Sublistatic and psychedelic were the buzzwords in the fabric printing industry in the l960s. Now, 40 years on, they could be returning to favour as descriptions of some of the most eye catching textiles for spring/summer 2004 writes Sonia Roberts.

Other revivals forecast by displays at the recent Expofil yarn trade fair in Paris include a reawakening of interest in tulles and nets of all types, together with fabrics featuring built-in pleating.

Today's sublistatic printing, as currently practiced by specialists like France's Vahe et Cie, features the addition of digital technology to the basic process using transfer papers.

And now Vahe et Cie has teamed up with Dentelles Sophie Hallette to create a range of fancy tulles for lingerie or evening wear that employ sublistatic printing to give the illusion of three dimensional decoration on what is actually flat fabric.

After printing, six layers of the fabric are bonded together. This has the effect of both blurring the printed motifs and making them apparently stand out proud from the surrounding area. The net itself is knitted from one of the variant polyamides now available from Nylstar.

Layering of ultra lightweight fabrics, particularly nets and tulles, was a recurrent theme of the Paris show and a trend which will almost certainly grow in importance in ratio with the renewed interest in nets as fashion fabrics.

Meanwhile, sublistatic prints also make their bow in the latest Miroglio collection, also previewed at Expofil. Primarily offered to appeal to the lingerie trade, these fabrics are based on branded Michron polyester yarn.

Michron is now being sold as "an essentially environmentally friendly" fibre, since no chemical treatments are involved in its manufacture. This also ensures that fabrics produced from this fibre retain a soft handle along with a high degree of drape.

Psychedelic patterns
"Psychedelic" patterns reminiscent of the 60s are the new season's fashion story from IFTH. However, its fabrics are not prints but use a combination of matt and bright Meryl, both yarns being dyed for IFTH by Teinturerie de la Chaussee. They are then tastanised to render them suitable for flatbed knitting.

IFTH also combines gloss and matt yarn in qualities suitable for flat bed knitting, using the traditional Japanese Gyma process to create lacelike, openwork fabrics with a refined glitter effect

Copper wire and pearl bead embroideries on tulle lend a subtle pink-toned sheen to eveningwear fabrics from Dentelles Sophie Hallette. This producer also makes extensive use of stretch yarns to bring a foamy, shirred effect to the surface of translucent, polyamide tulles.

Yet another revival anticipated by the design team at Dentelles Sophie Hallette is the bouffant petticoat made from layers of contrasting coloured tulles, and last popular in the late 1950s. The company recommends viscose tulle, specially treated to hold its stiffening in circumstances that would immediately crush other fabrics, as the best fabric choice for this type of garment.

It also predicts that such petticoats could become as much a teenage styling craze in the mid years of the current decade as they were back in the l950s. "This time around, however, the layered, waist petticoat could well be worn not just as an undergarment but adopted as a skirt in its own right, by style-conscious club goers," Dentelles Sophie Hallette says.

Lingerie looks have wider appeal
Growing demand across the entire fashion spectrum for fabrics initially designed for lingerie is also forecast by other firms.

"Our satins woven with an acetate warp and a cotton/Tencel blend weft and dyed to fluorescently bright shades are being snapped up by street wear manufacturers catering for the young at heart market," comment Tessitura Frigerio. Its latest range of fabrics has been produced in cooperation with Teinturerie de La Chaussee Romaine.

Scintillating satins are also seen as "a fabric sector with a big future at the young end of the market," by Panama 3. It uses a blend of real silk organza with viscose/polyamide for the latest "high gloss" fabric collection previewed at Expofil.

Meanwhile, both heat set pleated fabrics and trompe l'oeil pleating are now being used by a number of EU based fabric houses with an eye on the Japanese market where pleated garments are currently top sellers. The simulated pleat effects are most usually produced on circular knitting machines set to give a raised rib pattern.

However, selling to Japan - never at any time easy for European producers who face punitively high import taxes - may become even more difficult in 2003 due to the high degree of design creativity and technical innovation which the Japanese are now applying to home produced fabrics.

Japanese creativity and innovation
At Expofil, the advances made by the Japanese industry were clearly indicated by the corporate display of fabrics originally produced as entries for the annual Japan Textile Contest.

And it was also a Japanese designer who this year took Expofil's own prize for the "best development fabric" seen at the show.

The winning fabric was a contemporary variation on a classic theme. Woven from ultra fine cotton yarn to a high density finish it also featured a layered construction. "The high lustre finish which gives the completed fabric the name 'Glass Loden' is achieved by first raising the surface and then applying a special formula glaze," designer Shigefumi Furuta explained.

Expert Analysis

World Markets for Spun Yarns: Forecasts to 2010
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Other former Japan Textile Contest winners whose creations were on view in Paris during Expofil included Takenori Hashimoto's "Gossamer Coating" woven with transparent stripes to reveal the garments worn underneath, and Nami Mura's "Bark" fabric in which the yarns making up the cloth are sewn together rather than conventionally woven giving an apparently random ridged finish similar to tree bark.

A prize winning idea with more obvious commercial application is Yoshitaka Ando's ultra lightweight woven called Wing in which the shearing of the weft increases the tactile appeal of the fabric as well enhancing the lustre of the final finishing.

By Sonia Roberts.