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Japantex does a 180: soothing palette replaces citrus hues.

TOKYO -- The Westernization of Japanese culture and a poor economy are strongly influencing Japanese textile design.

Traditional Japanese designs are taking on a more contemporary look and soft, serene colors are driving the palette.

Japantex '98, held here late last month, boasted 279 exhibitors --including 17 from the U.S. -- and played host to 29,711 visitors during its four-day run.

In a dramatic change from last year's strong citrus palette of orange, kiwi green and lemon, this year's direction is all about relaxation and healing colors like forest green, ocean blue and warm pink.

Japanese suppliers refer to the citrus palette as "vitamin" and call the softer palette "healing."

Kirony Co. Ltd., a supplier known for leading trends, showcased modern Japanese designs. "Japanese look and lifestyle are highly evaluated these days," said a spokesman of the company.

Subtle colors of tatami mats and shoji paper screens are translated onto solid or jacquard textiles in quiet colors such as light green and pale orange. "These modern Japanese looks are popular among people in their 20s and 30s," he added.

"Mild and clear colors are often used," continued the spokesman. "Adding to last year's trend of yellow, green and blue, purple is strong for this spring. Large panel patterns are also a big hit."

There were fewer floral patterns, but vegetable motifs such as small fruits, twigs and leaves still dominated the show. "Texture is also important. Opal technique and front-cut dobby performed well," he added.

"Natural healing" was the theme at Roam Corp., a leading home textile firm. Orange, green, pink and purple were shown in "less vivid tones than last year's trend of vitamin colors, " said Masahito Takahashi, director of sales.

In the firm's Natural Relaxation Zone collection, textiles of natural fibers were shown in "air" green, sand white and ocean blue. Cute floral patterns in red were coordinated with small checks in milky orange.

Romantic and natural looks were important at JTEX Co. Ltd. "The main theme is healing," said a spokesman of the firm. "Sherbet colors such as green, orange and yellow are very strong. Black and brown are good for coordinating with any colors and linen-like texture achieved with cotton is one example of a new-natural," he explained.

"Texture is important. Organdy, which was popular in the apparel industries before, is often used," he added.

"Casual is still a big key word," said Kazuko Fujita, a spokesperson for Aswan. "However, it should be more sophisticated and modern this year." The firm showed mango yellow, mint green and apricot.

A spokesperson for Japan Ornament Co. Ltd. said, "Jacquard and dobby gained popularity more than prints. Checks and stripes in pale tones in dobby were very popular."

Designs from Kyoto, the old capital of Japan, were shown in tie-dyed fabrics at the Kyoto Tie-Dye Industrial Society. "These Japanese motifs can be used in Western-style rooms," said Kenji Hirota, director. Kyoto motifs include temples and shrines.

U.S. exhibitors were satisfied with traffic at the show. "We had a very positive response to our paper floor coverings," said Abigail Egan, vice president of international marketing at Merida Meridian Inc., which successfully introduced tatami mat-like floor coverings of 100 percent natural fiber.

"It's a blend of a traditional tatami mat look with Western style sophistication," she added.

"This exhibition is solidifying our presence in Japan," said Keith Sorgeloos, managing director for Asia at WestPoint Stevens. "Also, we were able to develop and plan business with key Japanese retailers."

"The Japanese market is difficult but promising if you produce differentiated products and value-inspired products that are signified with strong brand names and excellent design," he added.

"I was surprised to find that hardly any buyers complained about a bad economy," commented William Miles, director of international sales for Homemaker Inc.

"Depreciation of the yen will have some impact on lower-priced and mass market products," said Lawrence J. Brill, International Trade Specialist for U.S. Department of Commerce.

"However, U.S. products at Japantex are for higher-end customers who are less price-sensitive. "The Japanese market cannot be compared with others. I am still optimistic of growth in exports from the U.S.," he added.

Roger Burnim, vice president for home furnishings at Concord House, said that "high-quality prints made in the U.S. and authentic designs with multiple coordination" are strong here.
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Title Annotation:1998 textiles exhibition
Author:Hirano, Koji
Publication:HFN The Weekly Newspaper for the Home Furnishing Network
Date:Feb 23, 1998
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