By and  on February 5, 2008

Italian Trade Commission president Umberto Vattani said his country's textile industry is facing the challenges of doing business with the U.S. by emphasizing its expertise and offering distinctive, innovative product.

Vattani said during an interview at I-Texstyle at the Première Vision Preview textile trade show in New York last month that exports of Italian textiles have soared despite price pressures caused by the euro's strong position against the dollar.

In the first 11 months of 2007, $500 million in textiles was exported, an increase of more than 10 percent from 2006. Vattani said Italian manufacturers are adjusting their costs to accommodate the weakened dollar.

"We don't believe the U.S will fall into recession," he said. "It's a big country. Maybe the problem is the exchange rate."

I-Texstyle launched seven years ago in an effort to make product available for U.S. buyers before the runway shows in Europe. Of the 112 exhibitors, half were Italian. Vattani said the tenets of Italian design are quality, details and combining aesthetic value with performance.

To promote Italian-made goods, the ITC feted its new Made in Italy TV, print and radio ads by honoring the campaign's face, Isabella Rossellini, with the organization's first Life in I style Icon Award. The ceremony, hosted by Esquire, Harper's Bazaar and Town & Country magazines, was held in the Hearst Tower's 44th-floor penthouse and featured Rossellini musing about how Italian she really is, even if she is half-Swedish — her mother was actress Ingrid Bergman and her father director Roberto Rossellini.

"I have lived in the U.S. for many years, but am always an Italian at heart," Rossellini told the crowd, as she accepted her Faraone Mennella-designed award.

She recalled how the perception of Italians has changed since she first arrived in the U.S. in the Seventies, adding that these days, people associate the country more with Fifth Avenue and Beverly Hills.

When it came to pinpointing what exactly made the Italian lifestyle so unique, Rossellini invoked neighboring France for the right words.

"It's what the French call the joie de vivre," she said. "It's the happiness, the well-being, the comfort."Vattani said, "We want to show that Made in Italy is not only within reach of the privileged. Elegant, exquisite taste and design are affordable to all."

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