NEW YORK--Backpacks, structured and ladylike handbags and other novelties were in the limelight at the Italian Expressions leather goods show here last week at the Doral Court. The twice-yearly show featured 11 exhibitors, mainly handbag manufacturers from the Tuscany region of Italy. They showed a diverse range of fabrications, including textured leathers, brightly colored patent leathers, metallics, microfibers and straws, and vendors noted that in the four years the show has been staged, the thrust has shifted from classic Italian merchandise, such as the tailored shoulder bag, to include a growing range of fashion items. Although some vendors felt traffic was down compared with last year, most expressed satisfaction with both attendance and order writing. Paolo Vannucchi, owner of Studio PV, the event organizer, emphasized that the mission of Italian Expressions is "to put genuine manufacturers in direct touch with stores," rather than attract large quantities of buyers not equipped to deal with the process of importing. The five-day show attracted buyers from over 70 companies. Luca Nucci, owner of Marcella, a handbag and small leather goods firm, said he revised his product line to include more fashion items and unusual fabrications for this show. He noted that he took orders for immediate deliveries for a leopard group and a series of leather-trimmed wool knit bags. The strongest responses for spring, he added, went to two collections, one in gold faille and the other in black nylon. Business was about the same as last year at Braccialini, where interest in new fabrications was high, according to Rebecca Miller, U.S. agent for the firm. "We repeated a best-selling leather line for fall in colored microfiber for spring, and it has booked well," Miller said. She also noted that ladylike leather satchels and kelly shapes were strongest during the show. Also checking was the firm's licensed line by British ready-to-wear designer Vivienne Westwood, which featured patent leather in white and metallics accented with her signature hardware. "We've seen an increased demand for silhouettes that are more fashion- oriented than ever before, though not extreme," noted Sergio Pinzani, administrator for Christian, a handbag firm and regular exhibitor with the group. Pinzani, who caters to "quantity-oriented buyers," said the U.S. accounts for about 60 percent of his total business. He cited structured cowhide as the key look this time around. At Di-Pa, sales manager Anna de Jesus noted that although stores were concerned about price, she found that many were willing to spend a little more in order to try the newest looks. She said that she expected to finish the show with sales similar to last year, but that she had gained new contacts for exclusive arrangements this time around. Totes and backpacks in softly structured shapes were the leaders, she said.
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