By  on July 14, 2009

FLORENCE — Prato, Italy-based fabric producers kicked off the first edition of the Prima Moda Tessuto trade show last week after breaking away from Italian textile fair Milano Unica.

The show, which previewed winter fabrics from some 50 exhibitors, ran concurrent with Pitti Filati in the penthouse of the Fortezza da Basso fairgrounds. About 2,000 buyers from Japan, the U.S., Italy and other European countries in Europe attended.

Alessandro Benelli, president of Pratotrade, which organizes Prima Moda Tessuto, said the fair attracted many international visitors in town for Pitti Filati.

“This show is what our clients want, and so far, it’s been well received,” Benelli said. “The timing ahead of other textile shows is also working to our advantage.”

Bringing the trade show to home turf in Florence was expected to help many cash strapped mills cut costs.

Known for its fancy wool fabrics, the Prato area of Tuscany is suffering in the recession. The number of mills and finishing plants operating in the region has declined 37 percent to 3,592 in the last nine years. While firms continue to close, executives said mergers between mills aren’t always the answer.

“Mergers should have happened when times were good,” said Riccardo Marini, president of Marini & Cicconi. “Two sick companies don’t make one healthy one.”

Many of the mills at Prima Moda Tessuto face sharp declines in sales. “The local Prato council did an analysis of the crisis and compared it to a postwar situation,” said Raffaele Riela, vice president of Lanificio Lamberto. “We are down for sure this year.”

Ultra, a 10-year-old Prato-based mill, said sales had fallen 25 percent compared with the first six months of 2008.

“The market is putting the pressure on us to develop more textiles in the lower-medium bracket of 8 to 13 euros ($11 to $18) a meter, so we are focusing on trying to make those keeping our high quality and creativity,” said Sandro Ciardi, Ultra’s co-president.

Many exhibitors applauded Prima Moda Tessuto’s early calendar date.

“At the moment, clients are confused,” Sabina Cangioli, product manager at Lanificio Cangioli. “They don’t know what they want, so seeing ideas now, ahead of their designing schedule for the upcoming season, really helps them put things into context.”

“It’s a starting point,” added Marco Miliotti, export manager for Milior. “This early in the game we can adapt and personalize textiles, especially for our biggest clients. It saves us costs on producing extra fabrics because we are focusing on what they liked.”

Among new fabrics were floral designs, pressed mohair tweeds, such as a black and fuchsia version at Lanificio Lamberto, or flattened lustrous red coat-weight wool at Milior. Fluid lightweight blends of wool and viscose in haberdashery patterns were found at Lanificio Cangioli and were enriched with polkadot patterns at Linea Tessile Italiana.

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