Challenging market conditions dampened the mood at the London Textile Fair’s latest edition, but the show maintained a steady stream of buyers and exhibitors.
There was a stoic mood at this season’s London Textile Fair, as exhibitors and buyers buckled down for what many predict will be a tough year ahead.
Around 475 exhibitors showed at the two-day spring 19 edition, held at the Business Design Centre in Islington on 10-11 January. A further 20 to 30 businesses were on the waiting list to exhibit, the show organiser John Kelly tells Drapers.
Designers and buyers from brands and retailers such as Asos, Ted Baker, Vivienne Westwood, Hobbs, Boden, Topshop, Sunspel and Private White were spotted among the aisles. The print and design area proved particularly popular this season.
Exhibitors and buyers praised the show for the quality of fabrics on display, as well as its timing, as it takes place before rival shows Milano Unica in Milan on 6-8 February and Première Vision in Paris on 13-15 February. Nevertheless, currency concerns and growing cost pressures continued to weigh heavily on attendees’ minds.
Kelly explains: “The mood is not super-positive – it’s not a boom year [for the industry]. I don’t want to sound too doom and gloom, but the general message is: the industry is OK. Christmas hasn’t been terrible, but it has been slightly down. There just isn’t any excitement at the moment.
“The market continues to be affected by price rises and the euro exchange rate against the dollar. A lot of mills are also trying to be more eco-friendly and sustainable, at a big cost for them.
“Larger manufacturers are making decisions on where to source based on whether a mill can provide sourcing information from the beginning of the process.
“It’s an expensive thing for mills to do – you have to bring in [external] people, check the weaving, spinning, finishing, dye stuffs … They’re all working towards it, but sustainability is an important issue.”
On the stands, eco-friendly fabrics continued to form a key trend for spring 19. Other popular lines included sand-washed silks, jacquard fabrics and laminated technical materials.
The next edition of London Textile Fair will take place on 18-19 July.
Views from the show
Trevor Bann, agent for UK manufacturer Abraham Moon & Sons
“This edition has been busy for us – we’ve seen a lot of interest in cashmere and wool-linen blends for spring 19. Interest in heritage is increasing, and there has also been rising interest in sourcing locally because of the Brexit factor, so our orders are up and we’re confident going into the next season. That said, it all depends on currency rates, which remains a big challenge in the industry.”
Kate Little, senior designer at Coast
“Our team comes here because it’s right on our doorstep [Coast is based in nearby Old Street]. We’re looking for new print base fabrics for occasionwear for spring 19, such as jacquards and lace, [which are] key trends for the season. It’s been great so far – we’ve had some good finds.”
Jacques Azagury, designer for eponymous occasionwear boutique Azagury Designs
“I come here regularly to look for high-quality fabrics for occasionwear and eveningwear. I’m on the lookout for fabrics with new and interesting textures – it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find fabrics that haven’t been copied elsewhere. But I’ve found a good few pieces so far here, which is the mark of a good exhibition.”
Clive Walsh, managing director at textile manufacturer Mallalieus of Delph
“We’re continuing to grow, and haven’t seen a downturn in our business, but trading remains an unknown [given market conditions]. The problem with currency is the volatility that comes with it, and the price of wool is increasing.
“It’s difficult to put prices to customers that’ll last for a [long period of time], but orders haven’t been affected. Our Japanese customer base is growing; exports are rising year on year.”
Wout engberts export manager for netherlands wholesaler tootal fabrics 1
Wout Engbers, export manager at Dutch wholesaler Tootal Fabrics
“The last time I [exhibited] here it was busier, but it’s always good to show here as there are always a lot of new ideas and products – the Paris and Milan shows tend to be more conservative.
“Orders have been flat, but margins have gone down compared with last year. There is less confidence in the market and more uncertainty. That said, we’re quietly confident about the new season – it’ll be a hard fight, but we’ve been in the market for many years.”
Mike bennett company director at manchester supplier bennett silks 1
Mike Bennett, company director at supplier Bennett Silks in Manchester
“The show was busier last season, but it’s been steady for us this time. We’re seeing a lot of interest in sand-washed silks, which is a key trend for spring 19. The quality of customers here has been brilliant.
“Business has been difficult for us since the referendum. We’ve got a strong export network but it’s in jeopardy; European businesses won’t buy from us if the government slaps duty on our goods. Prices are going up [too] – no one knows what will happen. Orders have been down, but we’ve just got to carry on.”
Aliaa elesseily designer at egypt based namesake label loushe by aliaa 1
Aliaa Elesseily, designer at Egyptian label Loushe by Aliaa
“It’s my first time at the show – I wanted to visit this one as other trade shows like Première Vision are always too overwhelming, and this seemed smaller. I’m here to gain some inspiration for both my spring and autumn 19 womenswear collections, and have seen some good [options]. I’m enjoying it so far, and plan to come here again for next season’s edition.”
Shun Narisaki, international sales representative for Japanese manufacturer Komatsu Seiren
“We’re exhibiting here because it is a good opportunity to connect with new buyers and businesses. We had a slow start to the first day though – it’s been quiet compared with the last edition, where we saw double the amount of visitors to our stand.
“For us, there are three key elements for spring 19: ‘shiny’ laminated technical fabrics; eco-friendly materials; and fabrics with a crinkle [texture]. Many big retailers are increasing their interest in eco-friendly ranges, which has [admittedly] added to costs, since it takes a lot of time to research and requires more certifications.”