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Summer in the city with the eighth Turkish Fashion Fabric Exhibition
Feature: 3/2/2006

The winter chill might still have London's streets in its grip, but that didn't stop the eighth Turkish Fashion Fabric Exhibition from bringing a little sun and brightness into the city in the form of 2007's Spring/Summer collections.

The exhibition, which is the largest of its kind in Britain, travels between London and New York twice a year, showcasing the finest fabrics from over 70 of Turkey's most prestigious manufacturers.

There's a lot for them to shout about, too - Turkey is the 6th biggest cotton growing country in the world, producing over 900,000 tons a year.

It is also ranks second for supplying both apparel and textiles to the EU, so the importance of both the country and the exhibition is undeniable.

Here comes the summer

Equally undeniable is the care and attention to detail that the exhibitors put into the show, which ran on 14 - 15 February at Olympia 2 in Kensington.

It began with a long, imposing corridor decked out in harsh black and white stripes representing the cold and bitter winter.

This was contrasted by a flock of brightly-coloured plastic parrots, each sat atop a perch from which samples of each of the exhibitor's fabrics were hanging.

If that wasn't bizarre enough, recorded jungle noises and heat from the low-hanging lamps added to the feeling of summer's approach.

An aristocratic air

It wasn't until the end of the corridor, however, that the exhibition really began.

The black lines on the floor merged into one before bursting into a multicoloured path that led into the first of five rooms, each based on an upcoming Turkish trend.

The first of these was titled "Graceful and Modest", which showcased an elegant and reserved selection of fabrics.

Although there was a wide range of colours - blues and purples especially - they were all muted or pastel, for the emphasis with this collection was on creating a sense of sober sophistication and quiet dignity.

The most elaborate fabrics were lace cuttings with embroidered leaves and plant shapes, a pattern that was prevalent throughout the rest of the show and signified the onset of summer blooms.

For the most part, however, they stuck to simple stripes or block pastels.

Top of the pops

The next room, "Preppy Pop", was almost exactly the opposite - an explosion of bright, retina-dazzling colours designed to bring out the sporty kid in anyone.

Bubblegum pinks ran riot, joined by dazzling whites, bright oranges and the occasional pale blue.

They were joined by floral and lime greens, bringing an air of the outdoors to an otherwise synthetically coloured collection.

Patterns were crazier and denser, particularly the striped fabrics, which typically combined multiple bright colours in closely-packed stripes to eye-catching (and sometimes eye-watering) effect.

Back to nature?

The next room - the suitably titled "Natural Now" - was another change in tone, from bright, synthetic colours to a moodier, richer scheme.

The majority of this selection focused on and attractive, understated palette that evoked the earthy colours one might see on a woodland hike - deep browns, olive greens and pale khakis.

This was offset by more elaborate patterns - images of leaves, flowery curves, leopard-style spots and far eastern designs were dotted about, as were highly detailed stripes and crosshatches.

One corner of the room stood out from the rest, since it featured a fine selection of fiery oranges, golden yellows and even some pink details - hints of sun and petals among the wood and grass.

This small but dazzling selection helped to stop the rest of "Nature Now" from sinking under the weight of its darker fabrics.

Ironically, despite the natural inspiration of the designs, the majority of the samples seemed to be made of man-made fibres like polyester and lurex - a stark contrast with the other selections, where cotton was usually dominant.

Intelligent design

Stepping through the next doorway took visitors from natural curves to harsh angles: "Sharp and Graphic" took its inspiration from the bold colours and calculated geometry of 60s and 80s design.

Juxtaposing vivid, sometimes garish, primary colours with blacks and dark greys, this was certainly a shock to the system after the carefully blended colours of the preceding rooms.

Black and white stripes and checked patterns were common, as were sharp pinstripes and bright primary reds, greens and yellows.

The floral patterns appeared once more, although this time they were purely monochrome in design.

This collection was easily the smallest of the five - it's quite clear that sharp edges and searing contrast belong in the dead of winter, not the warmth of the summer sun.

Poetry in motion

The final room, "Poetic Vision", provided a calming, soothing end to the trend tour.

The light, grassy greens made another appearance along with a huge selection of white silks, satins and laces - perfect for romantic, billowing clothes.

White embroidery was prevalent on these fabrics, creating texture and depth without ruining the lightness of the clothing.

To stop the range from feeling totally airy and insubstantial, these fabrics were paired with a series of elaborately detailed and sometimes brightly coloured cuttings.

These largely consisting of pastel pinks, light browns, deep reds and the occasional spot of blue, with detailed flowery designs and stripes creating complex and fascinating patterns.

The view from the floor

After passing through an exotic room that featured a sparkling fountain, more pretend parrots and thousands of fake blossoms, visitors found themselves out on the main floor of the exhibition, where the real work was being done.

Here, dozens of manufacturers were proudly displaying their latest wares to eagle-eyed scouts waiting to pounce on the next big thing.

For Merve Babatemel of SCK, the exhibition is the best way for her to maintain links with western markets.

She said: "This exhibition is very, very important to our business because it's the only way that British companies will be able to see our textiles properly.

"You can look at pictures on the Internet, but it's not the same as holding the fabrics in your hand and feeling the quality. We get a lot of business from these shows."

Quieter times

However, business on Tuesday February 14 wasn't quite as busy as some were expecting - previous exhibitions have bustled with activity, but this time things were a little more sedate.

The general assumption was that school holidays had affected the turnout, but spirits remained high.

Merve said: "I think it is quieter today because it is still half-term, but it will definitely pick up tomorrow - it's usually much busier on the second day."

Servet Gülle of Turkey's Gülle Tekstil agreed. He said: "It was quite good today but the number of people passing through was smaller than last year.

"We usually get 80 or 90 people visiting us and today we had about 30, but I think it will improve tomorrow.

"I was here last year and it was extremely busy on the second day, so I'm not worried."

The secret of Turkish success

Much of Servet's confidence comes from the buzz surrounding Turkish textiles.

Even when the rest of the world was taking a hit from the abolishment of China's quota restrictions in January 2005, Turkey managed to increase its export volume by 12.8 percent.

Much of this success, Servet believes, is down to the quality of Turkish textiles and the efficiency with which they can be delivered.

This, he believes, gives them the advantage over Chinese products, which he sees as being inferior.

He said: "People are learning that good quality material and clothing is more desirable than cheap but poor material.

"Fashion is definitely leaning towards quality materials that people will enjoy wearing as well, so we find that is creating a lot more demand.

"Also, we are quicker when distributing - because we are in Europe, we can get goods moving faster and there are no quotas or duties to be paid on our materials."

The buzz is growing

Amazing though it may seem, Turkey's future looks even brighter than its present, helped in no small part by the Turkish Fashion Fabric Exhibition itself.

Efe Tarman, general coordinator of Ipekis, another Turkish company, said: "People ask for Turkish fabric now. It's not quite Italy, but better than China, in terms of quality and price.

"Although business in general is quite hard, there is still business to be had for Turkey in the UK market, despite the impact of China."

UK buyers are equally enthusiastic. Nicki King, designer at Miss Selfridge, said: "We've found the exhibition to be extremely useful and have been able to source some really nice, quality, smart jersey for autumn.

"The trends section at the entrance was superb and definitely helped us focus and highlighted some new suppliers that we ended up buying from - we already buy quite a lot from Turkey but now we are buying more."

So the future is bright for both Turkey and the exhibition - almost as bright as the fabrics they are selling.
Author: James Wilkinson
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