FLORENCE, Italy — With the consumer economy on shaky ground around the world, demand for the high-end European yarns on sale at this month’s Pitti Filati show was soft.

While executives said that a pickup in the economy would be the surest way to boost their business, they acknowledged that there hasn’t been a lot of evidence lately that one is on the way. That has them pushing hard to develop innovations that, in the oxymoronic words of one exhibitor, could lead to products that were "a luxury but a necessity."

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