By  on February 8, 2011

ROME — Italian textile makers are betting on improved sales in 2011 as they prepare fresh fabric blends and performance fabrics for the upcoming Milano Unica trade fair that runs Feb. 15 to 17.

“I think that overall, in terms of volume and sales, we might see double-digit growth in 2011,” said the show’s president, Pier Luigi Loro Piana. “I am optimistic about the first [half] of 2011.”

Part of the sunny forecast comes from what exhibitors see as an improving U.S. economy, indicated by the Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index that rose 7.3 points to 60.6 in January, its best mark in eight months.

Some 439 exhibitors will show upscale and traditional materials for men’s and women’s wear, as well as more trendy goods. Some 82 of those exhibitors are from outside Italy. Overall, the number of exhibitors is in line with one year ago.

“The climate surrounding Milano Unica is decidedly more positive,” Loro Piana said. “Companies saw higher orders in spring-summer 2011 compared with the season before that.”

High-end silk manufacturers like Como-based Serikos said they will showcase improvements in innovation and research, especially the development of more transparent fabrics and lighter weights in organza, gauze and mikado, with more satiny and shiny characteristics.

Prato-based Marini e Cecconi is focused on its H2 Wool technology that produces a soft, light and washable wool fabric with a vintage look.

“We see a season in which linen and natural fibers are predominant, with aspects that are reminiscent of the vegetable world,” said Riccardo Marini, co-head of Marini Industrie.

Loro Piana said its spring 2012 collection will continue on the path of using mixed fibers, fusing extrafine wool, silks and linen that are fresh and light and have a touch of color.

While the ongoing rise of raw material prices looms over many manufacturers, Pisani said one of his main concerns is accommodating more demanding customers.

“Serikos’ main goal in the textile industry is keeping customers happy with speedy and accurate service, and having dedicated people able to offer assistance…24 hours a day,” Pisani said.

Pisani also sees a better year ahead.

“It will surely be a year of growth, especially in markets like China and the U.S.,” said Pisani.

Marini said his customers in traditional and emerging markets are evolving.

“They need more varied products, creativity and the innovation necessary to communicate the emotions of this modern world,” Marini added.

Alge Italia Srl, which produces fashion accessories, is presenting at Milano Unica for the first time. During the fair, the firm will show its patented hot-fix application that fixes rhinestones and rhinestuds like Swarovski Elements onto solid surfaces.

Its spring 2012 collection will be based on four themed trends called Purity, Carnality, Utility and Vanity. While Alge Italia already has well-known Italian brands like Versace Jeans on its list of clientele, Milano Unica gives it better exposure to international companies, import manager Alfonso Annunziata explained.

“Despite the crisis, our company continues to invest in quality and technology,” Annunziata said.

The fair has many new features, including a sold-out Andrea Bocelli concert. The opera singer will perform at Milan’s Gothic Duomo Cathedral. Milano Unica will contribute the funds from the concert to the restoration of the church’s main spire.

An “On Stage” competition, put together in a partnership with IBM, will showcase a selection of pieces from the September edition. Organizers are also planning a Made in Italy-focused research and innovation area, as well as a special installation dedicated to linen.

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