By  on February 2, 2010

FLORENCE — Yarn producers at the Pitti Filati trade fair braced for a volatile market amid concern about soaring costs for raw materials in an industry struggling with economic uncertainty.

The yarn fair, which ended its three-day run at the Fortezza da Basso here on Friday, showcased collections for spring 2011 that focused on a return to classic fibers coupled with a sporty high-tech twist and customized production runs.

Attendance increased 2 percent to 4,000 compared with January 2009 and offered hope to the Italian yarn industry, which experienced a 17.6 percent sales decrease last year, according to trade organization Sistema Moda Italia.

“Cashmere prices have risen by almost 20 percent,” said Luciano Bandi, yarn division director for Loro Piana, who was echoed by Zegna Baruffa, one of Italy’s biggest spinners. “We’d like to adjust our prices, but our customers won’t accept increases.”

Alfredo Botto Poala, president of Zegna Baruffa, said, “Wool prices are also high because the Australian dollar is increasing in value. As raw material costs are soaring, we’re not in a position to lower prices, despite customer demands.”

Scottish cashmere producers Todd & Duncan remain confident that rising costs won’t pose a threat to business under new Chinese parent company Ningxia Zhongyin.

“A big boost to our company is that we no longer have to worry about sourcing our raw materials,” managing director Ian McGrattan said. “It has allowed us to look at the business itself, such as the reorganization of our sales force.”

Cariaggi, the fine-yarn producer, ended 2009 down 15 percent compared with the previous year.

“The business suffered last year,” said Cristiana Cariaggi, communications manager and board member. “Cariaggi’s prices have always been at the top end of the industry, so we’re happy about the current prevailing mood for quality and we have continued to invest in the company and its innovation.”

The Marche-based company showcased new worsted fibers, dubbed Thrill and Breeze, which offer a modern crisp finish like that of cotton. Similar textures were previewed at Loro Piano.

“Customers are requesting dry handles, crepe-like finishes, which offer a fresh feeling for the wearer,” said Bandi of Loro Piana.

Made-to-measure and novelty yarns were cited throughout the fair for their popularity with buyers.

“The United States is a good export market for us,” said Federico Gualtieri, executive vice president of Filpucci. “Every year we’re doubling sales and we mostly work with customers through customized product.”

U.S. sales for 2009 were 10 million euros, or $13.9 million at average exchange.

Fancy yarn producer Filpucci introduced 22 new yarns during the fair, including shimmering crisp fabrics that offer a more sculptural look on finished garments. The Prato-based company ended last year up 8 percent compared with 2008.

Novelty was also stressed at Lineapiu and Loro Piano.

“Customers are returning to quality yarn,” said Gianluca Nardi, sales executive for Lineapiu Group USA, which offered fluid viscose yarns and mélange cottons. “Despite higher prices, they are willing to pay for quality and something particular to them.”

Loro Piana offered special compositions of yarns such as silk and cotton “to create a unique customized product; Colors are more or less the same, but the shades are different,” Bandi said of the 2011 spring palette.

The company showcased denim-inspired shades of blues alongside natural hues, as did Zegna Baruffa, which offered a varied blue spectrum inspired by blends of traditional artwork and tribal influences. Cariaggi also pushed an array of blue shades alongside teasers from their fall 2011-12 collections.

“We see blue as a unisex color and a return to this hue — it’s young and sporty,” Cariaggi said.

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