Many of the factors that shaped the global fabric trade at the turn of the millennium, and even over the last decade, are fast yielding to new age trends. Subir Ghosh writes.

If one were to contract the value chain of the global textiles-apparel-fashion industry- for the sake of convenience and debate, the fate of much of the industry would depend considerably on the way fabrics are manufactured and traded. And, if one were to look at the big picture, it would be all about trade.

Sure, the global fabrics trade has seen a swathe of changes in this millennium, but the very nature of trade is such that it is fluid. Trade wars and geo-political complexities make it unpredictable.

So, to make informed decisions, it is important to see in what ways trade, or even sourcing, has changed in the recent past, and to understand certain key industry trends that will have an overbearing impact on the unforeseeable winds of trade.

Defining Trends

Major international fabric events are a good place to start if one is fishing for trends. These are bustling hubs, and business deals struck here set both the pace and direction of trade.

One such must-visit event is the Munich Fabric Start (MFS). It is a leading international trade fair that every year opens the new season twice and has fabrics at the core. More than 1,000 international suppliers from 40 countries, including many renowned fabric and accessories manufacturers, present over 1,800 collections in Munich, Germany.

MFS managing director Sebastian Klinder, who has seen the event evolve over the years, observes, "Over the past ten years both the textiles and apparel industries have undergone a revolution. Globalisation, digitalisation, artificial intelligence (AI), sourcing, resource efficiency, sustainability-have all redefined one of the world's most important branches of industry. And we are still in the early days of novel process and product solutions.

"There is still so much more scope for further development. Being one of the most important international fabric trade fairs, MFS has already initiated expert conferences with acknowledged experts on these topics in the most recent past; and very successfully so. At Keyhouse, the innovation and competence centre of MFS, we flag up new features and innovations in this area and provide an outlook for future-proof materials and manufacturing processes."

Far away, on a different continent, Texworld USA hosts fabric suppliers and mills from all over the world specialising in a wide range of product groups. Show director Jennifer Bacon points out, "Over the last 12 years at Texworld USA, we've seen many crucial factors such as duty rates, tariffs, legislations, and the ever-changing processes of how we manufacture materials affect the way we trade fabric globally.

"Recently, we've seen a shift in how we trade, especially when it comes to developing countries and the practices that are being used. Textile imports are becoming more diversified, and this is causing a shifting pattern of world apparel manufacturing. There is a huge movement in sustainable practices for mills and manufacturers. A new generation of buyers are more concerned of where and how their materials are being produced and the consumer is becoming conscious of what they are wearing."