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PARIS — With the ath-leisure trend still holding fashion in its sway, modern blends of artificial and natural fibers was among key directions at the recent Blossom Première Vision textile salon here. The fledgling two-day show, held at the Palais Brongniart, offered a first glimpse at fabric collections geared to the spring 2018 pre-collections. Almost 700 visitors from fashion and luxury houses attended the event.

“What we’re doing is in between technical and natural; athletic fabrics in natural fibers geared to our work-live-play lifestyles,” said Riccardo Marini, president of Marini Industrie. The company is one of three mills based in Prato in Tuscany, Italy, that in February signed a Detox commitment sponsored by Greenpeace and geared at the progressive elimination, by 2020, of 11 substances considered dangerous in the fashion chain. The U.S. is the firm’s main market, with among its projects being a line of washable wools blended with technical fibers being developed for Theory.

With sustainability a focus when it comes to the outlook for the industry in general, there remains a frustrating lack of visibility. Said Marini: “Things are tougher than they were three or four years ago. In America they just had the elections, next year France will have its elections, we just changed our government two days ago. Then with the terrorist attacks here in France…with all these economic and geopolitical challenges, buyers are being very cautious and conservative. It’s not the best period we’ve seen.”

Pascaline Wilhelm, PV’s fashion director, also noted a shift to “lightness” but via “more opaque and rigid” fabrics. Case in point, a lightweight, compressed nylon with a stiff, papery touch that can be used for accessories that was introduced by Komatsu Seiren. The Japanese firm, which scooped this year’s Good Design Award for its Onibegie nylon and polyester fabrics dyed with natural pigments, also presented a color card with a spectrum of onion-based yellows, reds made using grape extract and greens made with olives. The aim, said sales director Takahiro Matsumura, is that in the future “clients will be able to bring things to us – something they’ve grown in their garden, say — and we’ll be able to develop colors from it.”

Fellow exhibitor Debs, meanwhile, introduced an innovative pleated material made from a cupro and polyester blend.

Eve Corrigan, president of French tweed specialist Malhia Kent, which presented a line of stretch Lycra polyamide fabrics geared to the swimwear and dress markets, with raised, embroidery-style motifs, cited growing demand for made-in-Europe fabrics from brands. “They’re finally understanding that you can’t sell luxury using five-euro fabrics. The client is no longer willing to be duped.”

Malhia Kent’s collection brimmed with highly elaborate designs like one vibrant tweed made up of 80 warp and eight weft threads. The company six months ago also started developing its own threads, working with partners in France and Italy. “The fabrics speak for themselves, you can see the level of research that has gone into them.”

Busy stands in the leather section included Italian tannery Chiorino Technology which specializes in polyurethane-coated skins with special finishes and effects like a rubbery touch or printed surfaces. The company works with brands including Gucci, Fendi and Michael Kors. New innovations included reversible skins with different treatments on each side that were proving popular among accessories designers.

Designers lauded the timing and location of the event — in central Paris in the former site of the historic Paris stock exchange – as well as the tight edit of the collections.

“It’s so nice to have it take place in the center and the main PV show comes so close to the shows that it’s hard to focus. Here we can take the time, I’m here looking for some small producers to do developments using my own colors,” said Wanda Nylon’s Johanna Senyk who is preparing to launch a bag collection. “There will be a mix of materials — leather, fur, rubber.”

“What I like here is you find all these decorative fabrics, structures, laces and colors,” said German designer Frauke Gembalies, citing sky blue, nice yellows and classics like dark olives and navy among key shades. “I think everybody wants to concentrate, even if with fabrics you need a lot of choice, and that’s why I think this platform makes sense. It’s more niche and selective. We’re not overloaded.” Discussing market challenges, she said: “People are very sensitive to price because everything is going up, you can feel it.”

“The setting is wonderful, you have the time to think about the new collection, to take time to have exchanges and get ahead on the new season,” echoed Gustavo Lins who lauded Darquer’s “edgy” range of laces. “It has convinced me to work with lace for the first time,” added the designer who in March will open his new gallery-cum-studio on Paris’ Rue Saint-Martin where he will present a men’s and women’s jewelry collection – in porcelain, silver, fur and crocodile — as well as a capsule of wardrobe basics. “Contemporary designs in nice fabrics,” said Lins.

Exhibitor Laurent Garigue also lauded the show’s intimate approach. “It reminds me of how shows used to be organized back in the good old days, where shows were targeted towards the right type of consumer. Over the years, the European textile market has tried to become everything for everybody,” he said. “I also like the wide-open stands. It feels more like a forum, which this old stock market was. You had people screaming and shouting here and placing orders for stocks and shares. It still resonates here, even though customers are not placing orders they’re just looking. It’s way to early for the market.”