By  on April 5, 1994

CERNOBBIO, Italy -- Mills were buoyant about spring 1995 business at Ideacomo here last week, although, as at other fabric fairs this season, there were plenty of complaints about the rising costs of raw materials.

Exhibitors at the four-day show, which concluded last Thursday, said prices for wool, cotton and silk had increased about 10 to 15 percent over a year ago, and all agreed that linen had risen even more. One mill executive said the cost of linen fiber had doubled over a year ago.

Another executive, Massimo Bianchi, commercial manager at Terraneo, said, "There has been a lot of speculation in linen, since it's still very popular."

Linen production had come to a near standstill in past seasons, when the fiber wasn't in demand, Bianchi noted, but its popularity reignited with the apparel collections for summer 1994, creating short supply and soaring prices.

To keep a lid on linen prices, most mills are blending the yarn with cotton, rayon and silk. They also said they were making an effort to absorb the overall price increases in raw materials. Nonetheless, some mills reported a 5 to 7 percent increase against last year's price lists.

However, the combination of the weak lira against the dollar and the slow but steady recovery of the U.S economy continued to benefit mills exporting there.

"Our U.S. sales are picking up again...because we work well with designer secondary lines and bridge collections," noted Kean Etro, commercial director and textile designer for Etro. "It's interesting to work with American designers because they have tons of new ideas and proposals, and with the strong dollar, they are also buying more expensive, higher-quality fabrics."

In contrast, most executives complained about the mired domestic Italian market, but they noted they are doing good business with Italian designers and apparel companies that export.

Overall attendance for the show dropped against last year's edition, from 3,373 to 3,184, with 21 U.S. visitors making the trip, seven less than last year.

The downturn was attributed to timing, with Ideacomo showing 10 days after Premiere Vision, the Paris fabric fair that ran March 10-14. In past seasons, the fairs were held more closely together. Still, most Ideacomo exhibitors appeared to like the later timing."The time gap has helped a lot, because at Premiere Vision, buyers get a feel for the new trends and then they have 10 days to reflect on them. Therefore, when buyers come here, they already have a clear idea of what they want," pointed out Silvano Lolli, commercial director for Clerici Tessuto.

Riccardo Mantero, president of Ideacomo, expressed similar feelings.

"We still have to debate whether or not to further increase the time gap. The downside of the project is that we lose some American and Japanese clients, who can't afford to hang around for two weeks after Paris," noted Mantero.

As for trends, breezy and filmy fabrics with fluid hands and uneven surfaces, along with rustic cottons, silks and linen blends, continued to get the nod from buyers. In general, solids, burnt-out designs and tone-on-tone jacquards were the most popular looks, but romantic floral prints in pastel watercolors also attracted attention. The ubiquitous African-inspired safari and batik designs continue to be safe buys.

The color wheel encompasses an abundance of tones -- sands, ivories, butters and cappuccino browns, all important as naturals; fresh pastels and dusty roses, and in brighter or deeper shades, deep chocolate browns, brick reds and sun-drenched oranges and yellows.

At Terraneo, burn-out tiny floral designs on linen and silk blends, along with tissue-thin silk and rayon jacquard blends, were reported as bestsellers among U.S. buyers.

Ratti presented its usual broad collection of classic printed silks and cottons, but the newest looks were soft silk and linen blends with dyed-out African designs in sunny tones. According to a Ratti spokeswoman, an organdy with watercolor floral designs also performed well.

The news at Etro was linen blended with Tencel, according to Kean Etro.

"By mixing linen with Tencel, we can contain the price. We have been getting positive reactions on this fabric because it is soft and has an antiquated look," Etro said.

Rustic cottons with two-tone leaf patterns in navy and sand performed well among European buyers, Etro said, while his U.S. clients opted for a textured rayon and linen blend with a crisp hand."In general, buyers opted for dark earth tones and sands, but our U.S. buyers liked the fresh watercolors," reported Etro. Bold rose prints in dusty pastels and brightly colored South American designs were also strong sellers.

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