Patterned fabrics made a triumphant return to Tissu Premier, the popular womenswear fabric show, held in Lille, France. Will we all be in plaids and jazzy geometrics next year? Sonia Roberts reviews the show.

Tissu Premier goes from strength to strength. Attendances for the Autumn 2000 session were over 1,400 up on 1999 while, to accommodate new exhibitors, a further first floor hall of Lille's Grand Palais had to be opened up.

An interesting feature of this autumn's event was the increase not only in visitors from all the major EU nations, but from North Africa where so many of the manufacturing garments to be sold under the own labels of European retail chains are now made.

Plain colour, peach bloom texture fabrics in every weight from coatings to slithery "second skin" knits for the lingerie trade were a key feature of the autumn ranges. But the event was also remarkable for a resurgence of interest in patterned fabrics - woven plaids, checks and tartans with bold houndstooth designs plus prints.

Plaid designs tend to concentrate, as at de Cathalo, on combinations of brown and orange while a number of producers, particularly among the Italian contingent, seem to come perilously close to infringing the Burberry copyright on its celebrated house check in their handling of both colour and pattern.

Bold colours and designs played a big part at Tissu

Jazzy geometrics
In prints, jazzy geometrics inspired by Art Deco design dominated knitted fabrics destined for both day and evening wear. These designs are deemed to be at their most topical when executed in combinations of aubergine, the new season's favourite fashion colour, with brown, white and purple.

Mock patchwork prints made their debut in a number of ranges, particularly the Simofil collection of winter weight cotton fabrics from Spain.

Paisley motifs in simple white on black rather than the traditional multi-colour effects on chiffon were introduced by Nerguisian SA, where Thierry Nerguisian comments that: "any black and white design will always find favour in the French home market" and who predicts a return to more overtly feminine fabrics throughout the European market as a characteristic of the autumn 2001 scene.

This was also the view adopted by Tissage Textile de Picardie whose print range in ultra-lightweight fabrics included giant tropical flower patterns. However, their Natalie Tzivanis insists that the most important characteristic a manufacturer can build into their ranges for the season ahead is stretch.

Stretch, achieved by the use of Lycra content yarns, is now a vital component of any fabric targeted at the sportswear or young-appeal streetwear market, she commented.

In this sector of the show supple lightweight polyurethane-coated fabrics and 100 per cent polyesters finished to give a coated look and aimed at the burgeoning market for fabrics which will make up into mock leather trousers is encouraging more and more manufacturers to enter this once specialist field.

Animal magic
Here as well, as in fake furs, the faux animaux look remains fashionable, except that for Autumn 2001 emphasis switches from zebra, tiger and ocelot to the black and white look of a friesian cow or python prints on simulation leather.

Meanwhile new meaning is lent to the term metallic by Cifran Texmaille Delcer, who not only offers a range of outer or sportswear fabric which looks as though it is made from metal foil, but actually introduced a cloth knitted from a blend of 45 per cent polyester and 55 per cent aluminium.

They also have a fortuny style "ready pleated" knitted in 100 per cent polyamide which they say can be produced in virtually any colour the customers demand.

Frequently described as "plump knits," another new look in knitted fabrics are candlewick-like fabrics decorated with contrast colour tufting. Striking in themselves and certainly a show stopper for visitors sorting over swatches in the trends pavilion section of the fair, it is difficult to know in which sector of the garment industry this type of construction could best be employed.

Like some of the very coarse laces on view in Lille, they would seem to belong in a home textiles show.

Menswear gets in on the act
Drawing precise lines of demarcation between various types of textile is becoming increasingly difficult however. Thus, while Tissu Premier exists primarily to service the women's wear market, a growing number of exhibitors are now also bringing along men's suiting ranges.

Plaid's back in a big way

This was particularly the case with the Portuguese exhibitors whose presence grows from show to show. The range of men's, or perhaps one should say unisex, suitings they offer in Lille however, tends to be much more restrained in character than those offered at PV three weeks later.

So far as the Portuguese weavers at Tissu Premier are concerned Autumn 2001 will be a season when the grey flannel suit look will dominate the menswear scene.

The steadily rising number of exhibitors from both Spain and Portugal underlines the fact that Tissu Premier is no longer simply a fair at which French cloth manufacturers show their wares to the French market, but has grown into an international event attracting exhibitors from across the EU.

And at the Autumn 2000 event, one of the most discussed topics was how long the organisation can continue to bar cloth producers from nations that are technically EU members or associate members but whose low wage structure make their industries seem "unfair" competition for the Italians, French, Benelux and, of course, UK producers.

By Sonia Roberts