Supima, the promotional organization representing the American pima cotton industry, will premiere its first textile show here next week, touting a premium message in a prime setting.

Supima has gathered 20 mills from around the world for “Prefab: the Supima Premium Fabric Show,” at Gotham Hall for three days starting Jan. 23. Exhibiting mills include Cone Denim from the U.S., Fountain Set and Bondex International Textiles from Hong Kong, and Turkey’s Arsan Tekstil.

Buxton Midyette, marketing director for Supima, said the show is intended to highlight pima cotton and spur growth in the premium apparel segment.

“You read about the retail sector, and the real growth is with Nordstrom or Brooks Brothers — it’s the premium end,” Midyette said. “I think the key to their success has been a focus on product. [For] the consumer, there’s a return to quality.”

Pima is the generic name for extra-long staple cotton grown primarily in the U.S., Australia and Peru. Perhaps the world’s most famous extra-long staple cotton is Egyptian cotton. However, Supima’s Web site notes that while all cotton grown in Egypt is designated as Egyptian cotton, the majority exported from the Middle Eastern country is long staple cotton, not extra-long staple cotton.

About 2,000 farmers in the West and Southwest states grow pima, producing some 750,000 bales in 2006, or 20 percent of the world’s extra-long staple crop, Midyette said.

“By its nature, it’s a premium fiber,” Midyette said. “At the fiber level, it’s 50 percent more expensive than regular cotton but much softer and much stronger. At the garment level, you’re looking at an increase of 25 [percent] to 30 percent.”

Discussions between manufacturers and buyers always center around price and product, Midyette said.

“The difference is, what are you talking about first?” he said.

Gotham Hall, a former bank on Broadway in the Garment Center built in the Twenties with a Romanesque architectural style, will lend itself to the premium message.

“The MO behind it is to keep it a boutique show and create more of a relaxed atmosphere,” said Michelle Elzay, a designer for Sparrow Designs, which is working with Supima to organize and produce the show. “It’s an upgrade of the general trade show experience.”

This story first appeared in the January 16, 2007 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Midyette hopes the environment will encourage visitors, of which several hundred have already registered, to spend more time meeting with manufacturers. The geographical diversity of the vendors is also designed to acknowledge the varied sourcing strategies of potential buyers.

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