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Beyond the Bale : Apr 07 - May 07
One of the world's leading fashion trend forecasters, Sophie Steller, says wool for winter 2007 is all about the yarn. London-based Ms Steller, who specialises in all aspects of knitwear design and has 17 years experience in yarn, colour and trend research, consults for a large range of clients, including Polo, Gap and American Eagle in the US, and Etro, Esprit, French Connection and Marks & Spencer in Europe. She also does specialist forecasting work for companies, including AWI. She reports to them monthly on trends and what she has seen at international trade shows, and has close links with a wide manufacturing base. Ms Steller is working closely with AWI's knitwear product development team, helping to formulate seasonal collections that appeal to retailers, designers and buyers at international trade shows. "As the season has unfolded so far, the major underlying trend being sought out by all is the need for all things neutral or grey," she says. "As seen in reports of early trends at trade shows, retail shopping and at catwalk level, all looks are a solid tone of one colour with the emphasis on stitch and styling details. "With looks so pared down, the yarn plays a crucial role in offering a new dimension to a range. Since the looks range from superfine to super chunky, this means both worsted and woollen spinners play an important role in developing new products. With chunky traditional stitches yarns must be lightweight and lofty, but not so soft the stitch is lost. The use of technology to create yarns that are light and airy is essential as the chunky look is a trend, but with the current climate and lifestyle changes knitwear can't be heavy or too hot, even in the depths of winter." Ms Steller applauds new developments in processing that give traditional yarns a much softer feel without the need for multiple fibre blends. "At the opposite end of the spectrum, fine gauge seems to be gaining momentum in all markets from classic to youth. Colour development is also key here, with rich heathers and melanges bringing depth and newness to such fine counts. Being so close to the skin, softness is also important, as is the need for cooler touches and breathability." Stitches complement this natural feeling with simple repetitive looks combining textures with cables, ribs, lace patterns and other traditional stitches. "The season has really played down pattern and embellishment after last year's pattern explosion. But for winter, there is an emergence of strong graphic elements in patterns as a follow-on from bold stripes. Two or three-colour patterns in both men's and women's wear are a key trend, taking influences from traditional Scandinavian patterns, but with updated scale and placement for a more modern look. "Embellishment is also showing a small comeback in the form of anything sparkling, from rhinestones to sequins, but for everyday looks rather than an evening trend. Styling and shapes continue to be dominated by the tunic, the cardigan and the sweater dress in women's fashions. However, newer looks show the return of cropped styling -- but exaggeratedly short -- and the trapeze shape as the key new silhouette trends." ú More information: www.merinoinnovation.com Wool's fashion outlook is a top yarn From London, Sophie Steller picks the trends in fashion and advises companies, including AWI, on what is going to appeal to retailers and designers 22 GOING GLOBAL BEYOND THE BALE International staff taking Merino to the world They came from all corners of the globe when all members of AWI's international staff met for the first time in Sydney recently. Jimmy Jackson, AWI's global product development manager, says AWI now has offices in New York,Treviso, New Delhi, Shanghai and Hong Kong to take the message about Australia Merino to the world's key apparel markets. "It was the first time all international staff had been together in one place, and for some, it was their first visit to AWI's Sydney headquarters and their first visit to Australia," Mr Jackson says. "The meeting was based about coming up with a plan for the international marketing of Australian Merino for autumn winter 2008 and 2009, as basically our trade shows start in September with Spin Expo and Intertextiles. "We have to have a plan we can all focus on, for product marketing and product development: what does the market want and what does the market need?" Mr Jackson says this can only be formulated by global staff getting together and sharing the information everyone has gained from customers and processors around the world: "We focused a lot on consumer insights, with a new report we have just received giving some good trend predictions and that helps formulate our plans. "The natural story is the next big news for fashion.We've been talking environmentally friendly for 20 or 30 years, but finally people want to consume environmentally friendly products and wool is perfect for that market.That has to be captured in our marketing plan." Each international office is located in a key area of influence, for example Hong Kong, because it is the largest wool knitwear exporter in the world. AWI Hong Kong's marketing manager Timothy Iu says that staff network with local industry, assisting in the education of processors, designers and customers to access Merino innovation. "Hong Kong is a gateway for many of the international fashion apparel houses, so AWI's office here is ideally situated to building direct business relationships with key global apparel companies," Mr Iu says. "With the improvements and new technology constantly being developed in wool top treatment, spinning, knitting and finishing, it is leading to more Australian Merino wool textile varieties being available to introduce to the fashion apparel market. "I really believe Australian Merino wool will play a very important role in the industry in the near future. "AWI is continuing to produce interesting and high-quality products which are in response to demand being shown by buying offices, sourcing agents, manufacturers and designers, not only in Hong Kong but now internationally. I am very proud to be a part of that development." Eighty per cent of the world's clothing purchases are made in six countries -- the US, Italy, Japan, Germany, the UK and France -- and more than 90 per cent of all households in those six countries own and use washing machines to care for their Merino wool garments. China and India are the two most important emerging markets. India is the third largest importer of Australian Merino. China remains the largest importer. Mr Jackson says AWI is focusing on 10 countries, split into three groups. Group one comprises the six established 'mega-consumer' markets listed above. Group two comprises the potential new and emerging retail and consumer mega-groups, including China, India, Russia and Eastern Europe. Group three is Australia. AWI's New Delhi office is strategically located at the centre of the emerging markets of the sub-continent. Debabrata Chakraborty, AWI's business development manager for India, says he is focused on developing new business partnerships within this important market to enhance the volume and value of Australian Merino wool. "Every day we are working with more and more businesses, great and small across the world, that are interested in further developing innovative Australian Merino wool textiles," Mr Chakraborty says. "We now have the Klimeo thermal buffering coming out of Chaugers, France; the Merino Travel which is crease and stain resistant coming from Youngor in China, and the recent launch of the new Care, Soft and Visual technologies in India.The work we are doing I believe is really adding benefit to Australian woolgrowers and better promoting the use of Australian Merino wool. "Australian Merino wool is unbelievable. After more than two decades I am still learning more about the versatility, beneficial properties, and adaptabilities of the fibre." -- KELLIE PENFOLD Wool fashion forecaster Sophie Steller : providing valuable insight on trends to AWI.
Jun 07 - Jul 07
Feb 07 - Mar 07 Supplement