Première Vision remains the active, innovative and creative face of the global textile industry, and the latest show in September was no exception says Sapna Arora. The traditional textile strongholds staged a strong and defiant comeback in terms of design and innovation in the year their markets were thrown open to cheaper and unrestricted imports from the Far East.

This year the Première Vision fabric fair in Paris had an increasingly global flavour, with exhibitors from Italy, France, the UK, Spain, Germany, Japan, Austria, Portugal, Switzerland, Belgium, Ireland and Greece.

The British offer at Première Vision was supported by export success, with a 10 per cent increase in woollen and worsted woven exports boosting the morale of British textile mills. This is the strongest sector of the British wool textile industry, notably through more sales to Japan and reassuring success in Italy.

As the UK retail industry increases its sourcing from Eastern Europe, the amount of off-shore trading has gone up too. British exports to Hungary are up 10 per cent; to the Czech Republic by 148 per cent, and to Lithuania by an astonishing 222 per cent.

The director of the British wool textile export corporation, Peter Ackroyd, sees as "most encouraging" the 20 per cent increase in worsted and woollen sales to Japan.

Themes of the season
Several colour lines and strong themes are emerging for autumn/winter 06/07.

  • Black & white. Although this theme has a slightly 'couture' tendency, it lends itself equally well to the sports and casual wear, shirts and knitwear sectors. It is visual and graphic - black or white, often the two combined. The designs are classic (Prince of Wales, hounds tooth check); the printed fabrics, jacquards and knitwear have a Nordic or Balkan influence.
  • Natural colours. Rustic, beiges, greys, ecrus and browns designed with sports/casual wear in mind. The wools are of the felted boiled variety. There are tweeds and flannels, and 'raw,' heavy fabrics with a worn, faded look. Lots of sheepskin and thick materials to go with jeans.
  • City theme. Serious and elegant. Delicate materials, worsted yarns, dark colours, anthracite grey, browns or navy blues. Discreet designs, fine stripes for both ladies and gentlemen's suits. Shirt fabrics are delicate, poplin or polyamide/polyester based and striped. Coat fabrics are soft, rich and velvety.
  • British look. 'Shetland' colours, rust, olives and mauves, flecked but also typically British designs and checks. Traditional woollens for jackets and coats to mix and match with velvet or corduroy trousers, and with printed fabrics.

Speaking to a lot of people at Premiere Vision the general consensus of the hot colours for the next season is as follows.

  • Women's wear. Ruby, rosemary, ebony, ermine, petrol, amethyst. Weaves include twills, jacquards and herringbones. Patterns include geometric checks, irregular stripes and tie patterns. Women's wear has a strong wool feeling, with key aspects being wool with volume, fluffy, hairy, flannel, milled and felted, boiled wool, English wool classics, jacquards, overprints.
  • Men's wear. Colours include carbon, ink ebony, fox, cardboard, filings. Patterns include a predominance of checks, followed by fancy woven stripes and Prince of Wales. Finishes are washed or sanded. Men's wear this season returns to basics such as flannels, checks and tweeds, herringbones, Donegals. Wool is the dominant fibre for winter coats with fluffy, milled fabrics, Loden and fancy designs.
  • Finishing techniques with wool include boiling, milling and felting. 'Wool-look' cotton casuals mimic the aesthetics of the wool ranges.
  • Sportswear. Colours include ebony, filings, steel, indigo, cedar, carbon. Finishes are sanded with coloured coatings and stonewashed.

26 new weavers exhibited at PV for the first time this year, including Hinnigan Fabrics Ltd, a Scottish company distinguished by its collection of updated classics in lambswool, Italian yarn for winter and cotton for summer, jacquards and double weaves for the women's top range and boutique market.

Hinnigan Fabrics' main customers are Hobbs and Jigsaw and it works with designers in the UK and France.

Brian Hinnigan, design and sales director, said he hoped PV would help the business grow in France, Germany and the USA this year. Buyers showed strong interest in the 'Warm Natural' story with colours like brown, camels, grey and caramel, and the 'Hopeful' theme with its blues, black, white and grey.

M&S supplier CI Cataguases, based in Brazil, exhibited at PV for the second time this year. The company specialises in 100 per cent cotton and cotton Lycra shirting fabrics and has fully vertically integrated factories.

Marie Odile Perroux, European sales manager, said the phase-out of quotas meant a lot of buyers were now working with China in a much bigger way, but this has affected the European market only and not South America.

Structured fabrics
In suiting, as in cotton and knits, creativity emerges through weave combinations, blends, obscure colours and soft handles. Lassiere Mills Ltd (GB) proposed ultra-fine woollens, between 160's and 190's with finishes that lend them a slightly lustrous aspect. Hugo Lassiere, managing director, said the luxury brands are particularly interested in these very fine fabrics.

Other strong fabrics for autumn/winter 06/07 are blends of cashmere and cotton, of angora, polyamide, or even silk and cashmere. There are also knitting treatments for soft handles; and in sportswear, herringbones and ribbed fabric for trousers evoked the spirit of suiting but with soft handle, whitened aspects and pure cotton compositions.

Somelos Tecidos (P) has created a whole range of checked fabrics on satin grounds. The stripes that compose the checks are made of different weaves, in graduated or blurred colours. The company has also worked on blurry stripes, composed of different weaves.

Classical fabric embellishment
Disrupting traditional weaves, shifting decorations and trying bold new colour combinations all lend an incredible modernity to winter's tried and true classics.

Weisbrod Zurrer AG (CH) has been creative in its jacquards with a warp that is plaid or printed using paper-transfer principles. To enable printing and weaving at the same time the company has invested in two new machines. Innovation is essential to maintaining production in Europe says product manager Flavio Sassi.

While economic realities are not currently easy, still we can not forget that the final consumer needs to be seduced and feel he is treating himself. Their closets are already full to bursting and now they are looking for something different, original and unique.

Alpha lace (FR) has played on dissonances by using materials that are not usually incorporated into embroidery. For example, heavy gauge wools over-embroidered on fine lace, and woven fabrics such as herringbones and plaids inserted in the mesh for use in outerwear.

Vasino SpA (IT) has created Prince of Wales-type weaves whose patterns look blurry in certain areas, and condensed or burnt-out in others. Burnt-outs are one of the company's specialties but this is the first time that they have produced them in wool.

Popularity of furs
Although PETA and other animal's rights groups continue to protest, the stigma of wearing fur seems to be on the wane and designers are incorporating more and more fur into their collections. The popularity of fur has also led to an increase in the quality of faux furs.

At Première Vision this year, 250 exhibitors specialised in raw or semi-tanned leathers and skins. Also included are a variety of special and exotic skins and furs, some natural and artificial textiles and a plethora of other components for leather sector.

Bottom weights - denims/corduroy

  • Soft density. Thick double face cottons, weaves with a firm core and velvety softness, generous moleskins, sturdy and considerably softened denims, metal yarn inserted even in corduroy for fabrics that are mouldable at will.
  • Hidden surfaces. Surfaces grow hazy and blurred, lightened with whitened and faded treatments, pigment prints in half tones, coatings that veil patterns. Yarn dyes, under the influence of suiting and workwear, attenuate patterns for barely-there effects.
  • Obscure density. Black or black denim, blue/black indigos, coatings, firmly set weaves, intense and neat aspects. Coal-like finishes where scrapings and over-dyes blacken weaves and patterns.
  • Absolute matt. Cotton that allies fineness and density worked extra flat or in micro fancy weaves. Resistance is due to synthetic blends with high performance compacts.

Top yarn quality from organic cotton
Organic cotton at Première Vision is directed at buyers who are environmentally conscious, but at the same time demand a quality product.

Ecological advantages of organic cotton:

  • Pests are controlled by natural measures rather than pesticides or insecticides
  • Compost and manure replace synthetic fertilizers
  • 25 per cent lower water consumption since organically cultivated soil has better water retention
  • Crop rotation for long-term maintenance of soil fertility
  • Defoliation through natural frosts and discontinued irrigation
  • Electricity for spinning Swiss Cotton Organic is generated by renewable water power

Lots of companies at the show this year promoted the use of organic cotton.

For example, Hermann Buhler AG Spinning Mill in Switzerland uses 100 per cent organically grown, extra long staple cotton fibre length 34-38 mm. The mill's main products include high grade woven fabrics for shirts and blouses, fine intimate apparel, hosiery, bed linen and children's wear.

Latest innovations
Angelina heat fusible fibres are polyester fibres that bond to themselves using heat to form a luminescent material. Heat fusing occurs when the fibres soften and fuse together. These luminescent, radiantly coloured fibres create a shimmering web and can change even further in form and colour when the layers melt together.

The heat fusible fibres have many applications including embroidery, felt, nonwoven fabrics, and decorative embellishments. For instance, embroideries can have creative stitching or sequins embedded in them.

Angelina aluminium metal fibres can be twisted, giving a glowing metallic appearance contrasting with iridescence and can be sewn or embedded with a jewel-like effect into the fibres themselves.

Other similar innovations include special effect polyester fibres for the yarn spinning and nonwoven industries, innovative sequins in endless materials and colours, all types of fringes and, of course, sparkling glitter.

Blends of the very finest yarns with voluminous ones, creating a more natural and refined comfort. New fibres with special characteristics are mixed with natural fibres to provide yarns with new performance. Crabyon, which is derived from chitin and has allergenic and antibacterial effects, is one example.

The latest innovative development is 'Firefly,' a new phosphorescent yarn in different blends such as cotton, polyester, viscose and so on. It can be used in different fields, such as fashion, upholstery and technical textiles.

Dow XLA fibre. With consumers continuing to seek ways to simplify their lives and cut back on time-consuming domestic activities, Dow Fiber Solutions has launched Dow XLA fibre - an olefin-based stretch fibre solution that can be combined with non-iron finishes in shirts.

The fibre, which possesses advanced molecular properties, is resistant to extreme chemicals and heat - even temperatures up to 220ºC. These advanced capabilities offer several benefits to yarn and textile manufacturers since they enable Dow XLA fibre to withstand severe dyeing, bleaching, mercerizing and garment washing conditions, and tolerate the thermosol dyeing process using standard conditions.

By Sapna Arora.

Sapna Arora works in the UK office of a global apparel supply chain company and has several years of experience in sourcing fabrics and garments from all over the world.