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Buyers/Exhibitors hail London Textile Fair despite dampened sentiment

Challenging market conditions dampened the mood at the London Textile Fair’s latest expo, but the show maintained a steady stream of buyers and exhibitors walk in.

Around 475 exhibitors showcased their products at the two-day spring 19 edition, held at the Business Design Centre in Islington on 10th and 11th January. Another 20 to 30 businesses were on the waiting list to exhibit, the show organiser John Kelly reportedly said. Designers and buyers from brands and retailers such as Asos, Ted Baker, Vivienne Westwood, Hobbs, Boden, Topshop, Sunspel and Private White were seen. The print and design area were popular this season.

Exhibitors and buyers alike were all praise for the show given the quality of fabrics on display, and its timing, as it takes place before rival shows Milano Unica in Milan on 6 to 8 February and Première Vision in Paris on 13 to 15 February. Financial issues and growing cost pressures continued to be areas of concern on attendees’ minds.

John Kelly assesses, “The mood is not super-positive – it’s not a boom year [for the industry]. I don’t want to sound too doom and gloom, but the general message is: The industry is OK. Christmas hasn’t been terrible, but it has been slightly down. There just isn’t any excitement at the moment.

“The market continues to be affected by price rises and the euro exchange rate against the dollar. A lot of mills are also trying to be more eco-friendly and sustainable, at a big cost for them.

“Larger manufacturers are making decisions on where to source based on whether a mill can provide sourcing information from the beginning of the process. “It’s an expensive thing for mills to do – you have to bring in [external] people, check the weaving, spinning, finishing, dye stuffs … They’re all working towards it, but sustainability is an important issue.”

On the stands, eco-friendly fabrics continued to form a key trend for spring 19. Other popular lines included sand-washed silks, jacquard fabrics and laminated technical materials. “This edition has been busy for us – we’ve seen a lot of interest in cashmere and wool-linen blends for spring 19. Interest in heritage is increasing and there has also been rising interest in sourcing locally because of the Brexit factor, so our orders are up and we’re confident going into the next season. That said, it all depends on currency rates, which remains a big challenge in the industry,” he added.