The economic downturn and the fair's niche market have been credited for an increase in the number of exhibitors at Interstoff Asia Essential-Autumn 2009. 'Exhibitors need to stay competitive in this economy so we are seeing textile companies joining more trade fairs to gain more exposure, stay in touch with regular clients and source new ones,' said Wendy Wen of Messe Frankfurt, organiser of the fair. Exhibitors say it is the niche market that makes this fair, which highlights emerging trends in the textile industry, attractive. It runs from today to Friday at the Convention and Exhibition Centre. This year, there are more than 230 exhibitors from 10 countries and regions - the mainland, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Austria, Italy, Pakistan, Switzerland and Britain. New exhibitors include Sanitized from Switzerland, Shin Han Industrial from Korea, and Premiere Fashion Corp from Taiwan. Organisers aimed to attract more exhibitors through increased promotion and by providing more services, but even so the increase took them by surprise. 'We thought the economic downturn would affect this year's autumn fair more than last year's, so we were surprised to see the number of exhibitors rise from 199 last year to 223,' Wen said. This year, exhibitors were offered a business-matching service. The organiser contacted the traders and buyers, found out their products and interests and helped organise meetings between the two parties. A focus of this year's fair is promoting environmentally friendly practices. 'The fair is focused on sustainable development, which is becoming a popular concept among companies,' said Woo Pat-nie, director of Central Textiles and chairman of the Sustainable Fashion Business Consortium. The consortium, the biggest exhibitor at the fair, is a group of Hong Kong-based textile and apparel companies that aims to promote sustainable business practices in the sector. Apart from the environmental focus, Messe Frankfurt has also put the spotlight on fashion and function. Fashion includes the latest clothing and accessory trends for upcoming seasons, and function covers multifunctional clothing and accessories. Several special areas and seminars have been included to promote these themes. An Eco Certification pavilion will include Bluesign Technologies, an independent company that will exhibit fabrics produced while adhering to internationally recognised standards. The Sustainable Fashion Business Consortium will introduce recycling and energy-saving technologies, together with fabrics devised by its members: Central Textiles (HK), Clariant (China), Control Union Certifications, Crystal Group, Fountain Set (Holdings), Freudenberg & Vilene, Gunzetal, Hong Kong Non-Woven Fabric Industrial, Lever Style and TAL Apparel. Designer's Studio will feature local and overseas designers from Britain's Texprint competition, the Hong Kong Fashion Designer's Association, Britain's Ethical Forum and competitors from RE:Born design competition. There also will be a fashion parade and seminars on trends and design, sustainable textile industry development, and sustainable dyeing and chemical solutions. The organiser is is also inviting more buyers from emerging markets to increase their business. 'In response to the needs of our exhibitors, we have invited buyer delegations from Brazil, Indonesia, Russia, China, Malaysia and Vietnam, all of which are emerging textile markets,' Wen said. On top of that, exhibitors are creating new eye-catching designs, hoping to differentiate themselves from other companies. For Buttons International, instead of creating a completely new range, the company is making little changes to their signature products, including snap buttons. 'We have now upgraded our existing products,' Buttons International marketing manager Terry Au-Yeung said. 'We have added new materials including natural and biodegradable materials into the snap buttons to make them more fashionable and attractive to environmentally conscious buyers.' A forum on upcoming fabric and colour trends will be led by Kai Chow, creative director of Doneger Creative Services. The themes of the forum will be: Embrace, Anthology, New World and Clandestine. Embrace describes fantasy-like colours from the palest naturals and subdued pastels with shadowed grey and taupe hues on fur and woollens to soft sheer prints. Anthology is vintage and romantic colours, warm and cool tones on fabrics such as tweed and jacquard and wool and corduroy with a bohemian twist. New World represents nature, the colour green and dusty turf hues with fabrics like wool and leather. Clandestine stands for a sense of foreboding represented by dark colours with a bold contrast of silk, jersey, twill, suiting and lace fabrics.