By  on July 10, 2007

FLORENCE — Knitters at last week's Pitti Filati yarn fair said market stability was threatened by a weakening U.S. dollar.

Although executives noted an increase in the number of U.S. and Japanese firms at the fair, held July 4 to 6 at the Fortezza da Basso here, many had difficulty selling yarn at an exchange rate that hit a new height of 1 euro worth $1.37.

Despite the exchange rate, statistics from the Federation of Italian Textiles & Fashion show the Italian spinning industry's volume almost stabilized in 2006. After five years of dramatic drops, sales in 2006 hit 3.4 billion euros, or $4.27 billion at average exchange, a 0.6 percent decrease compared with 2005.

"If the dollar climbs above $1.40 to the euro, we are going to face big problems with our clients," said Silvio Botto Poala, director of Botto Poala, adding that Botto Poala's double-digit sales increase predicted for the year was dependent on the dollar's performance.

Loro Piana admitted it was forced to raise its yarn prices in line with the exchange rate.

"But our American clients ask for last year's prices, so we have to go back and forth until we reach a medium," said Luciano Bandi, yarn division director for Loro Piana.

Even spinners that delocalized into China to attract more U.S. business were feeling pressure from the exchange rate's ups and downs. Lineapiu, which recently hired a new chief executive officer after a financial restructuring this year, has outfitted its two-year-old Shanghai plant with European-made machinery and managerial staff.

"The yarn market is difficult; it doesn't matter where you are in the world," said Lola Coppini, vice president of Lineapiu. "Producing in China, you have to have strong organization that follows rigorous principles because the product can't be too industrial. It has to have some verve that sets it apart from other yarns produced there."

Other yarn manufacturers found ways to work around the weak dollar.

"We deal mainly with cotton, which we buy in dollars, and then process through a flexible structure," said Stefano Salvaneschi, president of Iafil.

He added the mill was on track for a 10 percent gain on last year's sales, to 23 million euros, or $31.3 million.Yarn prices at Ilaria, based in Tuscany, were dependent on "the cost of the transformation of the yarn, and we're able to contain it," said Gian Paolo Bruni, managing director of the firm, which expects to increase volume by 15 percent in 2007.

Ultrafine, feather-light and hollow yarns in blends of cashmere and extra-fine wool and mohair made for transseasonal knitwear headlined yarn trends for fall and winter 2008-2009. Shiny Lurex yarn from seasons pasts were blended with classic, fine yarns. Sophisticated yarns were interspersed with vegetable-dyed organic yarns, presented by Iafil and Cariaggi, and twisted delave looks achieved through the dying process.

Scottish spinner Todd & Duncan showed woolen spun cashmere in soft blues and grays.

"There's a shift in the market and slowly our more higher-end clients are moving toward more fine cashmeres," said James McArdle, managing director of Todd & Duncan.

The spinner created a cotton-rich cashmere blend and a cashmere-rich cotton blend yarn for clients looking to knit cheaper quality garments for a warmer climate. Todd & Duncan has also developed a new dying technique that significantly reduced its minimum order capacity. The process has cut the minimum order from 36 kilos to 6 kilos, which can be delivered in as little as 24 hours.

"It's the Holy Grail combination of finest-quality cashmere yarn, speed of delivery and low minimums," McArdle said.

Botto Poala also perfected a new dying technique. The spinner treated raw fiber so that when dyed and spun, it showed a stonewash effect in plum, forest green and denim blue. Botto Poala also presented superfine 16-micron wool yarns in a series of caramels and beiges.

"These can be knitted into knits that weigh no more than 100 grams and are sometimes more wearable than cashmere," Botto Poala said.

Iafil broke away from its predominantly cotton offering to showcase a soft 100 percent baby alpaca yarn and followed its vegetable- and plant-dyed organic cotton offering of last season with an organic cashmere yarn in 18 colors.

Lineapiu showed a voluminous, ultralight hollow yarn achieved by a new spinning process that sews the fibers. Caveau, a blend of mohair, wool and polyamide, was the kind of trendy yarn younger fashion lines were seeking, Coppini said."There's a trend for fur-looking yarns that look like they are outerwear weights and thicknesses, but when spun the volume is compacted and they feel like a feather," said Coppini.

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