Physicality and Natural Materials Key to Première Vision Visitors

·6 min read

PARIS — “It’s exciting to be physically back at Première Vision. You can touch and feel [materials] for sure, but it’s also about seeing people,” said U.S.-based Leslie Ferrick, fabric R&D and sustainability senior manager at performance lifestyle brand Athleta, owned by Gap Inc., who had made the trip to France for the trade show’s three-day physical side.

“You get this visceral human feedback [loop]. It’s us reacting to others reacting to the fabric. And that can’t be replicated in digital,” added her colleague Sweta Arora, the company’s vice president of global supply chain. Arora explained that a favorite activity between appointments was checking out what other industry people were wearing at the fair.

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“We are encouraged by the fact that not all our visitors are from France or Europe-based,” said Gilles Lasbordes, general manager of Première Vision Paris. While visitor figures were not immediately available, foot traffic across all three floors seemed lighter at first glance, but across booths, business was brisk, particularly at those working in natural fibers or offering innovative solutions.

Among them were the polymer-based treatments offered by Portuguese printing specialist Adalberto, which add lasting water-repellent and anti-bacterial properties to any textile, manmade or natural, and Mirum, a material of natural origins developed by American company Natural Fiber Welding that can be used as a leather alternative.

“We believe that nature has such abundance and so many materials, that we only need to find the right way of combining them to phase out plastics,” said Oihana Elizade, general manager of the Mirum business unit at NFW, highlighting that this new material offered fully recyclability, achieved by grinding post-consumer material and offcuts to create new material without waste.

Elizade pointed out that offering materials that could go cradle-to-cradle was only one step in achieving circularity — albeit a major one — but that “it doesn’t address how designers conceive items that can be hard to deconstruct or the fact that you don’t always have to use virgin materials.”

For Hugues Fauchard and Rémi Bats, cofounders of emerging men’s wear label Uniforme, the fair’s relatively sedate pace yielded new opportunities. “In other editions, you could always expect progress, but this time, you really have the sense that they took the time to innovate,” said Fauchard, pointing out the efforts of French linen producers in particular.

For the pair, it made for a particularly attractive natural-fiber alternative at a time when cotton prices are surging. A sentiment that echoed among many fashion brands, according to Olivier Guillaume, president of hemp and linen spinner Safilin in Northern France, who saw “growing interest in natural fibers like linen but also in short circuits across the board, from luxury brands to digital native labels,” resulting in the company deciding to reopen a spinning facility in France.

Coupled with pandemic-driven conversations on industrial sovereignty, particularly in the textile industry, and a growing demand for transparency and low-consumption renewable materials from consumers, the linen sector was currently revitalizing its historic production region that spans from Northern France to Belgium.

But most of all, it’s the wealth of options that charmed buyers, offered both by some 750 companies physically at the show, and the 150 more presenting digitally on the Première Vision Marketplace, from 40 countries.

“Everything’s so sparkling, so festive,” said Ece Ege, cofounder of couture label Dice Kayek, who enjoyed the creative use of craftsmanship that she noted across the board, which she described as very neo-Roaring ’20s.

Among key trends in this edition were updated British heritage with a modern twist, from graphic checks in a variety of weights to glittering tweeds; knits that bridged the gap between the lockdown-approved comfort and the desire for dressier, tailored garments, and opulent Golden Age-like proposals, rife with rich floral motifs, metallics and surface embellishments.

“As a whole, we were surprised by the creativity of our exhibitors,” said Ariane Bigot, Première Vision’s associate fashion director. “We could have expected a weak season as a result of 18 months of slow-down with companies being risk-averse or limiting creative investment, but it didn’t happen at all.”

It didn’t just express itself in the range of textures and motifs, although those were plentiful, but also in the composition of textiles. Take the use of recycled materials, pushed by the demand for organic cotton far outstripping supply. As a whole, materials with a sustainable component accounted for some 45 percent of all proposals across the show, according to Bigot.

A key question emerging from this edition, focusing on the fall 2022 collections, was sustainable transformation, especially for medium- to small-sized businesses.

“Large groups are very organized around this, have wide-reaching strategies, but at smaller scales, these themes are more complex to put in place. As a trade show, we’re not taking a stand on what is better, but we are trying to educate and to highlight the values of companies,” Lasbordes said.

To that end, the trade show reinforced the informational aspects, digitally with a five-day program of conferences available in person and broadcast online from Sept. 20 to 24, and also with its Smart Creation segment, which presented swatches from brands, with new indicators to highlight recycled, low resource consumption or organic materials.

“From new entrants, we request elements pertaining to sustainable practices, including presenting any certifications they have,” said Lasbordes, adding that having ecologically responsible aspects was now an integral part of offering competitive products.

“There will be a time, not too long from now, where [sustainability] won’t be a topic but a matter of fact,” said Jean-Hughes Perrin, commercial director of silk specialist Perrin mill, noting that, from the point of view of natural material producers, eco-friendly practices are part of a global chain that encompasses reasoned agriculture and worker wellbeing.

In the meantime, garment producers and fabric mills were faced with the reality of costs that could amount to a 20 to 30 percent price difference. “It’s not a neutral decision [for brands] but that’s a direction that everyone is moving in, regardless of current circumstances. But on the long run, there is no reason to avoid better practices. Quality is there and technologies have evolved,” he said.

The coming months will see the textile trade show move to the schedule it revealed in February 2020. Its next showcase will be Blossom in December 2021. Première Vision Paris will take place in February 2022, while the fall edition will move up to July. The show’s New York 2022 editions will stay as scheduled in early January and the third week of July.


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