By  on February 6, 2007

FLORENCE — Despite the recovery of the Italian yarn industry last year, many mills exhibiting at last week's Pitti Filati trade show expressed concerns about tough comparisons for 2007.

After several years of negative growth and dropping sales, 2006 marked a turnaround for the industry, which increased sales by 1.3 percent, to 3.5 billion euros, or $4.39 billion at average exchange, according to SMI-ATI, the Italian federation of textile and clothing industries.

Although many of the 116 exhibitors at the yarn fair agreed that 2006 was a better year, some said achieving similar results this year would be more difficult in light of an increase in raw materials prices and the relative weakness of the U.S. dollar versus the euro.

"It's really hard to work with clients when the dollar is 1.3 to the euro," said Silvio Botto Poala, director of Botto Poala, which increased sales in 2006 by 20 percent, to 53 million euros, or $66 million.

Stefano Borsini, president of Igea, said, "The price of cashmere and wool has increased, wool by as much as 40 percent. That really puts the brakes on clients ordering wool-blend yarns."

Most appeared resigned about the future of the Italian yarn industry.

"It's become more and more difficult," said Leandro Gualtieri, president of Filpucci. "We will never have glory days of 2002 again. More or less, this is what the market will be from now on."

Many executives noted visitors from Asian countries weren't present because show dates were close to the Chinese New Year and Shanghai's Spin Expo yarn fair. The overall number of visitors reached more than 5,300, compared with 5,269 last year, organizers reported.

Yarn trends for spring and summer 2008 included a mix of ultrafine cotton, viscose and linen, lamé spun from new blends for a softer hand, and organic cotton.

Loro Piana came to Pitti Filati with 10 new yarns, breaking from its traditional cashmere blends to present a mix of hemp, cotton, silk and linen yarns with a crepe hand. Mercerized silk was twisted into a mock mélange yarn, while other linen-silk blends when knitted had plissé and lace looks.After selling carded cashmere well for winter 2008, Botto Poala spun an extrafine carded cashmere yarn for spring-summer in 50 colors for its stock service.

"The luxury market is dictating cashmere to be more fine and more exclusive, so that's what we have put in our stock service," Botto Poala said.

The collection also included a silk, polyester and polyamide blend.

Iafil combined linen with mercerized pima cotton to get a crisp feel and created a soft lamé yarn from a blend of linen and polyamide in a range of pale blues. In December, the spinner inaugurated a knitwear laboratory with 18 knitting machines in its Milan factory, where clients can request test garments knitted with Iafil yarns.

"It's a customer service tool that also shows exactly what our yarns can do," said Stefano Salvaneschi, president of Iafil.

To cater to a growing number of clients that want value-added yarns, the spinner also launched a 100 percent organic pima Peruvian yarn called Herb, which was colored with 12 plant and vegetable dyes, including onion, ivy, madder and licorice, Salvaneschi said.

Filpucci also introduced an organic cotton yarn. The spinner packaged BioRe cotton, sourced from India and Tanzania, into hand-knitting kits that came with sachets of natural dye made from pomegranate zest, walnut mallow and Brazil wood, plus a fixing powder to set the color. Filpucci also presented a line of shiny viscose yarns blended with silk, nylon and hemp. The spinner is set to launch its second collection produced by its Filpucci Zjg mill, based in Zhangjiagang, China, where its factory has operated since July.

"It's been a very intense start-up, but with this mill, we hope to regain some ground lost on Japanese and U.S. markets," Gualtieri said.

Lanificio Del'Olivo showed a collection of mirror-like silver and green yarns spun from viscose and twisted with polyamide and makò cotton.

"We've managed to give these lamé yarns a really soft hand and that's what makes them new," said Chiara Taddeucci Sassolini, product manager for the mill.

Shiny yarns were also featured in Igea's collection, in ultrafine viscose and nylon blends in bronze, gray and beige.

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