By  on March 30, 2010

MILAN — Italy’s textile and apparel industry has overcome “the most dramatic phase of the current recession,” according to Sistema Moda Italia, one of the country’s main fashion associations.

In 2009, the textile and clothing industry registered revenues of 45.2 billion euros, or $62.8 billion at average exchange rates, down 16.5 percent compared with the previous year.

Exports fell 20.3 percent to 22.1 billion euros, or $30.7 billion, while the value of production slipped 13.8 percent to 33.3 billion euros, or $46.3 billion. SMI noted how the sector continues to operate without substantial help from the government. “On the contrary,” said the association, “a state-injected economic stimulus would help change the current trend and accelerate the exit out of the tunnel, and, given the role of this industry as a motor in the economy, rev up the country’s recovery.”

Last year, the Italian government said it planned to support small- and medium-size Italian companies in obtaining “credit lines to boost exports [and] further resources for companies that are part of the textile-fashion-footwear districts,” with a package of 1.6 billion euros, or $2.2 billion. However, the aid has actually been more “transversal,” and wasaimed at those companies that requested the state to pay part of their employees’ salaries. Moreover, the funds were not exclusive to the textile and clothing sector. In 2009, government-funded salaries jumped 171 percent.

Last year, the Italian government began to take an active role in the financial crisis affecting fashion. IT Holding SpA, parent company of Ittierre and the Gianfranco Ferré and Malo brands, filed for the Italian equivalent of Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and became effectively state-owned. Trade unions and Bologna-based La Perla Group’s new owner, San Francisco-based private equity fund JH Partners LLC, reached an agreement under which government funds will pay about 70 percent of 250 workers’ salaries for two years. Eyewear firms Safilo and Luxottica also temporarily closed their manufacturing plants on a rotating basis with the government’s help.

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