12 Jan 2017
Brands Vie with Catwalk Couture at European Textile Sourcing Event
While brand-building has become increasingly important for textile suppliers the world over, turning heads on the catwalk remains a key element in the marketing strategy of many companies, according to exhibitors at Apparel Sourcing Paris.
With more than 1,000 of the 1,500 exhibitors at the most recent Apparel Sourcing Paris event coming from China, it is clear that the mainland remains Europe's textile supplier of choice. Aside from the vast Chinese contingent, the event was distinguished by several noteworthy innovations, including a range of non-wrinkle natural cottons, textiles with built-in anti-bacterial properties and a new embroidery system said to be able to re-colour threads as it goes.
Given its huge size, it was more than helpful that the most recent event was divided into four relatively easy-to-navigate zones – Apparel Sourcing, Texworld, Avantex and Shawls and Scarves. This proved a boon to many newcomers to the show, including the debutante exhibitors from Guatemala and the United Arab Emirates.
In the case of Guatemala, the textile sector is one of its key growth areas, accounting for 4% of its overall GDP in 2016 across 456 companies. To date, most Guatemalan companies have only worked with North American buyers, although there is now an emphasis on forging alliances further afield.
Similarly, backed by a number of government initiatives, the United Arab Emirates is looking to diversify its own industry base. With the textile industry identified as a priority, the plan is to establish the UAE as an international manufacturing hub for the sector.
Looking to stake its own claim in the sector was Cotton USA, a Washington DC-based trade body committed to promoting American cotton fibre and cotton products to international buyers. Explaining its mission, Sean Callahan, the trade body's Global Operations Manager, said: "Although Chinese manufacturers dominate the sector, filling more than 1,000 of the show's stands this year, a great deal of the industry's raw material is first imported from the US. As a result, we are very keen to promote the Cotton USA brand as a global standard.
"To that end, we have created a new hallmark for US cotton. It is our hope that garment producers will adopt this as a premium textile brand for their products. Some 95% of the cotton grown in the US is exported for manufacturing purposes, with a lot of the finished products being re-exported to the US. Now, though, we want to build awareness of the key components of the Cotton USA brand – purity, quality and responsibility."
While brand-building proved an ever-more important focus for businesses as well as national bodies, the catwalk remained the pre-eminent promotional tool for many. At one point, for instance, it was seemingly hijacked by the Tunisian trade delegation as a showcase for its designers, including the debut of an all-black collection courtesy of the Aryanah Fashion School.
Perhaps the most colourful and dramatic use of the catwalk came courtesy of Avantex Paris, Apparel Sourcing Paris' dedicated high-tech fabric and fashion zone The highlight was a fetching fusion of the materials accorded the Taiwan Functional Textiles hallmark of quality and the styles created by Couture, a Parisian design house. Together, the two produced a highly evocative range of lingerie and eveningwear.
An accompanying seminar gave delegates a chance to discover just how this surprising alliance between the Taiwan Textile Federation and Couture came about. The session was led by Jerry Wang, the federation's Vice-president, and focussed on the opportunities now emerging to combine functionality with fashion. In a wide-ranging talk, Wang outlined the advantages of several new high-tech fabrics, including wrinkle-free pure cotton, sporting fabrics made from elastic filaments, sun-protective textiles, thermal textiles and a range of far-infrared products designed to optimise heat retention.
Among the other inspirational exhibitors at the Avantex Paris sub-event was Joakim Staberg, the inventor of Embroline, a system that allows threads to be coloured as they are used in production. Summarising the learning process involved with bringing the product to market, he said: "Overall, it's taken a very long time. When I came up with the idea, I knew nothing at all about the textile industry. Now, though, there is a lot of interest from designers and manufacturers, all of whom are aware of how it can maximise the efficiency of the embroidery process."
Another invention debuting at the event came courtesy of Taiwan's Green Defence. The company polymerises cinnamon and almond extracts with nylon or polyester to create a thread said to have anti-bacterial properties. According to Craig Su, one of the company's Senior Managers, interest in the product was particularly high in the sports and medical markets, as well as in the general clothing sector. In China, the thread and fabric are both currently available via Qingdao-based Lilytex.
Natural ingredients were also the priority for another exhibitor, Visionland, a Seoul-based textile manufacturer. Apart from its Korean base, the company has operations throughout Asia and is said to supply a number of the world's leading retail brands.
Defining the company's particular approach, Jay Shin, the Senior Manager of Visionland's Fabric Marketing Division, said: "We have set out our stall as an eco-friendly producer. To that end, we only use organic cotton, Ingeo, Sorona and a number of other recycled synthetic fabrics.
"From 2012 onwards, our R&D has focussed on the effective use of natural dyes for mass-produced fabric. This year, our strategy has come to fruition and we are now in full production."
Over in the Texworld space, the focus was very much on a small, select group of elite exhibitors. Foremost among them was Bangalore-based Eastern Silk, a company that has been at the forefront of manufacturing and exporting Indian silk fabrics since 1946. Clearly happy with the reception his company's had received at the show, Sales Manager Anup Agarwal said: "For us, the event started with a bang. We've been rushed off our feet ever since the doors opened."
At present, Eastern Silk produces a range of traditional and modern silk fabrics. Using such sought-after materials as fil coupé jacquards and several exclusive satins, its fabrics are said to be used by many of the world's leading clothing brands.
Another company clearly having a good show was Kaskas, a Beirut-based supplier of haute couture embroidery and lace to a number of leading fashion houses. Explaining the company's route to success, Co-owner Omar Kaskas said: "Since 1960, Kaskas has developed its designs from scratch. Although much of this was done in house, we have also worked in close collaboration with several local and international designers."
Another elite exhibitor – and one with more than 20 years' experience producing and importing linen and hemp fabrics from China and Russia – was Netherlands-based Northern Linen. According to Menno Meijer, the company's Sales Manager, in order to deliver the highest levels of quality, it exports European flax to China as the basis of its fabric production.
One of the largest manufacturers of non-denim apparel fabrics in Pakistan, Kohinoor Mills' stand was among the most strikingly decorated in the Texworld zone. The company turns over PKR7 billion (US$87 million), employs more than 1,700 people and is said to count many of Europe's leading retail groups among its clients. Acknowledging a profitable 12 months for Kohinoor, General Manager Aamir Qureshi said: "Business has been very good. We are looking at operating at full capacity for the foreseeable future."
Apparel Sourcing Paris was held at Le Bourget from 12-15 September 2016. The event featured more than 1,500 exhibitors from 42 countries, a 37% increase on the 2015 event. Around two thirds of all exhibitors were from China.
David Wilkinson, Special Correspondent, Paris