An optimistic mood dominated a buzzy edition of UK fashion fabric trade show Textile Forum this season, as exhibitors and buyers sought to tap into a flourishing high-end textiles scene and increasing appetite for newness.
More than 100 collections were on show at the exhibition, which took place in London’s One Marylebone on 14-15 March. This was up from 70 at the October edition, and marked the biggest-ever spring edition of the show.
Show founder Linda Laderman said, Textile Forum is capitalising on an increasing demand for luxury-quality fabrics: “The middle ground is tough, so the market is segmenting into super high-end and super low-end, and we cater for that luxury side. We’ve been attracting some top companies and high-quality designers.”
“Retailers need a point of difference in their ranges. One way to do this is through fabrications, and the brands here offer small minimums – meaning greater exclusivity.”
Otto Hamelink, sales director at High Wycombe-based Anbo Textiles agreed the mood was positive at the show: “People are feeling very optimistic about the market. High-volume manufacturing is very different from what we do, and our market is doing well. At this level there is less competition.”
The aisles bustled throughout, and most exhibitors were pleased to report an uptick in visitors compared with previous editions. While some bemoaned the dominance of students, dressmakers, designers, buyers and manufacturers from small businesses and start-ups dominated the mix, which suited the ambitions of the brands.
New exhibitors included Dormeuil Woollens and Linton Tweeds, who were targeting smaller-scale designers and makers, while fabric buyers from John Lewis, Debenhams and House of Fraser were all spotted at the show.
Exhibitors reported an overwhelming London-based attendance, and said international visitors were almost non-existent. The UK scene was the focus for those showing, however, and many made contact with new buyers over the two days.
The small scale and the luxurious venue in the former church of One Marylebone also won praise from attendees – many highlighted a community feel that allowed UK manufacturers to meet and network with others in their sector.
Intricate lace and floral embroidery were the standout approaches from the event, while shimmering materials and delicate detailing also found a place on many stands. Stripes were also reported to be popular with buyers – a move away from the current catwalk infatuation with plaid and checked styles.
For future editions, Laderman plans to increase the focus on ethical and sustainable fabrics: “We’re addressing the requests that we get for more focus on those brands. Some brands that we have here already address that, but we plan to promote that more.”
Mood of the show
Mayur Tejura, director, Ringhart Fabrics
It’s been really good so far on day two. Lots of UK designers are looking for small minimums. The market is generally pretty positive – especially if you offer small minimums and have fabrics in stock. That makes a huge difference and gives designers more flexibility, so they don’t end up with too much fabric.
Duncan and Ross Walker, business development manager and sales and marketing, Linton Tweeds
It is our first time showing at the Textile Forum and it has been great for us. It has been really busy and we have had a lot of interest in our stock fabrics, rather than the whole collections. We were not too sure about what to expect, but we will most likely come back. There has been a real mixture of visitors, but mostly we have had people who are interested in buying two or three metres of fabric as opposed to 100 metres. It is good that this show in particular works for the market we are targeting. [Parisian exhibition] Première Vision is another great opportunity for us, but it is very different. The focus on luxury here is great for us.
Megan Candice, fashion and accessories designer at Vanners
The forum was really busy on the first day. There was quite a flow of people throughout the day, especially students. We had quite a lot of start-up designers visiting too. The show seemed to be attended by UK-based designers – I really did not see any international retailers, designers or manufacturers.
We have previously featured at Première Vision and London Textile Fair, but we believe with our focus of silk-based fabrics, the Textile Forum is the best place to showcase our work. The luxury of the show is really suited to what we create.
Jenny King, creative director of Jenny King Embroidery
I have made a lot of great contacts, not just with visitors but with other exhibitors too. What is so lovely about trade shows and this show in particular is that we the chance to hang out with more UK-based manufacturers and factories who actually use our embroidery pieces. One of the best things about this show is the chance to be seen. We are all behind the scenes, but we actually have a huge impact on the fashion industry and it is nice to have these types of shows to really shine a light on these hidden aspects of the fashion industry.
Jhelisa Soe-Agnie, sales assistant Monterossi & Rbyrossi
Textile Forum seemed less busy than previous years, and it has also attracted different types of people. We got a lot of students last year, but this year it seemed to be many more designers and dressmakers, and, in particular, start-ups. It seemed as if it has been mostly people who were looking to source fabrics and not actually looking to buy now.
Sean Banbury, founder, Nunoya
We’ve mainly seen fabric stores and designers – a big variety of people but all London based. We’ve been showing here for a few seasons now and we’ve seen a lot of people this time around. All the customers that we’ve spoken to have been really happy.