By  on October 11, 2005

MILAN — A new location outside Milan did not discourage exhibitors and visitors from attending Mipel, the four-day leather goods exhibition here.

The exhibition was held in the new sprawling fairgrounds designed by Massimiliano Fuksas in Rho-Pero, about a half-hour subway ride from the center of Milan.

"The new site is fabulous," said Roberto Briccola, chief executive officer of Bric's. "The space is more rational and there are no more booths that seem to be privileged."

Others, however, claimed there was room for improvement.

"I wish organizers had ventured into a new interior design, as well, rather than sticking with the same old blue carpeting and black fixtures," said David McMillan, who designs David & Scotti.

Embellishments, vivid prints and ethnic touches were still dominant trends at the show, but there was also a return to more solid colors and subdued looks in comparison to last spring, especially on the larger shapes. More details adorned smaller bags.

"Minimalism is not back," said McMillan. "If so, it's more [seen on bags that have] an urban use and not in fashion. Embellishments are still there, but more tone-on-tone, with less contrasting detailing."

Mipel, showcasing products for spring-summer, closed Sept. 25 and drew 20,614 visitors, a 4 percent increase compared with a year ago. Giorgio Cannara, president of Mipel, said he was pleased with this edition, although he conceded it was not marked by "euphoric business, given the international recession over the past few seasons."

According to AIMPES, the Italian leather goods association, in the period between January and May, exports grew 18.2 percent compared with the same period last year, for a total value of 956.4 million, or $1.14 billion at current exchange. Exports to Japan rose 11.6 percent, 27.2 percent to Hong Kong, 41.2 percent to Taiwan and 29 percent to South Korea.

Europe also showed signs of improvement. Exports jumped 22.7 percent to Spain and 18.4 percent to the U.K.

Sales in the U.S. were flat with last year. Referring to the American market, Cannara said: "After a good 2004, business seems less dynamic, and is mainly supported by performance of travel cases, which registered a 35 percent growth." Sales of handbags in the U.S. market grew 4.2 percent.

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