Intelligent textiles and their role in garment production was one of the key issues under discussion at the first ever Avantex-International Forum for Garment Textiles and Technologies of the Future exhibition and symposium held in Frankfurt during the last week of November.

It was an event that graphically illustrated just how far the textile and garment industry has moved from the days when a sports sock capable of dispelling odour was considered a revolutionary technical advance.

Garments on view at the exhibition and on the catwalk included jackets with mobile phones and Internet surfing capability built in as an integral part of their construction, and fabrics that contribute to the wellbeing of the wearer by providing treatments for skin conditions ranging from a mild itch to full-blown neurodermatitis.

More than a hundred such innovations were on view - the contribution of the 75 market-leading companies in the technical clothing and garment field.

Like the visitors and the participants in the symposium, an essential part of the programme, they came from all over the world, with important delegations from Japan, Israel, and the USA as well as each of the major textile producing nations of the EU.

And such was the international trade interest that by the time the show closed on November 29 more than 2,000 visitors had passed through the turnstiles of the Frankfurt Messe exhibition complex.

Visitors came from every sector of the textile and clothing industries, but seemed unanimous in echoing the words of Ulrich Huwe, from Trevira's Frankfurt headquarters, who declared: "One of the great advantages of Avantex is the opportunity it provides to meet and to talk with executives and technicians."

His vision for the not too distant future was of a world of multi-disciplinary product development. He also made it clear that he saw in the high-tech route an opportunity for European producers to shade off the curse of price-cutting and concentrate on offering better performing products at better prices.

This view was backed by Richard Leckenwalther of W.L.Gore Associates GmbH. He commented: "This event is attractive to the supplier of high performance functional textiles as a platform from which to present prototype products which, although they have passed beyond the laboratory testing stage, have not yet been marketed commercially."

By Sonia Roberts