Optimism doesn’t always pervade today’s fashion world, but the latest edition of Premiere Vision (www.premierevision.fr), which was held in Paris’ Parc des Expositions on February 25-28, certainly had some.

This leading European fabric fair registered a +4% increase of visitors compared with the same edition one year ago and had stronger presence of foreign visitors. Most of those out-of-towners came from North America, Japan and Turkey.

For the first time Premiere Vision was held simultaneously with Expofil (www.expofil.com), the international trade fair for yarn manufacturers. As a result, both shows have become greater attractions for synergy among key players in the textile business.

Denim: Down but not Defeated

Optimism was especially apparent in Hall 4, the show’s denim and sportswear section. The mood there was upbeat, despite numerous challenges: jeanswear sales are down, Asian denim manufacturers continue to copy, produce and deliver goods faster and cheaper than their European competitors, and Texworld (www.interstoff.com), the Parisian fabric fair favored by Eastern denim manufacturers, was being held at the same time as Premiere Vision.

"There were companies that noticed losses around 20-30% last year [but despite this] we may say that the denim business is slightly taking up," said Gaetano La Sala, the sales manager of CDI. "Denim is getting better and stealing quotas from cotton manufacturers because of its versatility," he added.

Bruno Schilling, the sales manager of Legler, agreed. "During the last four months denim has registered an increase on sales," he said. "I think this happens because denim has a great advantage: there is nothing like it. But, of course, one has to be smart enough in always finding the right innovation. It’s not a problem of costs but of know-how."

Schilling and others said that research, high-quality product development services and marketing are some of the key tools needed to succeed in the textile market.

John Katsianis, the general manager of Hellenic Fabrics, said his company is attempting to grow its business by offering fabrics that offer a combination of versatility and longevity. "One has to create the need for the client to buy garments for most different uses," he said. "A special fabric has to be able to communicate a personality. The weaver creates the need, the apparel manufacturer invents a personality around it and the consumer buys it. For this a designer can come back to us every time: He can always find fabrics with long lifecycles that guarantee healthy business."

Putting one’s product in the designer/celebrity spotlight is another option. For example, Santana, a Brazilian denim manufacturer who exhibited at the show, has signed a series of joint ventures with up-and-coming Brazilian designers and international music stars. The company recently recruited Lino Villaventura, Mario Queiroz and Fause Haten to design apparel with its denim for their individual collections. And, by the end of 2004, Santana will also be producing Carlos by Carlos Santana, the popular musician’s own apparel collection.

Newfangled Fabrics

Several innovations were also on display at Premiere Vision. Numerous exhibitors, including Bossa, Italdenim, Montebello, Hellenic Fabrics, Legler and CDI, communicated a vintage feeling through subtle effects or strong contrasts of shades.

Others impressed visitors with more modern offerings. ISKO, for instance, has developed Nine-to-One, a special fabric featuring nine different weaves. And Tavex presented a 100% cotton canvas dyed with special neon hues, which give the fabric a synthetic optic even though the material is totally natural. In addition, Hellenic is currently developing a denim that will release Vitamin E onto a person’s body. The vitamin can help rejuvenate the wearer’s skin and can even offer a massage-like feeling.

Several new "politically-correct" and environmentally-friendly and fabrics were also unveiled at the fair. Tavex launched Berna NH3, a denim made out of 100% organic cotton grown by Peruvian and Ugandan farmers who are supervised and assisted by global social-aid organizations. And Bonduel has developed a light blue denim dyed with special natural indigo substances. UCO, meanwhile, is testing a very soft-hand denim made with bamboo and cotton; the company already produces an Ingeo-cotton denim.

— Maria Cristina Pavarini, Senior Features Editor, Sportswear International