By  on February 22, 1994

FLORENCE -- The rising cost of raw materials was the big complaint at the 34th edition of the Pitti Immagine Filati yarn fair here. The good news, exhibitors say, was that with the lira continuing to be weak, the higher prices on their products caused by increased costs are not deterring U.S. buyers.

The three-day fair featuring yarns for spring-summer 1995 knitwear ran through Feb. 11.

Yarn manufacturers pinpointed the increase in fiber costs at a minimum of 15 percent and said that in some cases, they ran considerably higher. A lot of the increases are on fibers from the Far East, especially China.

As a consequence, mill executives agreed they had to raise the prices of their new yarn collections by approximately 15 percent against last year.

Most manufacturers attributed the rise to the increasing demand for knitwear yarns and growing problems in obtaining certain materials, such as cashmere.

"It's becoming difficult to find large quantities of cashmere in China," noted a spokeswoman for Loro Piana, one of the world's leading cashmere producers. "The Chinese have learned the knitwear skills and techniques. They're keeping more raw materials for themselves."

Francesco Lucchesi, general manager at Industria Italiana Filati SpA, known for its blended yarns, said: "Unfortunately, the prices of raw materials are in dollars and German marks and since the lira is so weak against these currencies, it's very hard for us to absorb the increases."

According to Andrea Lupi, yarn division manager for Lanerossi, which makes a variety of yarns in addition to its primary business in wool, the price of raw cotton has risen 30 percent within the past few months, wool increased 40 percent and silk bourette quadrupled in price.

While the higher prices will further penalize Italian buyers, who are already burdened by the country's troubled economy, the strong dollar against the lira has encouraged exports to the U.S.

"Thanks to the strong dollar, our American clients barely noticed our price increases," said Lucchesi.

Executives were enthusiastic about U.S. traffic and agreed that they had seen more U.S. buyers than a year ago and that hey were spending more."A lot of our American clients that switched their production to the less-costly Far East are now coming back to Italy," observed Lupi of Lanerossi.

Fair organizers were also enthusiastic about attendance. They reported 7,728 visitors attended, a 22 percent increase against last year. U.S. traffic increased by 37 visitors to total 97.

On the fashion front, rustic-looking linen and linen blends continue to be popular. In general, yarns are either coarse with an uneven and streaked effect or soft and fluid with shiny finishes. In showing their yarns knitted into fabrics, mills featured a variety of summery open-work stitches along with soft crepe hands, for a more informal and relaxed fashion.

While the color wheel showed rich sun-drenched hues, deep earth tones and fresh pastels, the natural sand tones remain favorite buyer choices.

At Lanerossi, a division of Marzotto SpA, the top seller was a fine wool and rayon crepe blend. Sergio Visentini, yarn division manager for Linificio Canapificio Nazionale, a linen yarn maker and another unit of Marzotto, said, "New and popular among U.S. buyers were a linen yarn with a rustic and opaque denim look and a more shiny linen jersey with a soft finish, in rich sunny tones and bronze browns."

At Loro Piana, a bestseller was an 85 percent cotton and 15 percent cashmere mouline blend in open-work stitches.

Industria Italiana Filati featured a collection filled with heavier and irregular yarns.

"The most requested yarns continue to be blends of flax and silk that weave irregular surfaces and that are young and sporty," explained Lucchesi.

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