on in Europe, that they have more clarity.”

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