By  on January 25, 2005

MILAN — Italian yarn producers are focused on developing high-quality yarns with distinctive characteristics to drive their business at next week’s edition of Pitti Filati, as they face economic challenges ranging from a weak dollar to the recent end of the global quota system.

Many of the Italian firms that plan to exhibit at the show — set to run Feb. 2-4 at the Fortezza da Basso in Florence — said they would remain focused on luxurious fibers, such as cashmere, silk, linen and high-quality cottons. They hope this will keep them out of head-to-head price competition with developing nations whose exports are now unrestrained.

Exhibitors also said they would be raising prices, a step described as necessary because of the decline of the dollar against the euro. On Monday, the dollar was worth 77 euro cents, compared with 78 euro cents a year ago, and well off the 94 euro cents rate of the same day in 2003.

“We will have to increase our prices by 8 to 10 percent and we hope the market is going to accept that,” said Giacomo Festa Bianchet, president of Loro Festa.

Igea also is raising its prices, a step the company said was necessary but feared might crimp sales.

“It’s still early and it could be bad,” said president Stefano Borsini. “I mean we have the dollar weaker than ever, 10 percent less value than this time last year, so the American market has really reduced for us. Prices have risen so that something that cost 20 euros a kilo costs $26, when last year it only cost $22 to $24. This year could be really difficult. I hope that I’m wrong.”  

In terms of merchandise, the show focuses on yarns destined for the spring-summer 2006 season.

Luciano Bandi, yarn division director of Loro Piana, said ultrafine yarns would be a key trend for summer 2006. His firm plans to show a fine-count, shiny linen and cashmere yarn at the show.

He said demand has waned for the nontraditional fibers some firms had turned to in recent seasons.

“We don’t trust in bamboo, hemp, yarns made of strange raw materials like soy and milk, that is more of a marketing thing in my point of view,” Bandi said. “How many meters of hemp can you sell? Everybody is saying there is no creativity and I totally agree. But nobody wants creativity. There is just a big desire for simple, quality yarns.”He said his firm was on track for slight sales growth this year.

Emilcottoni has added a new assortment of luxury yarns to its collection. It struck a deal in October with Swiss textile company Spoerry to produce yarns aimed at knitwear uses from West Indian Sea Island cotton. The new division, called Quintessance, offers cotton blended with spandex, as well as another yarn made of bamboo fibers.

“We have abandoned medium-level yarn products,” said Lorenzo Struzzi, Emilcottoni’s director. “For us today, it’s about producing the best of the highest quality. Eventually, we want to mix these yarns with other rare noble fibers like vicuna.”

Struzzi said West Indian Sea Island cotton is particularly well suited to soaking up color in the dye vat, which results in a brilliantly colored yarn. It’s been more commonly used in woven applications than knitwear.

Loro Festa also plans to offer West Indian Sea Island cotton in yarns with four different finishes: soft, crepe, shiny and mercerized. The company will also offer blends of worsted cashmere and silk in neutrals and pastel colors.

“I believe the market at the moment is about a lot of fancy knitting, more than a fancy yarn,” said Bianchet. “It’s more in the stitches and not how the yarn looks.”

At Igea, Borsini said, “The direction is a yarn that is really light and pretty, flat and crepe-like.”

The firm plans to show a simple summer collection, including a yarn called Nut — a blend of cotton, acrylic and spandex intended for sporty knitwear. Igea will also show a small bouclé yarn called Fresco that is a blend of cotton and nylon, as well as a fine, crochet-style yarn called Trina made of rayon and nylon.

At Cariaggi, the focus will be on its new yarn called “Duequarantasei,” which translates as “two-46” and refers to the yarn count. It’s a carded cashmere yarn that the firm claims is the finest gauge on the market.

The mill also plans to present two combed silk yarns called Bukara Crepe and Samarcanda Crepe that can be mixed with elastic, as well as Tureg, a cotton and silk blend aimed at decorative knits.Cariaggi’s colors for spring-summer 2006 were inspired by nature: summer flowers, water at different depths, the sky at different times of the day and leaves. Creative director Cristina Cariaggi said the company’s year-old increased stock service had produced cashmere yarns in more than 200 tone variations based on last year’s demand, a service the company intended to expand further this year.

Bianchet said the future for Italian yarn producers would lie in the ability to custom-make yarns.

“We are going to see more and more personalization in the industry,” he said. “Companies [are] asking ‘Can you do a yarn just for me?’ People want to be different from everyone else.”

Spinners said they hoped that by focusing on high-end, exclusive products, they’d be able to keep their heads above the raging waters of price competition following the lifting of quotas.

“We will search to confront a market that is becoming more difficult and competitive by adding more services for the client, as well as trying to produce a yarn that is always finer, technologically advanced and one that assures comfort and elegance,” Cariaggi said.

Borsini said he thought the competition, particularly with China, would hit  developing nations hardest.

“The end of the free quota system will give us much less problems” than the slip of the dollar, he predicted. “It will see China increase its power and absorb 95 percent of production in Indonesia, Bangladesh, the Philippines. Bangladesh was well known for its shirt business and now all of that will transfer to China.”

The Fiber Price Sheet
On the last Tuesday of each month, WWD publishes the current, month-ago and year-ago fiber prices. Prices listed reflect the cost of one pound of fiber.
Fiber
Price on1/24/05*
Price on12/27/04*
Priceon1/26/04*
Cotton46.44 cents46.79 cents69.51 cents
Wool $2.58 $2.56 $2.85
Polyester staple66 cents 63 cents57 cents
Polyester filament 76 cents 63 cents56 cents
Dec. Synthetic PPI 107.9107.5105.7
Crude Oil $48.53 $44.18 $34.94
*The current cotton price is the December average on fiber being delivered to Southeastern region mills, according to Agricultural Marketing Services/USDA. The wool price is based on the average price for the week ended Jan. 21 of 11 different thicknesses of fiber, ranging from 15 microns to 30 microns, according to The Woolmark Co. Information on polyester pricing is provided by the consulting firm DeWitt & Co. The synthetic-fiber producer index, or PPI, is compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and reflects the overall change in all synthetic-fiber prices. It is not a price in dollars but a measurement of how prices have changed since 1982, which had a PPI of 100. Oil prices reflect last week’s closing price on the New York Mercantile Exchange of future contracts for light, sweet crude oil to be delivered next month.

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