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PARIS — Sustainability and the ongoing crossover between fashion and sport were key focuses at the just-wrapped Première Vision Paris and Texworld fabric fairs here.

Brexit jitters could already be felt at Première Vision Paris, which saw a 16 percent dip in British visitors, leading to a slight decrease in total traffic year-over-year to 53,156 versus 54,413 in 2018. Conversely, the number of Asian visitors was up 8 percent, boosted by an increase in Chinese buyers, with U.S. visitors up 6 percent, the organizers said.

Première Vision managing director Gilles Lasbordes was satisfied with the overall “solid” turnout given the challenging context. The show’s bustling trend areas and seminars for him indicated a desire from brands to “go back to their DNA, which is being creative.”

Upcoming projects by the fair include a partnership with the French Leather Council on a Sustainable Leather Forum that will open on Sept. 16 at La Maison des Travaux Publics in central Paris, a day before the kickoff of Première Vision’s September edition. The forum will also be present at Première Vision’s Smart Square section dedicated to sustainable innovations.

Several exhibitors at Première Vision cited bubbling demand for performance fabrics for urban collections geared at the travel and commuting segment.

“We have more and more demand from the customer to claim as much performance as possible: UVP [Ultra Violet Product], wicking, breathability wrinkle-free, packability, easy care, as much as they can, even if they are not truly connected to the final purpose of the garment, and without comprising on style,” said Matteo Cecchi, sales director at Première Vision exhibitor Eurojersey which in 2018 registered its best year yet in terms of sales. Revenues were up 8 percent year-over-year to around 74 million euros, with a “massive increase” in the sports-activewear segment, Cecchi said.

Italy’s Penn Textiles Solution figured among mills citing demand for one-stop technical materials integrating different structures and body zones, like high power compression and perforations for breathability.

What designers are looking for, they said, is ways to reduce seaming to achieve a more modern look and save time, eliminating the need to mix and match fabrics from different vendors with different compositions.

Pascal Morand, executive president of the La Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode, during a conference themed around “Sportswear and the Spirit of Innovation,” reminded the audience that fashion’s ongoing love affair with sport is nothing new.

He traced its origins back to post World War I, “with the push coming from the U.S. and France,” citing among pivotal moments tennis player Suzanne Lenglen donning an outfit by Jean Patou for Wimbledon in 1921.

“It was all linked to the economy and the industrial movement. Today it’s linked to new lifestyles with more and more interconnections, there’s a hybridization,” said Morand coining the term “SSS,” for “Sport, street and sound.”

For Sim Gulati, chief executive of Dropel Fabrics, an exhibitor at Première Vision’s Wearable Lab themed around the “Augmented Human,” mixing high performance with naturals is the future. The company, which through material science and process technology develops natural cotton fibers carrying the performance properties of synthetics, including water and stain-repellent and micro bacterial functions, counts Miroslava Duma, founder of the New York Fashion Tech Lab, among investors.

“Every aspect of our life has been improved by technology except for clothing. It’s like the final frontier: How can we improve on naturals,” said Gulati who has collaborated on a soon-to-launch streetwear brand with a major figure from the entertainment industry, supplying all the materials. The company is also developing a formaldehyde-free, wrinkle-free shirting range.

Key trends at the fair, meanwhile, included highly saturated hues bordering on neons, suprising handles like a rubbery lace, ultra matte leathers and lightness, with an abundance of polyamides with papery surfaces, weightless leathers with washed crackled surfaces, and airy activewear qualities.

The ongoing streetwear influence came through in revisited gauzy materials, perforated leathers, power-stretch polyamides mimicking skin, and ultrafine T-shirt qualities made from fleece. Première Vision’s fashion director Pascaline Wilhelm described the latter as an “elevated evolution” on the hoodie as “streetwear begins to lose its momentum.”

Sustainable initiatives launched at the fair included a diverse range of fabrics by Naia made from a cellulosic yarn produced from trees harvested from sustainably managed forests located in North America, Europe and Brazil; a water and energy-saving peached finishing process by Bemberg dubbed Velutine Ebo, and a capsule collection of six eco-friendly jersey fabrics by Tintex working in collaboration with ColorZen, Tearfil Textile Yarns and Becri Group.

Highlights from the Maison d’Exceptions space showcasing firms boasting special know-how and manufacturing techniques included Sukumo Leather’s range of leathers dyed with indigo using traditional kimono printing techniques like waxed batik and chibori tie-and-dye.

Among designers spotted in the booths, couturier Julien Fournié loved the new plays on light across collections, with “new spins on iridescence,” while Andrew Gn was amazed by the intensified sustainable push from mills. “Like or not, you’d better get used to it. A lot of companies are showing the origin of their fabrics, the way they weave it…transparency. Lots of people are really looking into it, especially the traditional companies in Italy,” he said.

“You can see that everybody is thinking about the environment,” echoed Pierre-Henri Mattout citing a prevalence of recycled cottons and denim at the technical outerwear manufacturers. He also liked the Lyocell shirting collections at the fair that had a “soft and silky feel.”

Over at Texworld, which ran Feb. 11 to 14 at the Le Bourget events center, the spotlight was on artisanal fabrics. For its 44th edition, the fair created a brand new “Handmade” itinerary regrouping 25 booths, mostly in the “Embroidery and Lace” section.

“The fabrics we are showcasing today are all hand-embroidered on a traditional handloom, made by local artisans in India,” explained Bhavesh T. Reshamwala, business developer at Mumbai textile manufacturer Ratanshi Kheraj, gesturing to a stunning brocade fabric made of a blend of silk and viscose.

“Many designers, especially in Europe and North America, have a lot of interest in handmade fabrics because they are not available in abundance,” he said, adding that the manufacturer is also one of the over 150-plus exhibitors offering small fabric quantities. “Some of our designs are even open to customization. It’s something that is different from the rest of the market, rather than a run-of-the mill fabric.”

This new itinerary was created in order to better showcase craftsmanship at Texworld. “We wanted to show that there is a real savoir-faire among our exhibitors,” said Barbara Kurdziel, show director for Texworld and sister trade show Avantex. “At the moment it seems as though ‘métiers d’arts’ are seen as something essentially European, but the countries present at Texworld have exceptional craftsmanship and deserve to be singled out.” This is particularly the case for India, the fourth main exhibiting country at Texworld after China, Turkey and Korea, she said.

Sustainability was still a key trend, but approached with a dose of fun. Over at Northern Linen, natural linen fabrics were delivered in bright, punchy colors, including a brand new “Color Block” range of multicolored stripes.

“This season is all about candy colors with a happy vibe,” explained textile designer Rosan Van Bouen. “We wanted to get rid of the ‘tofu’ vibe that is usually associated with natural fabrics and show that you can have fun with color, even if it’s an eco fabric.”

Booths offered a wide range of pastel hues, including a dominant theme of coral, the Pantone color for 2019. Sunny orange cottons were spotted over at Turkish mill HMK Tekstil, while German mill Hemmers Itex Textil delivered light-hued tweeds embroidered with tiny sequins and colored threads.

At Avantex, a whole section was devoted to zero waste design, curated by Bordeaux-based designer Mylène L’Orguilloux of 3-D prototyping label Milan AV-JC.

“All the brands present in this section have the same philosophy, but the results and the creative process are completely different,” said the designer, who turned to the environmentally friendly practice of digital prototyping to create her zero waste garment patterns. “You can get zero waste T-shirts and items that fit in perfectly with your everyday life, as well as more out-there pieces. Zero waste doesn’t mean you’re limited in creativity, quite the opposite.”

She demonstrated by showing a trench coat entirely made from one piece of fabric. “Traditionally, what is cut off to make the sleeves is thrown away. But I chose to keep the curved pieces of fabric and turn them into belt loops on the back of the trench coat, instead of cutting more fabric to create the usual rectangular shapes. Waste is a design flaw, and fabric scraps should be seen as something that can be used to add a bit of creativity to a garment.”