NEW YORK — If the textile industry had an appetite for some positive energy, last week’s International Fashion Fabric Exhibition was something to nibble on.

The aisles at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in Manhattan, where the show was held, were busy — something vendors said they hadn’t seen in a while and certainly didn’t see at the last show, held in the wake of the September terrorist attacks. Many importers and converters said the new March 4-6 dates — nearly a month earlier than last year — will give more time to the supply chain and help them better organize production schedules for spring 2003 orders. However, textile executives said buyers were not always ready to place orders since many just started gathering inspiration for their spring 2003 lines.

Los Angeles-based Popular Textiles Corp., a vertically integrated mill that specializes in acrylic and polyester-rayon blends, was at the show for the first time, said marketing manager Chris Cho.

The company is seeking to expand its distribution beyond the West Coast, he said, adding, “We want to be more global, so we’re looking to meet more Canadian and international clients.”

“Stripes and denim fabrics started to pick up last year,” he said. “Especially in the junior and denim market, because stripes go hand in hand with denim.”

Another first-time IFFE exhibitor was Taipei, Taiwan-based Suntex Fabrics Co. Ltd., which makes cotton and cotton-and-spandex-blend fabrics selling for $3 to $5 a yard. Sales associate Janice Wu said the company manufactures the fabric through joint ventures with several Taiwanese factories. Wu said the 20-year-old company sells mainly to Taiwanese and European vendors, but is currently looking for a U.S. sales agent and used IFFE as an entree to the U.S. market.

“The company was founded for the local Taiwan market,” Wu said. “But we want to develop business in the U.S.”

A Suntex polyester-linen fabric that looks like denim is popular in Europe, Wu said, and colorful floral patterns grabbed buyers’ attention at the show, as well as white shirting fabrics, Wu added.

Dorian Litman, who is the U.S. representative for his uncle’s Nottingham, England-based fabric company, Alan Litman PLC, said the show was much better than last year.

Litman’s specialty fabrics, including lace, novelty stretch and embroidered fabrics, were popular for both fall and spring buyers, both of which Litman said it brought to IFFE.

Angus International Inc., a New York-based company with a mill in India, plans to expand into garment manufacturing, according to president Dipak Desai. With Chinese factories producing competitively priced fabrics, he said, expanding business into other areas is important to stay afloat.

Seema Sudan, a sweater and knitwear designer at chain retailer Anthropologie, said she was in search of gauzy knits and loosely woven fabrics for the Philadelphia-based company.

“I’m looking for natural fibers,” Sudan said. “We’re looking for newness.”

Trend-wise, the overall feel of the show was feminine and very colorful. Laces and eyelets were key and featured a variety of new techniques to update them, while vibrant prints — which included florals as well as African-inspired motifs — continued to be strong.

“Laces are definitely still hot,” said Michael Shapiro, president of D&N Textiles of Beverly Hills, Calif. The selection there included a group of brushed laces with a slightly raised, soft texture.

New York-based Sequins International Inc., showed tiered ruffles of lace with strips of satin while at De Marco California Fabrics, one of the newest looks in lace included a pleated denim-like version.

Laces and crochets continue to be important at Billon USA, the Stateside counterpart to high-end French mill Billon Freres & Cie. “Anything with openwork is doing really well,” noted Gera Gallico, who is head of U.S. sales.

Other feminine looks at the show included colorful prints on cotton and silk, as well as eyelets in a variety of forms.

Mountain View, Calif.-based Exotic Silks printed both florals and ethnic motifs on different silk grounds, such as chiffon and satin, all with splashes of bright colors.

For Heather Mead, a children’s designer at Garden Grove, Calif.-based vendor Three Dots, lightweight sheer stretch fabrics and bright colors were a priority.

Lyon, France-based mill CTL Nathan, meanwhile, showed a mixture of muted floral prints on jacquard shadow stripes. Some of these looks also included a crinkle effect, which many exhibitors said continued to be important. Florence Perkins is the North American sales manager for CTL Nathan and European Stretch Fabrics, based in the Ardeche region. Perkins is also now representing synthetics manufacturer Frantissor.

Burbank, Calif.-based Alexander Henry Fabrics showed African-inspired prints that featured florals and other motifs on both structured cotton and cotton voile, a new cloth for the company.

Many of the looks, according to co-owner Nicole DeLeon, were hippie and prairie in nature, but displayed in a more sophisticated manner.

Mumbai, India-based U.K. Exports, showed a variety of hand-made fabrics, most notably from its Kapoor label.

Silks and silk-like fabrics were beaded, printed and appliqued with a variety of directional motifs including updated ethnic patterns and crafty plastic leaf appliques.

Eyelets enjoyed a resurgence as well. “We can thank Ralph Lauren for that,” said Pearl Ann Marco, principal at New York-based De Marco California. Eyelet styles there included versions that were both printed and crushed.

Euromaglia showed cotton and spandex eyelets that were printed in washed shades of green or blue and then embroidered.

“Washed looks are still very strong for us,” said Antonio Grassi, president and designer of the Via Pistoiese, Italy-based manufacturer.

IFFE featured 325 exhibitors, according to show manager Amy Bonomi, of MAGIC International, which owns the show.

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