LONDON — The Textile Forum, which took place in London between Oct. 12-16, drew a varied crowd against the backdrop of a fluctuating British pound, which hit a 31-year low last week. The British currency is currently trading at an 18 percent discount to the dollar following the Brexit referendum in June, and has dropped 6.5 percent against the euro in the past 30 days alone.
A combination of French haute couture houses, young London-based designers such as Molly Goddard, retailers including Harrods and students sourcing materials for their graduate collections were among the visitors.
Linda Laderman, the forum’s cofounder and organizer, said the companies exhibiting as part of the forum price their textiles at luxury level yet don’t impose minimums on the orders, which allows designers to have flexibility in the orders they place.
“The beauty here is that our vendors are sitting on warehouses with 6 million pounds (or $7.3 million) worth of stock. You could be looking for a swatch to inspire your storyboards and then decide that it works, call in again to just order 3 meters to make a single dress, then order one hundred meters when the orders come in. That’s part of the process because we’re at the designer end. If you are ordering from a Chinese mill directly, you probably can’t buy a meter because their minimum is too big,” said Laderman. “Also the stock is backed, so a designer could look at a fabric in February, think about it for six months and it’s probably still there.
Laderman said it’s been a busy week of processing orders for the forum’s exhibitors, despite the weaker pound, which has in fact opened up opportunities for fabric suppliers in the U.S. and the Far East.
“Overall, Britain has always been a country that’s been subject to currency fluctuations, for the last hundred years, the currency has been up and down and it’s just something that you have to live with. Yes in the short-term, someone can calculate that they might have spent 15,000 pounds more or something cost 15,000 pounds more, but it’s something that they’ve got to get over,” said Laderman.
“The other thing is, that when you’re selling fabric at quite a high price, if you have to increase it by five or ten percent, in real terms it’s not a lot. So in reality, there’s a lot of noise out there, but I don’t think you’ll find anybody that’s actually negative about it.”
She added that the weaker pound means that fabric prices are more attractive to international buyers and many companies have started to market their product more aggressively overseas, as a result. For example, the family-owned Bernstein & Banleys, best known for its extensive collection of linings and trimmings participated in trade shows in Los Angeles for the first time this year, while Ringhart, which specializes in high-end fabrics for men’s shirtings, set up new deals with Japanese and Chinese distributors for the first time this season.
According to Laderman, exhibitors have been more creative and investing greatly into design in order to ensure orders, during this unstable economic time.
“People are more innovative, more creative than they’ve been in the past in terms of fabric. I think they’re investing more into the designs and recognizing that even if you’ve got a standard fabric, you have to update the colors,” she said.
Among the highlights, were the customization offers by Savile Row’s Holland & Sherry who can weave initials or names into the stripes of wool fabrics and the elaborate embroideries and appliquéd fabrics by Bella Tela, the textile company which specializes in couture textiles. Bennett Silks also presented its air-thin yet textured silk fabric which recently won Premiere Vision’s “Imagination Award,” while the British Alpaca Fashion Company, which focuses on producing fabrics sustainably in its local alpaca farms, is introducing knitwear for the first time.