MILAN — A pair of ready-to-wear shows here, held concurrently Oct. 3-6, showcased a range of looks from edgy to classic. Although many vendors said a lot of the buyers were from Italian retailers, an international array of buyers turned out to do some scouting for new names and frequently left orders.

Here’s a report from both shows.

WHITE

Leading buyers agreed the breakaway White fashion fair has become the city’s main theater for cutting-edge apparel.

Now in its third edition, the fair was held at the Superstudio Più exhibition space in Via Tortona, a 15-minute shuttle ride from the city’s fairground.

In all, 5,800 visitors passed through the turnstiles, up by 24 percent since fall 2002. Foreign guests almost doubled to 1,521, while U.S. representatives increased by 41 percent to 96 buyers.

Organizers said the crowd included representatives from Barneys New York and Bergdorf Goodman, Colette in Paris, 10 Corso Como here, Lane Crawford in Hong Kong and Harrods in London.

“White is a great place to research new designers, and I bought bags from Milanese company Aristolasia, and dresses from the emerging Indian designer, Varun Bahl,” said Gianni Amati, owner of the trendsetting Leam boutique in Rome. “However, I’d like to see even more exhibitors at the fair next time.”

But Piero Costa, the new president of fair organizers Efima, said, “144 exhibitors showed at this event and we have no intention of increasing that number dramatically, as our main objectives are not commercial but promotional. This year, around 40 percent of the exhibitors were new, while we maintained the size. The number and quality of buyers attending the show is proof that the formula works.”

The most notable trends were tailored looks and conceptual styles, reminiscent of Eighties Japanese designs, but withmore body-conscious cuts. Many items — like reversible skirts and jacket-skirts — allow the customer to use a single piece on different occasions, reflecting today’s hectic lifestyles and increased price consciousness. Details have become more important, with unusual fabrics, handprints, clever pleating, sparkling sequined patterns, embroidery and extralong belts adding an edge to many designs. Black, white and off-pastels were the leading colors, although brighter shades have not disappeared.“All the most important buyers pass through this show,” said Guglielmo La Tona, sales manager at emerging Italian line Two Flowers. “We’ve taken orders from Spanish, Greek, Italian and British stores, but U.S. customers tend to buy direct from our agent, Massimo Caronna, in New York. Our clients include Bloomingdale’s and Bergdorf Goodman.”

Shirts and capri pants with whimsical floral embroideries and applications on pastel linens and cottons were among Two Flowers’ bestsellers at White.

At Bibimaizoon, an edgy, conceptual line now in its third season, staff confirmed that the fair has become a magnet for trendsetting buyers.

“We’ve seen Sotris of Athens, L’Eclaireur of Paris and Taboo of New York and have found new clients in Lebanon, Japan and Belgium,” said export sales manager Sonia Blagojevic.“Buyers are looking for unique pieces and mini collections. Price is very important.”

This season’s range featured one-of-a-kind pants made from recycled fabrics and a sleeveless shift dress, inspired byJapanese Kendo trousers. Wholesale prices ranged from $55 for T-shirts to $220 for jackets.

Daniela Bizzi, who has a namesake line and happens to be the mother of White’s art director, Massimiliano Bizzi, said the fair had become a focal point for Italian and international buyers. While such leading Italian stores as Biffi of Milan and Penelope of Brescia had passed by her company’s stand, she said most sales took place at the Milan showroom.

“Some buyers are still looking for the used look, but that is over. Sartorial pieces are coming in. This year the key to my collection is transformation: styles that can be adapted for work or for eveningwear.”

A reversible, piece-dyed silk skirt, hand-painted in a contrasting color on one side, had attracted attention.

Fulvia Marengo, designer of Flu’s Ear, agreed that flexible styles would be important for spring.

“People want practical, adaptable clothes, like a lace top that can be worn with jeans and sneakers or over a silk dress,” she said. “Surprisingly, extra-wide trousers have sold best — I had expected Eighties leggings to take over. Lace caftans and one-of-a-kind vintage scarves used as belts on skirts and pants were also very popular.”Marengo said she had seen key buyers from France and Italy, but few from the U.S. “However, we’ve just started working with a new showroom, Seedhouse of New York, so we expect to increase sales in North America,” she added.

Fabio Renzetti and Luca Cellino, co-owners of year-old accessories producer Aristolasia, said they had taken numerous orders for cutting-edge bags at White. “Buyers make large, instant orders for accessories. They have fewer problems than with clothing, since fit is not an issue,” he said. “We showed at the Light section at MilanoVendeModa last season, but now believe that White is Europe’s leading trends fair.”

The brand’s trademark multipleated bags in spring green napa, and bags incorporating vintage scarves, had beensnapped up by buyers across the globe.

MILANOVENDEMODA

Sporty, washable knits and updated ceremonial wear dominated shopping lists for American buyers at the second edition of the revamped MilanoVendeModa bridge fair, held at the Milan Fairground,which was revived this year to replace the long-standing MoMi show. Reactions from vendors were mixed.

“MVM’s core business is classic, though there are some contemporary and ‘scouting’ areas,” said Armando Mammina, director of fair organizer Expo CTS. “For this edition, the main innovation was the introduction of the On Stage fashion shows featuring looks from 20 exhibitors twice a day for the first three days. They were very popular withbuyers, though overall, we had fewer visitors than expected.”

In fact, 9,746 buyers representing 6,221 companies attended the show, down from 11,310 buyers at the inaugural edition last spring, though this might be because of seasonal factors. About 70 percent of the buyers were Italian, with the rest coming mostly from the U.S., Great Britain, France, Spain, Greece, Russia, the Czech Republic and Japan. In all, 300 exhibitors representing 330 brands showed in 290,600 square feet of exhibition space.

Exhibitors came away with mixed reactions.

“There’s a lot more interest here than at Atmosphere in Paris, perhaps because we’re an Italian brand,” said Claudine Chiarella, a designer at Monica Bianco, which had moved from the classic Trend area to the contemporary Light section to better display this season’s youthful collection of bright lace skirts, polkadotdresses and sleeveless leather jackets with pop-culture prints.“This edition has been less busy, with fewer visitors, particularly from the Far East,” said Riccardo Viglione, designer at Chocolat, a five-season-old apparel line showing pastel-colored T-shirts, jeans and linen dresses with floral embroideries and applications in the Trend section. “However, over 100 Italian boutiques have expressed interest and we’ve taken 150 orders,” he said. “We’ve also seen a couple of American buyers and will definitely show here again.”

First time exhibitor Daniela Basile, designer and owner of rtw line Acquachiara Party, said she had taken 50 to 60 orders at MVM. “New clients included Taffeta, [a South Carolina retailer], which ordered skirts in embroidered silk tulle with colored sequins and cross-over tops in silk taffeta. Our prices, from about $100 to $350, are very attractive. But I think there is some category confusion at MVM — I’m not sure why we’re in the [contemporary] Light section, or how stands in the Luxury or Trend sections are allotted.”

Dollar figures are converted from euros at current exchange.

In the Luxury area, Flavio Nava, general manager of $15 million knitwear firm Tricot Chic, said he had doubts about showing at the next edition of the fair.

“We sold 6,000 pieces at this edition —ranging from elaborate knits for the classic luxury market to trendier black pieces with fluorescent details — but these were mostly to Italians who could have come to our showroom. The quality of buyers has gone down, though Bosco dei Ciliegi, the trendsetting Moscow store, was here. We took part in the fashion shows but they needed to be better advertised and were expensive. I’m 99 percent certain that this willbe our last season at MVM, but we will continue to show in Paris.”

Still, the fair remains a valid window for spotting trends in the evolving classics market.

“There’s a return to a cleaner, more essential chic with a single detail or flash of color that gives character,” said Silvia Noé, sales manager at knitwear company Marsil. “The future is practical elegance, and U.S. buyers in particular want washable knits, like our sporty viscose cardigans with contrasting silk trims. Colors are black or white mixed with fuchsia, orange, turquoise or acid green.”“Trends-wise, things are confused and this influences buyers,” said Danila Borona, owner-designer of knitwear company Bidibò. “But it will certainly be a colorful summer with orange and pink very popular. Details are also more important. At the fair, we took an order from a new U.S. client, Mélange, from Santa Monica, Calif., for simple lines with interesting details — including a bolero cardigan with kid mohair stitching, and a black merino cardigan withfringe collar.”

Buyers also were placing orders for tops spangled with sequins, knits with interesting finishes and Eighties silhouettes. There was a preference for higher waistbands on pants, and wider legs were still selling well.

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