Coronavirus Weighs on Attendance at Paris Trade Shows

Fashion that can be entirely dismantled and recycled, harnessing technological innovation. One case in point: luxury’s move into gaming.

That was the message in Paris from a fresh crop of buzzy startups attending the just-wrapped editions of Première Vision Paris and Texworld Paris. The focus was on disassembly technologies and blockchain tech solutions supporting the traceability and certification of products for everyone from the recycler to the consumer. Their united cause? Fashion’s circular economy.

Face masks were the accessory du jour at the shows, with the impact of the coronavirus epidemic weighing on an already challenging market. Première Vision Paris confirmed a decrease in visitors, with the figures yet to be released at press time. Forty-five Chinese exhibitors pulled out of Première Vision Manufacturing Overseas, forcing organizers to relocate the salon.

“Faced with the complex and uncertain international context, the edition was very much focused on business, incorporating the necessary adaptations of the global supply chain and growing demand from fashion brands for eco-responsible materials,” said Gilles Lasbordes, general manager of Première Vision.

“This has been an ongoing slowdown. The trade war certainly impacted activity to begin with, and now the coronavirus is just another factor that is really undermining the momentum of the market right now,” said Buxton Midyette, vice president of marketing and promotions at Supima.

Sergio Tamborini, chief executive officer of the Marzotto Group, echoed that if the epidemic drags out, “it can become a big problem — especially in terms of sourcing.”

While Midyette gave the recently announced earlier dates for Première Vision Paris the thumbs up — with an enthusiastic “I love it because, right now, I’m missing New York Fashion Week” — Tamborini was less approving. “It’s not good news,” he said. “To have two exhibitions so close in timing is not possible for fabric producers in Europe.”

As reported, starting in 2021 the salon’s spring edition will run from Feb. 2 to Feb. 4 — 10 days earlier than previous years — and the fall fair, usually scheduled in the second half of September, will run from July 6 to 8.

Over at Texworld, where antibacterial hand gel was being handed out to visitors, most of them sporting masks, organizers said a 50% drop in Chinese manufacturer attendees led to an overall 30% decrease in exhibitors, leaving many of the booths eerily empty. The fallout was palpable, with a 50% drop in traffic to 7,109 visitors versus the salon’s equivalent 2019 edition

“This fair is known for its important number of Chinese exhibitors. I’d say 50% of visitors come here especially for them,” said Akin Tecirli, CEO of Turkish mill Miatex. “But as most of the Chinese factories canceled their attendance, a lot of our usual customers have decided not to come this time. So it’s impacting us as well. Look around you — no one is here.”

Fear of coronavirus also impacted European businesses reluctant to travel to countries where cases have been detected.

“Our main clients are from Spain,” said Lale Yandim, CEO of Lamir Tekstil, an Istanbul-based manufacturer working with brands from the Inditex group. “Last week, they all informed us they had decided not to come because of the virus and had canceled their flights. So we expected it to be quiet.”

Yandim’s booth was part of the Turkey Pavilion, a new feature to this edition of Texworld, regrouping Turkish manufacturers in the same spot. The fair also featured a dedicated area for Korean businesses.

“It’s better for us to be grouped together this way because clients are searching for new suppliers and producers according to their location,” Yandim continued. “I’ve been doing this fair for nine years now, and despite today being quiet, I can see the difference — it’s easier to find us now.”

Ones to watch exhibiting in the Smart Creation area of Première Vision Paris, meanwhile, this year include Japan’s Spiber, whose bio-based, animal-free and microplastic-free Brewed Protein materials are produced using a patented fermentation process. Spanning fibers, films and other materials, their offer ranges from silky filament fibers to resins evoking tortoiseshell or animal horn and animal-free fur and leather alternatives. With demand outgrowing supply, the company is building a plant in Thailand that’s due to open in 2021.

Attracting visits from brands including Balenciaga, Asos and Maison Margiela, Toyoshima presented its Food Textile Labo concept based on yarns and textiles colored with dyes extracted from food and vegetal waste, ranging from coffee beans to cherry blossoms.

Resortecs, a Belgian start-up that was sponsored by Kering at the recent ChangeNow summit in Paris, showcased its stitching thread that dissolves at high temperatures, geared at reducing the costly and time-consuming process of disassembling garments.

If the industry doesn’t tackle the labor-intensive manual side of the recycling process, “recycling will never become an industry standard,” cautioned Resortecs cofounder Cédric Vanhoeck, a young industrial designer who studied at Antwerp’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts. Given that “the whole fashion industry is not constructed on a good understanding of materials and transparency in their supply chains,” for Vanhoeck it’s a question of baby steps. “It’s about adopting, in a smart way, existing technologies. It’s now just a question of fitting the pieces of the puzzle together,” he said.

With biomimicry as the central theme, the area’s “Mutations” exhibition — — presented polymer gel patches whose elasticity echoes the properties of the human body; threads that change color when heated, and a screen printing process where electronic circuits can be printed onto clothes using washable ink. It was created in collaboration with two artist duos: Grégory Lasserre and Anaïs met den Ancxt, known under their joint artist name Scenocosme, along with collaborators María Castellanos and Alberto Valverde.

As companies look to enter the circular economy while maintaining control of brand equity, the goal for mills and recyclers alike, meanwhile, is to create recycled materials on par with virgin materials.

Ariane Bigot, associate fashion director at Première Vision Paris, observed a shift toward “chicer, more sophisticated” sustainable fabrics, including “top-level organic cottons, high-density poplins and water-repellent organic cotton trench fabrics.”

Visiting the fair for the first time, Hollie France, a designer for Topshop, said mills were proposing to swap traditional fibers for sustainable alternatives of fabrics she selected. “So you can pick a really nice fabric, and they make it sustainable,” she said. For France, standout trends included “anything new within nylon fabrications like foil and reflectives, perfect for nylon tracksuits.”

Italy’s Manteco, which posted revenues of 91 million euros in 2019, with average annual growth of around 18% since 2012, introduced its “upgraded” premium recycled wool line: Mwool. It features a chart of more than 1,000 recycled colors put through a patented bacteria-free process, developed with Milan University, to ensure durability. “The idea is that it lasts forever,” said Manteco CEO Matteo Mantellassi.

Bestsellers at Iluna Group included “smart laces” and a mesh and raffia made from recycled polyester nylon sourced in the north of Italy. “Versace, Gucci and Pucci all love our recycled tulle,” said style director Federica Annovazzi.

Ratti, part of the Marzotto Group’s portfolio, launched a sustainable wadding range, dubbed 2nd Life Fibers, made from reused and recycled natural silk fibers, as well as its Italian Wax line geared to Africa. The company is working on several yet to be revealed projects linked to the continent. “Africa is a market where the consumption of this kind of material represents more than two billion meters, it’s a big market that’s growing,” said Tamborini.

For key spring 2021 trends, PV’s Bigot singled out “undulations,” including moiré effects and plays on relief, with matte and shiny surfaces. “We are in a moment of change and movement, and some of the fabrics are expressing this idea through surface treatments,” she said.

Other directions included fabrics that “promote agility, flexibility, suppleness and fluidity” in two treatments: “casual with a soft handle, and, more important, a silky suppleness full of body, like heavy viscose with a luxurious feel,” added Bigot. “This silky spirit is infusing behavior but also a certain idea of rusticity; [they’re] artisanal fabrics worked in a silky way. Linens are precious; flannels are refined and slightly shiny.”

Simplified patterns, with a focus on florals, delivered maximum graphic impact with minimal elements, mirroring a general move toward “using less to do more.”

At the Linen Dream Lab, Marie Demaegot, textile and sustainability manager for the European Confederation of Linen and Hemp (CELC), confirmed that “the whole industry — especially spinners, weavers and knitters — has developed new linen qualities. Especially jersey piqué or fleece, which is comfortable, has natural stretch and doesn’t crease, so [it] counteracts some of linen’s traditional drawbacks,” she said.

In terms of its contribution to the circular economy, “after three years of research,” the Bast Fibre Authority has introduced a testing methodology that has been approved as an ISO Standard and normalizes the identification method of bast fibers like linen, hemp and ramie for composition analysis, Demaegot said.

Over at Avantex, Texworld’s sister trade show dedicated to innovation, a standout exhibitor was Clara Davis, a Barcelona-based designer whose work is focused on finding alternatives to plastic.

“I’ve always been fascinated with the transparency and adaptability of plastic, so I centered my work on creating alternatives made with natural materials that are all biodegradable and compostable,” the 26-year-old designer said.

By playing around with algae, collagen or milk proteins, cooking them on an actual stove or oven, Davis was able to create a roster of samples ranging from ultra-bendy to rigid, with varied textures and motifs. The color palette, spanning mauve, marbled pink and aquamarine, was particularly appealing. All of the materials are water-resistant.

“I’m still at the research phase, but I’m looking to collaborate with a company who wants to change its production methods,” Davis said. “I want to show brands that it’s possible to work with natural materials that are as attractive, comfortable and easy to use as plastic and also a lot better for the environment.”

Other standout booths at Avantex were Effulgent, a U.S.-based company specializing in ultra-thin LED fibers that can be threaded through Swarovski crystals for customizable light-up effects, and Aran Labs, a digital retail-experience company.

Its founder, Ciaran Moore, works with interactive and immersive technology to create customized experiences for customers in store. He developed a virtual reality software allowing users to walk around a virtual world using an Oculus headset and take pictures of their surroundings, which are then printed on upcycled garments, giving them a second life.

“I have a background working in sportswear, where I realized the amount of waste sportswear companies generate,” said the Royal College of Arts graduate. “So I found a way to combine my passion for game development with upcycling, creating an experience that uses digital tools for a physical event, giving people memorable things to connect with while also reducing waste.”

Moore, a self-proclaimed “geek,” sees luxury’s growing interest with gaming as a positive thing for the industry, citing Louis Vuitton’s partnership with “League of Legends.”

“The young generation of consumers is more environmentally conscious: They know that doing 52 fashion collections a year is wrong,” the designer said. “People don’t want to be buying new things every week, which is why the use of digital is such a great thing. My aim is to show we can be better for the environment through technology.”

This story was reported by WWD and originally appeared on WWD.com.

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