MILAN — Italian exhibitors unfurled new fabric trends at Milano Unica, while currency issues cast a shadow over the fair's four-day run as the dollar fell to an all-time low against the euro, at around $1.40.
Expressing frustration over the dollar's latest decline at the textile show, Italian fabric executives said the weakened currency threatened 2007's sales upturn and expected increases in 2008.
News of the depreciated exchange rate dampened statistics released by the Italian Federation for Textiles and Fashion, showing Italian textile exports grew 2.3 percent for the first quarter of 2007, compared with the same period in 2006, to total 1.6 billion euros, or $2.23 billion.
The figures prove the Italian textile sector, which had managed to fight its way out of a five-year battle to survive in the face of cheaper Asian production and the euro's robust value, has managed to stay on the road to recovery mapped in 2006, when sales rose 1.5 percent to hit just over 9 billion euros, or $12.5 billion.
In light of the exchange rate, many mills increased fabric prices by as much as 30 percent or cut profit margins.
"We raised prices last year," said Davide Crotti, chief executive officer of Silanco. "Now they're stable, but it's really hard to sell to the Americans today. In the past, when the market was at a peak you could predict for how many years it would last. Now everything is uncertain."
Beppe Pisani, president of Ideacomo and mill Serikos, said, "Some mills are sacrificing profit in order to keep American sales, but it's only a matter of months they can keep that up. For us and other silk producers, the exchange rate has seen the American bridge market customers disappear."
Many mills reported stronger demand from the domestic and other European markets helping to recoup lost American and Japanese market sales.
"It's not only the dollar, but also the yen, which also affects the Korean market," said Riccardo Marini, president of Prato-based Marini Industrie. "But Europe is going very well, our summer 2008 orders were up. I've seen some American clients here and they placed orders. They appreciate the product quality, so they buy because they have no other alternative."Andrea Barontini, vice president of Lanificio Marcolana, said, "I'm happy to see medium-priced European lines picking up after many years. Northern Europe and Scandinavia are especially interested in using Italian quality fabrics again."
Bartontini said as a result, the mill's sales of 28 million euros, or $39.1 million, in 2007 were expected to spike by double digits next year.
Spearheading the fabric trends for fall-winter 2008-2009 at the show, which ran Sept. 11 to 14, were double-face fabrics, which were classic weaves on one side and coated or infused with lab-born yarns on the other.
Marini Industrie presented a wool and nylon double-jacquard fabric that was felted black on one side with a silver diamond design on the reverse. Luxury sportswear fabric line Ospiti Del Mondo showed outerwear-weight waxed cotton, the surface coated with polyester to look like grainy leather.
Coated fabrics also featured at Lanificio del Casentino — dark green, gray and black tweeds and herringbone wool and cashmere and silk blends — were given shimmering bronze and gold laminated surfaces, while others were blended with polyester to resemble cracked patent leather.
Buyers were keen to sample the new textiles. Min Htoon, designer for the Oslo-based women's wear line Ricco Vero, said he sourced many of the fabrics for next fall's collection.
"We loved the PVC-coated fabrics, Art Deco print silks and wools made more modern with polyester," Htoon said.
Marioboselli Jersey showed double-face wool, silk and viscose fabrics in antique pink, champagne, beige and burnt orange tones. One wool and viscose cloth was padded and another double-sided wool fabric bonded on the loom with a nylon thread.
"Jersey will continue to grow for at least another two seasons," said Federico Boselli, ceo of the mill. "Clients are getting more adventurous in how they use the fabric."
Boselli said sales for the mill were up by 65 percent for the first half of the year and he forecast to close 2007 with sales up 30 percent to 20 million euros, or $27.9 million.
Silanco showed 10-gauge chunky wool and polyester jersey for coats and jackets, as well as ultrafine wool and acrylic blends for dresses, in black-and-white and ecru floral, animal, Art Deco and Liberty style prints.Guglielmo Miani, vice president of Larusmiani, said clients had increased production of winter garments made from cotton by 30 to 40 percent. The mill showed a new cashmere-feel, thicker-weight cotton tweed and small check for pants and jackets, alongside double-face denim stretch fabrics.
"With the trend of minimalist fashion, there's a crossover with men's and women's fabrics," Miani said. "Casual denim has developed into luxury sportswear."
Miani projected 2007 volume to rise 8 percent to 20 million euros, or $27.9 million.
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