Ongoing uncertainty surrounding Brexit did not discourage buyers from turning up in full force at the newly expanded London Textile Fair this week.
More than 470 exhibitors displayed their textiles, accessories, print designs and vintage clothing for autumn 18 at the trade show, held at the Business Design Centre in London’s Islington.
New features at the show, which runs on 19 to 20 July, included a hall on the balcony level to host 50 new textiles exhibitors.
Meanwhile, the accessories hall showcased 65 exhibitors, where it previously hosted 50.
Founder John Kelley said: “Footfall has been fantastic. We are not only seeing buyers but also assistant buyers, and even the assistants of those. Normally we see around 3,000 applications to visit the show – when the doors opened for this edition, it was 4,600.
“It isn’t a particularly great market at the moment, given the uncertainty around Brexit and the fall in the pound. The slight insecurity surrounding the economy means that people are not wanting to order far in advance. However, it’ll bounce back – European fabrics are still the most sought-after fabrics.”
The latest edition of the show was praised by visitors and exhibitors for its “casual” and accessible atmosphere.
Tony Bridge, sales director at textiles agency Marine Trading, said: “Like other editions of this show, it has been casual, friendly and relaxed, with an upbeat mood. We go to [textile trade shows] Première Vision, Texworld and Intertextile Shanghai, but we find that buyers and agents at those, particularly at Première Vision, fly in from all over the world, so it tends to be quite formal.”
Fiongal Greenlaw, designer at House of Holland, estimated that it was his fifth time visiting the show as a buyer. He said: “It’s been a lot calmer than usual this time, but in a nice way – it’s not flat, and there is energy to it. So it has been a good atmosphere, and there is a lot of variety on offer.”
Exhibitors met with buyers from brands such as Burberry, Ted Baker, Erdem, Topman, Gloverall, Oliver Spencer, Anya Hindmarch, Racil, French Connection and Marks & Spencer.
Frank van de Brug, chief executive and designer at Dutch label Colourful Rebel, said: “This is the first time we have visited this trade show. We are searching for a range of fabrics for our womenswear and menswear collections, from quality silk to shells for outerwear.
“We wanted to widen the number of places to source our fabrics from – we often go to Hong Kong to look for new fabrics but it got a bit ridiculous given the distance, and this is much closer to home.”
The Big Question: How has the political climate affected trading?
Dorothy Arnott Sales and marketing associate at outerwear fabric manufacturer Halley Stevensons
“Cotton and wax pricing have both increased so prices have changed, but it hasn’t affected us too much compared with the same time last year. [There has been] a slight increase, accentuated by the effect of the [pound versus the] dollar, but it hasn’t been a dramatic one. In the meantime Brexit hasn’t affected buyer activity – we are just putting our heads down and getting on with things as we normally do.”
Stephanie Miller Sales executive at waxed cotton outerwear manufacturer British Millerain
“While there is ongoing uncertainty among companies, we haven’t noticed any change in order volumes as a result of it. We haven’t seen anything manifest in terms of sales, since Brexit hasn’t happened yet. However, we buy some base cloths in dollars, so we have had to raise prices a little.”
Helen Williamson Sales director at wholesale and bespoke printed silk supplier Biddle Sawyer Silks
“We’ve experienced increased activity since the Brexit vote. In terms of sales, there has been a positive effect, since we’ve had more interest from overseas buyers – we have seen 20% sales growth compared with the same time last year. But in terms of currency, it has been negative. The exchange rate has pushed prices up, so we have had to raise ours.”
Lee Taylor Owner of fabric wholesale agency T1 Textiles
“Our business has not been too affected by the outcome of the vote on Brexit. The European mills that we represent are concerned about changes to tariff-free trade, however, so we’ll be watching this closely.
“Raw material and wool prices have gone up, but we haven’t raised our prices as we are trying to remain competitive. We have had to take the hit. We have also noticed that people are booking [orders] later as sales in shops are getting poorer – people are being more cautious and waiting to see how current seasons perform first.”
Hannah Lord Founder and design director at womenswear label HC London
“I think Brexit is a horrendous thing to happen, and I’m still hoping it doesn’t. Everyone is now much more cautious and hedging their bets. However, I think businesses can use the situation to their advantage – some flourished during the recession, after all. We have to try and think positively.”