By  on August 15, 2006

MILAN — It's a renaissance of sorts for the Italian fashion industry, with 2006 representing a turnaround, according to the Italian Chamber of Fashion.

"The worst is over, after suffering for five years," said Mario Boselli, head of the chamber.

Compared with 2004 and 2005, 2006 began on a positive note. "We've seen a recovery even at the end of last year and we are optimistic for the future because, for the first time, the textile sector is picking up, driven by the performance of foreign markets — the U.S. and Japan in particular," said Boselli.

For 2006, the chamber expects sales of 65.6 billion euros, or $83.5 billion at current exchange, a 3 percent increase compared with 63.7 billion euros last year, or $81.1 billion. In 2005, the industry reported a 3.5 percent drop in sales compared with 2004.

The association expects a 5 percent increase in sales outside Italy for 2006, up to 40.9 billion euros, or $52.1 billion. The chamber registered exports of 39 billion euros, or $49.6 billion, last year, in line with 2004.

The chamber said the Italian fashion industry is still highly dependent on currency fluctuations, which improved over the course of 2005, and the evolution of the German market.

"The difficulties in reaching…an increased presence on dynamic markets, such as emerging markets and the U.S., continue to limit our growth. Italian fashion is too Europe-centric," said Boselli, who lamented a weak national market.

Boselli insisted on the concept of lifestyle, which is what foreign customers appreciate the most. "Italian designers know that it is not enough to sell fashion and that we must export a way of life — a concept no one can copy," he said.

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