Buyers were making up for time lost during a two-year slow-down in textile buying, said the organisers of the recent Interstoff Asia as, this week, they produced the final analysis of visitor totals to the October session of this Hong Kong-based fabric fair.

Now in its fourteenth year, the fair attracted 14,904 visitors from 96 countries, including American delegations from Brooks Brothers, Calvin Klein Donna Karen New York, Polo Ralph Lauren, Levi Strauss and Tommy Hilfiger. The British contingent included teams from Marks & Spencer and Jaeger while buyers from the now global Nike empire were spotted touring the Hong Kong halls.

Thirty-six per cent of the visitors came from beyond the old boundaries of Hong Kong and over a thousand flew in from Europe.

Of the 488 exhibitors, Taiwanese manufacturers were thickest on the ground with l06 individual companies taking space, 70 of them under the auspices of the Tapei World Trade Centre.

The ever closer relationship of Australia with its Asia Pacific neighbours was underlined by the presence of first time exhibitor Defab - Excellence in Textiles (Australia), whose sales and development manager Stuart Mackenzie described the exercise as "a very worthwhile venture."

And, prepared to back these words with actions, Defab has now committed to Interstoff Asia for the next three years. Says Mackezie: "We want to get a real feel for the Asian market as the basis for expansion across the region, especially into South Korea and Japan."

Asia sent 95 exhibitors from Korea, 51 from Japan, 50 from China and 87 in a locally based team from Hong Kong itself.

Representing the growing band of exhibitors offering not fabrics or textile accessories but back-up services for the textile industry, Felix Pak, senior manager business development, for TradeTextile.com (Hong Kong) declared himself well pleased with the level of inquries received during the show and said his company would most likely return to Interstoff Asia in 200l.

For Tylor Kim, general manager of Ockwon Textile Company from Korea, the value of the show lay primarily in the opportunities not only for one to one contact with existing customers, but particularly with potential overseas customers outside the Asia Pacific region.

Among non-Asian exhibitors, the USA was the most prominent with its own national pavilion. At the close of the event, Jeff Coey director of the China & Southeast Asia division of the Cotton Council International, told just-style.com that the reaction of all the US exhibitors had been very positive.

"The show continues to be of major importance for American manufacturers," he commented, adding: "Even in this era of increasingly regional trade blocs, there are still many opportunities for American fabric producers not only to form partnerships with Asian suppliers but to sell directly to Asian garment manufacturers."

By Sonia Roberts