Byline: Lucie Muir

CERNOBBIO, Italy--Surface effects and prints were in the spotlight for spring 1996 at the recent Ideacomo fabric fair here.
Prints went both delicate and strong, using such motifs as spring flowers and sea shells along with bold stripes and florals. Soft shimmers marked many of the textures, and embroideries and piques were plentiful.
Despite the continuing specter of rising raw material costs and a slim American buying presence at the show itself, the mood at the four-day event, which ran through March 22, was generally confident, with exhibitors buoyed by rising sales of Italian fabrics to the U.S. Figures released by the show organizers showed exports of Italian fabrics to the U.S. in the first nine months of 1994 were up nearly 17 percent to $139.5 million (240.1 billion lire at current exchange).
Franco Defelice, export manager at Clerici Tessuto, summed up the situation by rating the turnout of U.S. buyers as "disappointing," but adding, "We have a go-to-them approach, which makes up for it."
Some at the show observed that the increasing costs of natural fibers were leveling off, but a new worry was the hike expected in the price of German viscose and acetate, reflecting both the weakness of the lira against the mark and the growing popularity of man-made fibers.
"We have no option but to pay more for synthetics, as there is such a strong call from designers and retailers," said Defelice. "We are lucky in that we can buy with the dollar, but it's still very bad news."
Generally, exhibitors also noted that with the still-favorable exchange rate of the dollar against the lira, they were able to absorb some of their increased costs when selling to the U.S., keeping price increases, for the most part, within a range of 5 to 10 percent.
Attendance at the show numbered 2,886, up only 37 from October. There was an attempt to attract more American buyers, by moving the fair dates later to follow Premiere Vision, the big fabric show in Paris, but still only 24 Americans showed up, although that was five more than came in October.
"It would be foolish to think Ideacomo could become like Premiere Vision," said Ideacomo's new president, Moritz Mantero. "I am faced with the challenge of making the show ready for the year 2000 and reshaping it to enhance its own identity. I think at this stage we should be looking to make the show bigger in terms of quality, not quantity, keeping selection strictly by invitation and collaborating with an outside marketing company to find the ideal customer, date and market niche, so we can achieve our goal.
Mantero added that "creativity remains important, but it's not enough, anymore. An exhibition should offer quality, service and information, and its products should guarantee customer excellence."
Among the offerings at various individual displays, Cugnasca, a division of Mantero, showed 100 percent silk or silk blended with viscose and cotton for cruisewear in black and white stripes and polkadots.
Evening silks were given softer sheens with viscose film in shades of salmon and peach. Crepes and feminine georgettes were popular in small jacquards in mint green and cream.
The subtle shimmers continued at Terraneo, where chenille was blended with metallic yarns and rayon for a lame look. Opaque silks and viscose blends were bestsellers in powdery shades of oyster, blue bell and peach, with florals woven in.
At Braghenti, one of the six divisions of Ratti, linen crepes were given mossy effects and metallic shine. Soft Irish linen was done in powdery hues of gray and blue and in butter yellow. They were reported to be bestsellers with American buyers who also showed interest in washed-look linens in indigo blue.
According to export manager Marco Beffa of Ratti's younger label, Ramis, colors and prints are finally being "accepted by Americans, who are getting more confident in their choice."
The collection offered wool and linen, both with high twist, in bright candy colors with crystal-look yarns woven in.
At Etro, prints went tropical. Desert island flowers were featured on hot colored linens and indigo blue silks, while Etro's traditional paisleys were faded in dusty shades of earth and moss green on silk.
"We've seen a lot of younger designers at the show, and we believe in working closely with them to find newer looks and fresh colors," said Jacopo Etro, commercial director and textile designer for the company. "Fabrics are a lot crisper with technical progress and innovation."

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