By  on March 21, 1994

MILAN -- For many of the handbag manufacturers exhibiting at the Mipel leather goods show here, the top item on the agenda seems to be increasing U.S. business.

With the deflated lira dragging down local business, a number of companies at the four-day show, which ended March 13, said they were zeroing in on the U.S. and other countries with stronger currencies, including Germany and Japan. The strong dollar against the lira and the steady recovery of the U.S. economy have already brought positive results to companies exporting there. Heartened by increased American attendance at the show, executives further agreed that this is the right time to intensify business in the U.S.

Show organizers said the 352 U.S. visitors represented an 18 percent increase over a year ago. Overall, organizers estimated attendance up about 10 percent. There were some 6,000 registrants.

"We're looking for a well-known distributor in the U.S. because we think our product has potential there," said Roberto Bricola, a director of Bric's, a luggage firm.

Bricola, which does well with its line of anti-scratch and anti-bump suitcases, brought out a new collection of suitcases and sacks in brightly colored nylon with leather piping.

Gian Enzo Rossi, marketing manager for Redwall, maintained, "We are doing well in the U.S. with our Moschino lines. In the past years, the U.S. has become an important market for us. We believe that once our service strategies are improved, our American volume will increase."

Stefano Bernardoni, commercial director for Desmo, was also enthusiastic about U.S. business.

"In past years we've worked hard to create a position for Desmo in the States, and today we are reaping the rewards," Bernardoni said.

In terms of trends, the major message for fall was softer and larger silhouettes in suedes and supple calfskins, with the latter often treated to have an antique effect. Brown was the leading color with shades from bitter chocolate to rich tobacco, while black continued to be important. Trimmings ranged from passementerie and crocheted stitching to bold metal clasps adorning surfaces and straps.

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