MILAN — The challenges at the fall Mipel leather goods fair were daunting: The four-day show opened March 20, a day after the start of the war in Iraq, and many international buyers went home early, while the once-hot handbag sector struggles in a down cycle.

Some exhibitors cranked up the creative juices and brought out an array of new handbag styles, but buyers were conservative, many taking a wait-and-see attitude to placing orders amid the general economic uncertainty.

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