CERNOBBIO, Italy — Exhibitors at the 56th edition of the Ideacomo silk fair said they were working hard to keep their businesses solid despite weak economies in many of Italy’s key export markets."The ongoing economic downturn has changed the way the silk industry does business," said Beppe Pisani, president of Ideacomo, at the three-day fair, which closed here on Oct. 5. "It has widened the distance between companies with a good client base and good products and companies that are perhaps in a less fortunate position. There is no longer a common standard that allows all of us to get by."But stronger competition was not the only issue on the table."After quality and pricing, now it is the delivery time that makes the difference between getting an order and losing it," said Graziano Brenna, vice president of the Como Industrial Association.Despite the weakness in key markets for Italian exports, including the U.S. and Germany, exhibitors saw some reason to be hopeful. From a fashion point of view, they contended, the situation is improving. A large number of summer 2003 sample collections were converted into real production orders, and silk continues to float down the runways at the major fashion shows.According to Michele Canepa, owner of Taroni and president of the International Silk Association, the most critical period was between the end of 2001 and the first three months of 2002."Our summer collections went quite well and we were able to return to levels that are closer to normal," he said. "The Japanese and Korean markets seem to be recovering fast, as is the Russian market. and the Eastern European markets are holding their own."Canepa said he thinks overall sales for the year will be down slightly, but still contended that the market has settled down, weighed against the confusion that existed during the first three months of the year.For fall-winter 2003-2004, exhibitors offered Oriental prints, paisleys and luxurious silks infused with metallic fibers to give the impression of luxury, wealth and well-being. Colors were rich and authoritative. The Taroni collection featured double-faced silk satin and iridescent taffetas."We specialize in luxury looks," said Canepa. "This year is no exception."The shine in the Taroni collection came from the rich color combinations, which Canepa said are well suited for the high-end products his clients produce."We are entering a new era of elegance," he said as he unfolded a large bolt of pale apricot silk satin.Canepa Tessitura Serica and Bluinblu featured oriental prints and sparkle. Canepa’s new looks included animal prints in tones of caramel and cream. For evening, the line featured rich oriental designs infused with silver and gold. At Bluinblu, a spokesman pointed to the large selection of black silk destined for holiday looks. "For special evenings, there is still nothing quite like silky satin, sheer silk chiffon or soft black velvet," he said. Many of Bluinblu’s samples were also sparked with touches of metallic fibers. For day, the company offered ethnic looks and tweeds in warm natural colors.Reproducing the rich looks of the Forties and Fifties was the goal of GdA’s owner and designer Giorgio di Angelis."I wanted to create rich, elegant looks without using black," he said. "So I chose anthracite, slate and stone instead."At Clerici Tessuto, representative Lorena Pellizoni said the company’s new line of fabrics for scarves was attracting attention. That offering included soft colored tapestry patterns; retro chenilles with patterns of silver and gold; a soft pale olive-and-peach print, and a vertical patchwork pattern in silk and rayon.

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