Colour - and confidence - is flowing back into the UK textile scene according to the British exporters attending the Autumn 2000 Premiere Vision trade fair in Paris. Typical of the palette British weavers believe will set the mood for winter 200l/2 are the warm autumnal tones enlivened with plum and orange which dominate Claridge Fabrics' latest collection.

Meanwhile, convinced that the British look is once again the style that customers around the world will be seeking for winter 200l/2, UK weavers are once again happy to flaunt their skills in creating classic cloths, often underlining this facility with references to their long history of producing particular types of fabric. Joshua Ellis, for instance, has been working with luxury fibres of various types since l787, while Fox Brothers has been famous for flannel since l785.

"Today however, as well as qualities suitable for ceremonial uniforms and for covering billiard tables, we are offering modern lightweight fabrics that are ideal for between seasons suiting - for both sexes - and for which we have recently won a Queen's Award for Export," says Fox boss Jack Hudson.

Past masters
Similarly, while Moygashel managing director Brian McMurray is proud of the fact that his company has been associated with the production of top quality linens for over 200 years, he is keen to stress than today it is equally adept at the production of blended fibre fabrics, particularly blends of linen with wool, viscose and nylon.

He is also eager to enlarge on the importance of finishing, especially extolling the use of "emerising treatments" to lend sueded surface interest to some of the latest lines in the collection his company showed in Paris.

At Charles Clayton it is crease resistant treatments, applied to both pure wool and cashmere/silk blends, which are seen as the plus factor that will bring in buyers worldwide in the season immediately ahead, while microbial and stain resistance achieved with the aid of Teflon treatments are an important story for Gardiner Fabrics.

The team at Gardiner were among the most optimistic British contingents at PV, talking about the "brighter future" they expect to enjoy since their March 2000 merger with OMC. They also believed the Paris show provided the ideal launch pad for their new Silver Fern quality, notable for its use of New Zealand origin wool.

New Zealand is also the source of the merino yarns which John Foster is now employing for the production of Super l20s men's suiting qualities and, like Schofield and Smith, talk of their range being targeted at the world's top tailors.

Quality for quality's sake
Quality for quality's sake rather than trying to be more competitive by cut-pricing was a recurrent theme among British exhibitors with Ray O'Hara, who took over as MD of John Pepper Fine Fabrics two years ago, particularly keen to stress that his company's cashmere qualities, though "classically English in character," contained only finest Chinese fibre.

It is however the versatility of cashmere, currently used for the construction of double faces, cords, gauzes and even luxury fibre Donegal tweeds, that Johnstons of Elgin want to tell their customers about this season.

Donegals - in up to date fashion shades rather than traditional pepper and salt effects - were also introduced to the Robert Noble range where they vied for attention with "gamekeeper tweeds" and cuddly "teddy bear cloths."

While for most British manufacturers lighter weight traditional menswear qualities and technological advances in finishing were the highlight stories of the Paris show, several houses pinpointed the return of pattern, particularly plaids, tartans, pseudo tartans and oversize checks, as the most important trend for late 200l.

But for Moorhouse & Brook the most important issue of the first years of the new century is to be able to assure customers that not only are their fabrics produced from the finest available raw materials - baby llama for instance is employed in qualities where other weavers might be content to use adult alpaca - but that all the wares which emerge from their mill are the result of production processes that cause no risk to the environment.

By Sonia Roberts