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PARIS — Organizers of next week’s Première Vision show are trumpeting creativity and innovation to hold off the economic storm clouds, and at the Texworld show, producers believe the financial pressure on buyers could steer firms toward offerings from lower-cost suppliers.

Première Vision, considered Europe’s most influential fabric fair, will be held here Feb. 19 to 22 at the Parc d’Expositions in Villepinte. Men’s fashion will be one of the major talking points, with a series of conferences called “Masculin Pluriel,” lined up to cover the evolution of the men’s market.

“Whereas consumerism in the women’s fashion market has stagnated, the men’s market is flourishing,” said Philippe Pasquet, chief executive officer of Première Vision, explaining how certain emerging markets, notably China, are a huge opportunity for men’s fashion brands.

Registration figures suggest that the number of visitors to the show will not be hampered by the economic downturn, he said. The firm’s New York show, from Jan. 23 to 24, recorded a 1 percent decline in attendance.

“Of course, we are all negatively impacted by what is happening in the States, but all of the big retailers know that during such times it is vital to create desire and to incite impulse purchases,” Pasquet said. “Added-value product is one way for them to stand out from competitors and they know they can find that here.”

Stressing the importance for the industry to avoid retrenching during periods of uncertainty, Pasquet also revealed plans to increase the presence of the fashion trimmings fair, Mod’Amont in New York, after its recent partnership with Tarsus, the owner of Mod’Amont.

“Fashion brands are very interested in trimmings,” he said. “It’s a category that has the potential to grow.”

Pasquet said emerging markets also are providing some relief for mills during the economic doldrums by supplying European fashion brands that are tapping into such markets.

“Historically, whenever America has gone into a recession, the whole world followed,” he said. “But today, though they carry less weight, emerging economies are plugging some of the gaps.”

Pasquet cited countries such as Russia, China and, to a lesser extent, India and Brazil.

This story first appeared in the February 12, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Texworld expects robust business when it convenes for its four-day run Monday, thanks to bargain-hungry buyers constrained by tighter budgets. Convening for the third time at Le Bourget exhibit space north of Paris, the fair plans to welcome 800 exhibitors from 42 countries.

Traditionally, Texworld is regarded as a lower-cost alternative to the concurrent Première Vision fair that features Europe’s top-end mills. Some buyers search for trends at Première Vision before heading to Texworld to place orders. Quality at Texworld, which features mills from the likes of China, India and Pakistan, has been improving in recent years.

Michael Scherpe, president of Messe Frankfurt France, which produces the fair, said that trend would continue, but he contended Texworld isn’t just for cheaper alternatives.

“We are complementary,” Scherpe said. “We have our market and they have theirs. People come to Texworld because we have all different types of quality and a lot of emerging companies. Première Vision captures a very elite market.”

This season’s show will again feature a small area of about 35 manufacturers of finished garments.

“They aren’t catering to small boutiques,” Scherpe said. “It’s for big business.”

Scherpe said manufacturers this year will include factory owners from China and Pakistan.

“We have good demand for this service,” he said.

Texworld has been diversifying and consolidating its expertise. In addition to moving more upscale, the fair has introduced powerful and sophisticated software to help buyers. The information software used for the first time last year to list fabrics matching any set of criteria will be employed again this season. Texworld also plans to introduce a quality-check system, developed by the French Institute of Textiles & Clothing, to ensure that fabrics meet buyers’ expectations.

“It’s important for buyers to know what they are buying in terms of quality,” Scherpe said.

As for economic conditions, Scherpe said it was “difficult” to predict how business would play out this year because “there are too many unknowns for the moment.”

He said several exhibitors canceled plans to show at Texworld because of credit problems.

“It’s more difficult today than it was two years ago,” he said, adding that many buying teams were scaling back the number of staffers dispatched to Paris. “There may be three people instead of five, but they will still need to buy similar amounts.”

Scherpe said factors working against European mills, especially the strong value of the euro against the dollar and the yen, can play in favor of exhibitors at Texworld, since most of them price their goods in dollars.

“The euro is problematic for European companies,” he said. “Texworld has no European exhibitors. All of their goods are priced in dollars. That can seem advantageous to many buyers.”

Scherpe said he hoped Texworld would remain a venue of discovery, where buyers can ferret out new suppliers. This year’s new exhibitors include Birla Cellulose from India, specialized in knitting yarns, and Turkey’s Jersan Orme San, specialized in high-end cottons.

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