MILAN — Last month’s fashion and accessories show Moda Prima was the latest fair affected by SARS.

Buyers and visitors, numbering 3,455,attended the fair to see what 68 exhibitors had to offer for next spring, representing a 4 percent drop from 2002’s event. The overall drop in attendance was blamed on SARS — with a dramatic 56 percent decrease in visitors from Hong Kong and China.

But attendance from other countries rose. Japan’s contingent was up 2.2 percent; Great Britain’s, by 21.4 percent, and Belgium’s, by 14.3 percent.

The three-day Moda Prima showcased forays in knitwear, clothing and fashion accessories. Trends included sports-appliquéd jerseys, handpainted leather apparel, shiny light viscose fibers in oranges and greens, and belts trimmed with mother-of-pearl shells.

The sporting theme was predominant at Ella Lu, where designer and owner Graziella Costantini had embellished her knitwear collections with college football-style appliqués, ribbons, embroidery and the Italian flag. Costantini said the low prices for her product, starting at about $16.40 (converted from euros at current exchange), had attracted buyers from Korea and Australia.

Classic separates were the vision for Venetian company Maglificio Venezia, which produces under its year-old label Carla B. Sales manager Martina Lazzarini said the company’s knitwear was in demand from private labels including Burberry and Austin Reid.

Lazzarini added sales stayed even last year compared with 2001, but the company hopes to improve its current turnover of about $4.6 million with private label expansion in the European market.

Mehari echoed runway trends with its champagne satin bomber jackets and ruched jersey draped tops. Commercial director Stefano Scarselli said Japanese buyers were more attracted to the elaborate pieces — beaded green, pink and yellow tops that matched jade green shantung silk Fifties-style pants.

Scarselli said business had remained steady in the last year.

“Our sales results were the same and from what we hear, we should be satisfied,” he said.

At Barone, leather and denim dominated the stand. Swarovski crystals and handpainted water lillies and butterflies embellished skirts and bags in soft brown suede, and patchwork brown leather newsboy caps were also selling. Orders were brisk for leather wrap skirts with mother-of-pearl shells sewn on the hems.The Florence-based company said business was solid, reflecting an increase of 20 percent in two years.

Designer for the label Leonardo Pollastri said a lot of handwork had gone into the collection and the products all had a message.

For example, “The camel and powder blue leathers are relaxing colors — a message of calm,” Pollastri said.

English buyers from Johanne Linder International attended Moda Prima to pick out and watch for new trends that hadn’t emerged in the U.K., managing director Johanne Linder said.

“We really like Qubha,” said Linder. “It has very complete collections with good colors and fabrics and trendy trimmings. We loved the chocolate browns, silver grays and the pristine whites.”

Besides its fashion knitwear collection, Qubha also had dark brown and white belts braided, decorated with buttons, pearl inserts and zippers.

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