Two big exhibitions held in China recently brought out optimistic trends in fabric and yarn markets: High demand for premium & functional fabrics, and also synthetic & fancy yarns is the positive note that was reflected throughout in the trade fairs.
Any uncertainty about the state of the global apparel fabrics and accessories industry in the coming year was widely dispelled at the recently-concluded Intertextile Shanghai Apparel Fabrics – Spring Edition, with many exhibitors reporting strong increases in the number of contacts and enquiries they received compared to last year. Many exhibitors also commented that they received a healthy spread of buyers to their booths, both from China as well as from key markets in Asia and Europe, and that a satisfying proportion of these buyers were new potential customers. India was among the top 10 visitor countries covering Hong Kong, Korea, Japan, the US, Taiwan, Russia, Turkey, Indonesia and the United Kingdom.
As a barometer for the global market, the positive signs from exhibitors at this March’s Intertextile Shanghai bode well for the industry this year. Once again, it was not just the quantity of buyers pleasing exhibitors, but the quality also. “The level of the visitors seems much more professional and actually much more competent about textiles and fashion trends,” Marco Borio, General Manager of Miroglio (Jiaxing) Trading, a 20-year veteran of the fair commented. “Definitely it is a leading platform for the industry in Asia, because for us as an Italian company, it is very important to be at the show to introduce our collection to such a wide selection of customers.” The organisers of a dedicated Hong Kong area, H.K. & Kln. Textile Fabrics Wholesalers Assn., shared a similar sentiment. “We are very pleased with the overall result this year. Not only was there a strong visitor flow, but there were also many more genuine and quality enquiries,” Alan Lee, Hon. Secretary said. “We expect we will receive up to 400 enquiries by the end of the fair which is an ideal result for us. Besides a large number of Chinese buyers, we also met buyers from Europe, the Americas and Southeast Asia.”
Korean company, Gyeonggi Textile Center was most pleased that the fair could attract their target buyers, including “a number of renowned clothing brands,” Jung Wan Ryu, Company Representative explained. He continued: “Intertextile Shanghai is the largest fair-of-its-kind and most influential platform in the region; there is no other show that is more effective. Every year it is able to draw the right target clients for us. We are pleased to say that the results this edition were better than the previous spring fair.” Japanese company Moririn was equally satisfied with their participation, particularly as they could meet existing as well as potential customers. “Many buyers, both existing and new clients came to our booth. Combining the first two days, we recorded more than 130 prospective buyers from around the world. In the past, our company has met many new clients from the fair, and this year will be no exception,” Li Jiang, Representative from the Fabric Materials Department of Shanghai Moririn Textile said.
Taiwan’s Paltex also noted results from the fair were better this year, while also receiving a substantial amount of new contacts. “We have received so many genuine enquiries from our target buyers, and we think many of them will turn into further cooperation. Around 90 per cent of these are new buyers from China,” Steven Wu explained. After more than 10 years of operating in the Mainland China market, Paltex are in a strong position to notice changes in buyer preferences. “Although economic growth in China has slowed down, designers are still very eager to buy from us,” Wu continued. “We see the Chinese brands getting much more international now, and we have noticed some domestic brands have even hired Italian designers to source together with at the fair. As in previous years there are still many domestic visitors at Intertextile, but they’re now more interested in buying mid to high-end products.”
Premium brands report positive signs
This sentiment shared by Paltex regarding the continued demand in China for high-end overseas brands was echoed by a number of other exhibitors, including a first-time participant from Peru, Creditex. “In the first two days of the fair we collected nearly 60 contacts. However, we are more interested in the quality of the buyers than the quantity, and I’m confident that we will be able to build business relationships with the quality contacts that we have made here. People who came to our booth were looking specifically for our Pima cotton-woven fabrics, and I think in the foreseeable future there will always be demand in China for quality fabrics such as these,” Renzo Koch Mazure, Commercial Manager, said.
Swiss company weba Weberei Appenzell has been working with high-end European brands for over a decade, and after extensive market research decided to introduce their line of shirting fabrics to the Chinese market. “During the three days we have obtained very good contacts. Of all the buyers we met, we found 20 quality clients from high-end Chinese brands, and I think this is a good start for our company in this region,” explained Alexander Barberi from the Marketing Department. Fellow European exhibitor Lanerie Agnona from Italy, taking part in the Milano Unica Pavilion, has experience operating in the premium segment in China. Marcello Baldi, Marketing Manager expressed: “Some of our customers in China are really trying to expand their markets by putting high-end products into their collections. For example, we work with Youngor to help them target the high-end market which is increasing in China. Buyers here like to have good quality fabric with a well-known label nowadays.”
Another fast-moving trend in the domestic market, which is mirrored in the buyer profile of the fair, is that of boutique online brands, and despite their small size, many were on the lookout for premium fabrics at the fair. Bulong Xu from Japan’s Uni Textile explained: “In this edition, the new buyers we met were mainly young designer brands and fashion garment brands that are revamping their image, as well as e-commerce fashion brands. This included ladieswear brands selling on Taobao that will use our products to attract new customers.”
Part of the fair’s recent success has been its ability to evolve to meet the changing needs of the market. The Functional Lab is one such example of this with the number of exhibitors nearly doubling this edition to 22, mirroring the continued strong demand for functional fabrics in both China and elsewhere. MDM NT from Poland was a first-time participant at the fair and in the Functional Lab, and confirmed that, “There’s really huge potential in China for technical textiles, and Chinese buyers are definitely looking for overseas brands,” Tomasz Piechaczek, Vice-President of the Board said.
Other functional fabrics suppliers at the fair agreed, including Handseltex from Taiwan. “The demand for functional fabrics is rising in China, while the demand for our products is also growing both in the market and at this fair. There are more buyers here from both overseas and China showing interest, and these buyers are all good quality. Nearly 50 per cent of our existing customers we met at Intertextile, so it is definitely one of the most important trade fairs for us,” GM Jenny Wu said.
Chinese buyers also confirmed the domestic demand for functional fabrics remains high. “Because of the boom in the fitness industry in China in recent years, there is strong sales growth in sportswear, so we have more demand for functional fabrics,” Wei Songlin from sportswear producer High Hope Group Jiangsu Tongtai explained. “The quality of functional fabrics exhibitors at Intertextile has improved, so we have had a satisfied sourcing experience here.”
Denim continues its rise in China
The fair’s Beyond Denim area also grew in size this edition, further cementing its place as the leading sourcing event for denim fabrics in China. A long-term exhibitor of the fair and participant in Beyond Denim, Orta Anadolu from Turkey also reported what many other exhibitors did: an increase in contacts this year. “We met more domestic Chinese brands as well as potential customers from other countries at this edition,” Ayse Eda Dikmen, Marketing Specialist said. “Local brands are getting used to doing business with import fabric mills now, so this makes it easier for us to grow in China. Demand for denim in China is increasing remarkably, and I believe that this trend will continue for many more years.”
Celebrating their 10-year anniversary in China at the fair with a special event, Hohenstein reported another successful edition of Intertextile Shanghai. “We are very happy with this year’s exhibition results, and the 10-year anniversary event helped promote our company on-site,” Charles Nie, Head of Sales, Hohenstein Institute China said. “The visitor flow also improved this edition. Buyers to the fair are very focused and in my opinion, over the years, the show has earned a name for being one of the most professional textile platforms in the world with a high level of influence on the industry.”
Lenzing is another renowned European company with a long presence in China, as well as at Intertextile. This edition they organised their own pavilion for the first time at the spring fair, and as Echo Mok, Head of Marketing Communication, Asia, Lenzing Fibres (Hong Kong) explained, they did so due to the strong requests from their partner clients. “The exhibitors in the Lenzing Pavilion have always participated in this fair, but they believe exhibiting together in one pavilion is more effective as it’s easier to attract their target customers. For us, Intertextile is an important fair to participate in; it’s a key marketplace to find new clients.”
Amongst the more than 71,000 trade buyers sourcing at this year’s fair were a number of well-known global brands taking advantage of the show’s unrivalled product range. This included Under Armour, represented by John Hardy, Director, Sportswear for UA Global Sourcing. “This is my first time to Intertextile Shanghai, and I’m here to source functional fabrics for a sportswear line we are currently developing. The fair is very beneficial and it is great to see all the fashion fabrics offered from different countries. I’m very happy with the selection here. Coming to the fair is easy and hassle free, and I will be back in future editions.” A veteran of around 15 years sourcing at the fair, Katie R Drummond, the Menswear Technical Lead for Marks & Spencer, commented: “The product variety and exhibitor quality are really good. We like the way the fair is laid out where you categorise the products into different zones and pavilions. I’ve seen a significant improvement in the quality of the suppliers here too.”
Apart from being the industry’s largest sourcing platform for the spring / summer season, the fair’s fringe programme of trend forums, seminars, panel discussions and more is highly valued by both the content providers and the buyers eager to soak it up. The NellyRodi Agency from France once again conducted a highly popular seminar on the spring / summer 2018 trends, led by Michael Bonzom, Manager Studio, who explained: “Intertextile Shanghai is a very important platform for me to show our clients our new designs, products and more importantly to open their minds to new concepts. Seminars are always a valuable tool to get in direct contact with the Chinese market, and are an essential way for the attendees to get inspired. The energy at the seminar was great, and overall it was a great success.” This was confirmed by an audience member of this seminar. “My main purpose in attending is to discover new fabrics and learn possible trends. Every year NellyRodi will release the popular colours for next season, which brings me a lot of inspiration,” Yu Waxuan, General Manager, Xin Yi Xin Textile said, also commenting she would source from international exhibitors at the fair.
For exhibitors participating in the fringe programme, it is an excellent way to drive more buyers to their booths. “I am very glad that the topic on trends, our specialty, was able to draw a large crowd of people. The panel discussion helped us attract prospective clients. The audience enjoyed the topics discussed, and then found their way to our booth afterwards to learn more,” Nancy Kelly, Creative Account Director of Trendstop from the UK, and panel discussion moderator, said. Her colleague, Jaana Jatyri, CEO of the company, precisely summed up the benefits for exhibitors of participating in the fair’s trend forums, where she was discovering the latest fabrics. “The idea of the trend forum is great because you can see the summaries of the great options at the fair, and then visit the exhibitors directly. I found many new and interesting trends here,” she said.