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Sustainability in demand at London Textile Fair

Sustainable fabrics remained front of mind for buyers at this season’s London Textile Fair.

The trade show, which ran on 15-16 January at the Business Design Centre in Islington, London, had around 470 exhibitors from across the UK, Europe and some from Japan. This was down on the 515 at the July 2019 show and more than 500 at the January 2019 show.

Among the brands and retailers attending the show were Ted Baker, Hobbs, River Island and French Connection. The organiser expected between 4,000 and 4,500 visitors over the two days, and exhibitors were arranged in three rooms: textiles, accessories, print design and vintage.

The key question for buyers was sustainability – nearly all the exhibitors Drapers spoke to said it was an important issue for their customers.

John Ashley, MD at button supplier Jones, said: “We’re being asked a lot for recycled materials. We’ve just put [a button] into stock which is recycled horn. It works out at about 15% of the cost of real horn, so it is a lot cheaper. And it’s only 20% more [expensive] than normal [plastic buttons]. We’ve also developed a recycled polyester button.”

Stefano Cicala, textile agent for Società Europa Tessile, whose clients include Topshop, River Island and Wallis, said: “Everybody’s asking for sustainability but nobody wants to pay for it.

“Unfortunately, the market is what it is. It’s something that needs to be done, but unless the big players are pushing and modifying the market, [it won’t happen]. It’s all about profit.”

Stefano Pierini, owner of Italian packaging and tags supplier Stelmar, said: “It’s important to make eco-friendly items.

“We show two new collections a year. This new collection is about recycled articles, particularly labels [made from] recycled polyester and paper.”

However, Pierini, who was in the accessories room, said he would have preferred if fabrics and accessories were together rather than in different rooms.

London Textile Fair January 2020

London Textile Fair January 2020

“For us, accessories is outside fabrics, so it would be better to make the same space for accessories and fabrics,” said Pierini.

Organiser John Kelly responded: “There is a possibility of [putting fabric and accessories in the same place], but also it is an accessories hall, so people come specifically for that.”

But he added that the main auditorium of the show was busy, and reported queues in some areas of the show: “At the moment the print design and vintage are having a riot up there. It’s so busy there are queues to get on to the stand. There’s generally a good flow.”

He added that he was in the planning stages for a new fair in early June that will target high-end textiles. 

Exhibitors Drapers spoke to in the main hall were happy with the footfall at the show.

Tufan Keser, sales representative at Nilba Tekstil, a Turkish supplier that makes woven fabrics for women, said: “The show is going quite well. Last year was a bit slow, I hope this year will be much better. It’s been quite busy.”

Paul Nash, textile agent for Özel Tekstil, MTT and Örnek Tekstil mills, said: “We found it very successful and very enjoyable. The nice thing is that there does seem to be some positive attitude out there from the lower end of the market to the better end as well. There seems to be a bit of optimism back in the industry.”

Another fabric agent said there seemed to be a good influx of people, but it was not as busy as it usually was. She added that brands and retailers seemed to be sticking to what they know. 

“I’m not seeing any huge new trends at the moment – it seems to be more of the same. People always ask us for the staple prints like animal prints and easy florals, so we’re being asked for a lot of those that you can just wear season to season.”

Trends highlighted by the show organiser included “new life”. A prominent display incorporated fabric remnants, bonded materials and recycled and repaired fabrics; contrasting textures and patterns; natural textures and translucent fabrics.

The next edition of London Textile Fair is on 14-15 July.

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