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  The Show must go on - SARS - Interstoff Asia  
  In the throes of two wars - Conflict in Iraq and the fight against SARS - Interstoff Asia went without a hitch although, understandably, attendance was affected , with a 25 per cent drop against last spring's show.

Interstoff Asia welcomed 7000 visitors to the spring event, held from 25-27 march, and they weren't disappointed because of the 266 exhibitors promised, only seven from Thailand and one from Taiwan decided not to take the risk of attending. An extensive programme of seminars, product presentations plus trend forum all added up to a strong show, which attracted buyers from international brands such as Burberry, Marks and Spencer, Adidas, Victoria's Secret, Skechers and, of course, US designer labels Calvin Klein, Donna Karen and Ralph Lauren, who where out in full force.

Two of the 12 seminars looked at sourcing worldwide. As one of the largest and fastest growing economies in the world, India's consumer market offers lots of sales potential for international consumer brands. Devangshu Dutta made a presentation on 'India's Textile and Clothing Industry Today and Opportunities to Partner'. The seminar highlighted the advantages of buying from India, from the lower labour costs in the world, to a long textile history and the convenience of English as its main business language. The figure for exports from India in 2000-2001 reached US$ 12.10bn. The government target is US$ 20.70bn by 2005. The US and EU account for 70 per cent of exports. However there are also disadvantages, such as a fragmented industry structure, inefficient infrastructure and lack of trade pacts. Devangshu Dutta's advice to companies interested in India was to develop a well researched and solid stratergy.

' Global Sourcing and International competitiveness in the Textile and Apparel Industry' by Dr. Gary Gereffi of Duke University, predicted that China would replace Hong Kong as a main product source for the US. However, Japan remains the most advanced of the Asian countries with regard to production of clothing, textiles, fibres and machinery. Mexico and Turkey are also keen to get in on the action. Without quota restriction, small exporting countries without an integrated manufacturing set up will lose out against the big integrated exporters.

Environmentally friendly, natural products will become more important in the future and Cargill Dow took to the Interstoff platform for the Asia launch of its PLA corn based product Ingeo. Tim Eynon and Dr.Jim Lunt of Cargill Dow described the advantages of the recyclable and biodegradable product and envisage a large amount of oil based PET will be replaced by PLA in the future. Cargill Dow recently signed an agreement with Far Eastern of Taiwan to supply Ingeo chips to make yarns and fabrics. India and China will also be involved in marketing development in the future. In Japan, Cargill Dow has been woirking with Unitika, Kuraray, Kamebo and Toray for quite some time, and in Hong Kong with Fountain Set since last year.

Another new natural product introduced at Interstoff Asia was Luobuma , a fibre with a 5000 year history, collected from the wilds of the Xinjiang Province. The plant has medicinal and health boosting qualities, such as breathability, anti-bacterial, UV protection, moisture absorbency, as well as stimulating circulation and far-infrared benefits for cell repair and arthritis relief. Luobuma also stands up to frequent washing very well, in fact, tests prove that the qualities of the fibre actually improve. The product is being promoted by the Xinjiang Green Health Luobuma Co. The company currently produces 30 tons a year, which makes up to 130 tons of product when mixed with other man-made and natural fibres. At the moment, the plant can only be harvested from November to March each year.

Bodywear Pavilion

In addition to the various international sections, the product pavilion featured the relatively new bodywear fabrics area. The programme was introduced a few years ago, but has grown considerably in size. This year the section boasted 30 exhibitors and its own trends display area. Hyosung of Korea - producer of elastane Creora - held court, exhibiting with seven of its customers and holding fashin shows throughout the days. The company used the show to promote its chlorine resistant Creora H-250, antibacterial Creora C100B, heat resistant Creora C-300 and fluorescent H-100F. As leading supplier of elastane in Korea, Hyosung holds more than 50 percent of the market share at home and is now the second largest supplier in the world. Due to high demand in China, the Shangai factory is expanding. Meanwhile, outside the 'Hyosung zone', 19 companies exhibited under the auspics of The Taiwan Textile Federation. Chifa Leather's busy stand proved that despite a significant drop in the export of man-made leather from Taiwan, it has managed to survive by going upmarket, thus avoiding price competition with Chinese exhibitors. The company has also diversified into functional performance fabrics. Lower visitor figures were not an issue for another Taiwanese exhibitor, Ruentex, as it had already presented its new collection to main customers at Premiere Visionand Textworls last February; although the company did manage to find new business at the show. The collection incorporates UV protection, stain resistance, quick dry and antibacterial functions into fashion apparel fabrics, such as cotton, Tencel, rayon, ramie and linen.

Thai exhibitor figures diminished from 19 down to 12, due to fear of the SARS virus, but Nan Yang was undeterred, promoting its Dry-Tech Comfort System, in addition to stretch fabrics with a cotton hand feel for sports, body and underwear. The double layer Dry-Tech transmits, disperses and absorbs moisture, resulting in a 50 per cent quicker dry time than cotton. The Thai cottage industry is alive and well, in the form of Neoteric Life Ltd. Specializing in handwoven cotton and silk fabrics produced by villagers, the company offers advice and handles the sales and marketing side. As the Japanese are always looking for specialized, handcrafted items, it is the company's main market at the moment.

It was only a decade ago that India and Taiwan were the largest exhibiting groups, but this season it was the 100 plus companies from China, which dominated the show. Technology, brought about through joint venture projects with foreign companies, especially those from Japan and Taiwan, have improved the quality of Chinese produced fabric and Chinese producers now attract buyers on the lookout for value-for-money items. Although most of the items were quite standard, there are some interesting products to be found. Meisheng Cloth & Garments of Shaoxing showed prints, bonding, embroidery and embossing on micro-suede fabrics and Zhejiang Youlong Enterprises offered woven materials with spandex. The company's dye cut moleskin was very popular with European clients. Also from Zhejiang, Yong Tong Dyeing and Weaving Co., exhibited a large variety of fabrics from denim and flock to corduroy and embroidery. Japanese companies are known for their strength in new product development. Kuraray Trading carried a variety of new functional items, including Airmint. Introduced last year, it is 40 per cent lighter than polyester and is used particularly in sports, intimate and jeanswear. Cool touch Sophista is excellent for innerwear as the quick dry feature keeps the body cool; Space Master blocks harmful rays and Panapak is anti-pilling, quick drying and is blended with cotton in sportswear. Of the dozen or so European exhibitors, Miroglio was busy right up until closing time, although Hans Borrmann, area sales manager for Asia commented that it is usually even busier. Eurojersey of Italy was hoping to catch the European and American buyers, but not many came this time. Denim manufacturer - Gap Guneydogu Tekstil - the sole manufacturer from Turkey, returned again, as it found Interstoff Asia the best fair to make contact with Asian Buyers. In general, exhibitors who relied heavily on foreign buyers where affected, but many companies were still able to meet old, new and potential clients.

The next edition will be held 7-9 Oct 2003.

 
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