European spinners preparing to exhibit at next week's Pitti Filati fair in Florence are banking on new and enlarged color palettes to ensure a strong second half of the year.
"With the exception of color, trends for lighter, fine and soft fibers more or less remain the same," said Alberto Bana, product manager of Grignasco Group. "What we need to do is build and improve on our existing quality."
Scottish spinner Todd & Duncan intends to focus on color as a key strategy for fall and winter. During Pitti Filati, running July 2 to 4, the company will unveil a new cashmere color card range — its biggest ever — entitled Out of the Blue, consisting of 57 colors within a collection of 165 stock colors. The mill also will introduce an organic cashmere range and its breakthrough "white cashmere."
James McArdle, managing director for Todd & Duncan, believes that strong trends will be "pastel tones in pale and dusty shades, punctuated by strong blues and greens such as peacock blue."
Loro Festa has overhauled its color card in preparation for the show, as well.
"Intense and deep colors such as reds, alongside new neutrals such as grays, greens and blues" will be important, said Giacomo Festa Bianchet, president and chief executive officer of Loro Festa.
Innovation remains key to survival, with organic fibers increasingly developed to ensure a foothold in a marketplace still under pressure from poor currency exchange rates.
"This has so far been a good year for Todd & Duncan," McArdle stated.
At the same time, the company is pushing ahead in the next stage of its organic cashmere initiative, and its new Eden Collection will be unveiled during the show. Produced from 100 percent organic fibers sourced from Qinghai, in northwest China, the yarns are colored with Global Organic Textile Standard-approved dyes.
Demand for organic fibers appears to be building slowly.
"So far, none of our existing American clients have asked for it, but the Japanese and some of the Europeans have," Festa Bianchet said. "We have no idea how big this market is, but we really believe there needs to be an internal standard of rules and regulations to govern these new organic yarns."The Grignasco Group also will present an environmental line that was first showcased last season. "The need to change and move from the past will be the long-term solution to economic woes," Bana said. However, Bana acknowledged that the mill is not ready to dye naturally on an industrial scale.
Loro Festa will be showcasing a superfine merino yarn that is 100 percent organic. The yarn has been certified by the Global Organic Textile Standard that also applies in the U.S., which is particularly relevant for Loro Festa as this market is the strongest for the company.
Executives agree that fine-count yarns are here to stay. "Until May 2008, Loro Festa witnessed a 5 percent increase in value compared to 2007, and, as was expected, 10 percent less in volume," Festa Bianchet said.
The company's success, he suggested, is because of "very fine yarns selling well and custom-made yarns for American clients. Customers are increasingly looking for exclusivity and our intention is to work backwards to achieve exactly what our clients want."
Italian spinning company Igea also is experiencing continued demand for finer yarns.
"We are focused on these high types of fibers," said Stefano Borsini, president of Igea. "This is a core business and can really help Igea products in general, as new fibers produced will be in this direction."
Despite this, Borsini added, "turnover is 5 percent less than 2007, and 2007 was not a good year."
Igea's key clients have indicated that forecasts for the coming seasons are weak and collections currently in-store have not sold well.
One sector that appears to be above the vagaries of the market is the premium end.
"By and large, Todd & Duncan's customers have been less affected than many by the fluctuating marketplace," McArdle said.
Bana said, "We also intend to upgrade, not into the cashmere sector, but to improve our expertise with blends such as merino wool and silk, and silk, cashmere and wool."
Festa Bianchet added, "The second half of the year is always difficult to forecast, but we continue to believe in fine cashmeres, and cashmere and silk blends, while mélanges will remain important to us."Loro Festa will be showcasing a mercerized superfine wool at Pitti Filati.
"As the fibers are mercerized, the texture is the same as cotton, giving the yarns an incredible softness and allowing color to be both bright and shiny," Festa Bianchet said. "An added value is that the yarn becomes machine washable."
Igea also aims to retain buyers' attention with fancy effects and novelty yarns using high-quality fibers such as mohair, alpaca and camel hair.
"This sector is both dynamic and fashionable and continues to attract attention," Bana said. "Italian yarns are still very high quality, but the question is, how will Italian production continue to survive weak orders and interest?"
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