Green fashion statement

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 25 September, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 25 September, 2007, 12:00am

Interstoff Asia Essential-Autumn puts the focus on eco-textiles and cutting-edge fabrics and, as the only major international fair of its kind, it is a key marketing and sourcing platform for manufacturers and buyers with a 'green' outlook.

The three-day event, which takes place from October 3-5 at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, offers a key sourcing venue for buyers from Asia and features a full schedule of seminars and displays of a wide range of functional and eco-friendly fabrics.

The fair will host 222 exhibitors from 11 countries, with about half from the mainland. Up to 10,000 buyers are expected to attend. About 60 to 65 per cent of the fair is devoted to eco-textiles and functional fabrics.

After 20 years as a conventional fabric and textile fair, Interstoff Asia rebranded itself last year.

'We understood that the market had changed and that there was a need for a show focusing on environmentally friendly products, as well as on the technical side of functional fabrics,' said Katy Lam, director of trade fairs at Messe Frankfurt Hong Kong, the organiser of the fair.

She said buyers had responded positively to the new format.

'We've had many inquiries from buyers asking about organic cotton, organic linen, recycled products, functional fabrics and what sorts of things they can see here. The fair has strengthened its position and it seems that it's getting more important.'

Family-owned firm Global Ease, which has exhibited at the past three autumn shows, has been making high-quality natural silk blouses, sweaters and dresses for more than 30 years.

Merchandising manager Kwok Man-tung said: 'Many foreign buyers are concerned about the environment, and they want to make sure that what we are doing is environmentally healthy. They ask questions about the dyes we use and we explain that we use environmentally friendly ones.'

Sales at the company have risen between 10 and 20 per cent over the past three years and Mr Kwok attributed this to the 'good products' his company made.

As part of the fair's environmental focus, a display forum showcasing eco-friendly fabrics under 'Eco-Textiles: Fabrics That Care' has been expanded. Buyers can view all the eco-friendly products under one roof and see how they integrate into fashion trends for the upcoming season.

Ms Lam said: 'We've invited more leading players into the eco-textiles display, especially those from Japan. We've categorised the textiles better. This time there will be natural fibres and also manufacturers using many recycled fabrics.'

The other two display forums are the Trend Forum outlining the colour, fabrics and prints forecast for autumn-winter 2008, and the 21st Century Wardrobe, a showcase of functional fabrics.

This year, Interstoff Asia will feature a comprehensive three-day programme of 12 seminars. Ms Lam said these were designed to help educate and inform buyers, and to promote the growth of eco-textiles in the fashion industry.

'Eco-textiles are still a relatively small niche, but trend-savvy buyers are keen to find out about the manufacturing processes and raw materials, why they should be using eco-fabrics and why the costs are higher.'

Hong Kong plays an active role in the push for green fashion. 'The city is driven by places such as the United States and Europe because most businesses here export their goods. We're on the cutting edge of knowing what's going on in other parts of the world,' Ms Lam said.

Local manufacturers are employing hi-tech fibres in their garments. 'The big knitting mills are using functional fabrics and environmentally friendly fabrics and yarns,' Ms Lam said. 'They didn't create the fibres, but they are showing a willingness to try them and make garments out of them.'

Exhibitors at Interstoff Asia Essential-Autumn will be divided into three thematic groups - creation, function and fashion. The aim is to show how these three themes influence fabric suppliers whose products are then translated into garments sold to consumers.

As a guide for buyers, Messe Frankfurt has differentiated suppliers of eco-textiles by colour-coded leaf logos. About 60 exhibitors have a green leaf logo, which means their fabrics or products are made with at least one process or raw material which is green or environmentally friendly. A company that produces organic cotton fabrics, for example, gets the green leaf logo.

The silver leaf logo is for companies whose entire production process has been certified as environmentally friendly by an official environmental watchdog.

'Only 10 companies in the world have this certification, but we know that more will in the future,' Ms Lam said.

Lenzing Fibers, a subsidiary of fibre producer Lenzing of Austria, is an exhibitor this year and is the only company at the fair that will have the silver leaf logo.