As lead times across Europe continue to contract so Tissu Premier - a fair geared to the retail sector and which gives manufacturers serving this market a chance to make last minute orders - has gained in strength and importance.

The latest session took place during the first week of September and attracted 406 exhibitors from l7 nations, 54 of which were first-timers at the Lille show.

"Despite continued uncertainty within the textile trade overall, we were visited by buying teams from such key retail players as C&A, H&M, Mango and Monsoon," the organisers say. "This has convinced us that we have been right to stay with our now traditional timing."

What is changing is the balance between the various fabric sectors - with knitted fabrics of all types increasing their lead over wovens to represent 23 per cent of the entire offer, and challenged only by the equally fast growing "sportswear" sector.

Swelling the sportswear offer is the now very broad definition of this term, which can include hi-tec fabrics, fleeces and denims as well as luxurious velvets and silky handle stretch cloths as suitable for streetwear as for active sport.

By Sonia Roberts.