By  on October 16, 2006

MILAN — The appetite for Italian leather goods is not slowing down, with Asia, Russia and the Middle East continuing to drive imports.

Mipel, the international four-day leather goods exhibition that closed here on Sept. 24, reflected this brisk pace of business.

"Things are looking good," said David Dewar McMillan, designer at David & Scotti, which showed large, soft bags with hand-carved cow-bone details and bags made with woven shoelaces.

McMillan, an Australian now based in Florence who works with artisans around the world for his handcrafted bags, said he is opening a design studio in Shanghai as he enters the Chinese market.

At the opening press conference, AIMPES, the Italian leather goods association, said that in the first six months of the year, exports grew 56 percent to Russia, 42 percent to the Arab Emirates and 56 percent to South Korea. Business in Japan and the U.S. grew 5 percent, consolidating a positive trend in 2005. The industry's exports totalled 1.1 billion euros, or $1.3 billion at current exchange, in the first half, with a 15.8 percent growth in value and a 10.4 percent growth in volume.

The 90th edition of Mipel reported a total of 22,479 visitors, up 9 percent from a year ago. The exhibition was held once again at the new Massimiliano Fuksas-designed Rho-Pero fairgrounds, just outside of Milan, together with footwear show Micam. This season, however, both were scheduled to run at the same time as apparel exhibition Milano Vende Moda, a nod to the growing synergies between the different fashion industries.

"There is a new, bubbly mood," said Giorgio Cannara, president of Mipel. "The clouds have not disappeared, but we can look to the future with more hope."

The number of visitors from Russia and Germany grew 47 percent and 47.9 percent, respectively, while Japan represented a 10 percent increase in visitors. Although business with the U.S. is growing, the number of American visitors dropped 10 percent.

Bags were generally large and soft, with natural-looking embellishments, such as tone-on-tone embroideries or laser-cut openwork. Presenting accessories for next spring-summer, Mipel showed a lot of raffia and a number of wicker baskets, but there were also totes in metallic hues or with silver or golden metallic accents.

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