By  on February 22, 1994

NEW YORK -- Beppe Spadacini is lightening up these days -- or at least his designs are.

Como's premier textile designer exhibited his change of perspective here during a recent visit to preview his artwork for prints for spring and fall 1995. Romantic flowers, shells, Indonesian batiks and ethnic graphics from central Africa are major themes this season, and they're all done in very light natural colors -- ecru, beige, sand, coffee -- mixed with black, as well as a range of pastels. It's a departure from the bright, sophisticated tropicals that Spadacini has been known for and that turn up in designs from top international fashion houses -- including Missoni, Gianfranco Ferre, Hanae Mori, Gottex and Adrienne Vittadini -- as well as textiles from firms in Italy and New York. "We buy his original artwork," says Silvia Canepa, director of Canepa of America, the U.S. sales office of Canepa SpA, Como. "We like what he does, and our customers like them, too. We print them on different qualities of silk and cotton."

A secondary objective of the trip was to find licensees for printed scarves, ties, leather goods and other accessories. These are sold in Spadacini's own Milan, Bangkok and Singapore boutiques, along with his apparel line, which will be shown for the first time at MODIT February 25 in Milan. In addition, Itochu International Inc., the Japanese trading company, sells Spadacini's creations to boutiques and department stores in Japan.

During an interview, Spadacini offered some views of the industry. He blames the poor health of the European print business on the overabundance of trends flooding the markets.

"There's no one trend or two, like there was earlier in Europe," he said. "It's 30 years that I have my studio, but in the last two years, I have not seen anything like this before -- too many trends, with too much ethnic, hippy, punk, tropical exotics and African. It creates a lot of confusion. Apparel designers and the textile industry are doing too much at the same time. Customers get confused and they don't know what to buy. You can see business is not good."Nor does Spadacini think that it's an easy problem to resolve. "It depends on the apparel designer. When the Milano shows began, there were only one or two directions like flowers and stripes in the shows." Now, of course, every designer does his own thing.

All the state-of-the-art technology flooding the textile industry also gives Spadacini pause. "When you make an illustration by hand, it's different," the designer said. "But the other way, the design is sterile and dull. This has become a big problem." Recently Spadacini has had copyright problems with apparel and textile companies who are photocopying illustrations from art books he has published and reproducing them on fabrics.

On a more optimistic note, Spadacini willingly shared his predictions for fall 1995. Color, he promised, "will be like the colors of the Biba department store in London in the Sixties -- wine, purple, dark blue, black and fuchsia." Using that palette, the designer plans to do Art Deco-style geometrics and paisleys with a Russian feeling, embellished with Victorian flowers. Spadacini also noted that the big trend in Italian mills is viscose solids and jacquards, which are then printed. And finish is very important, especially new treatments like stone washing and sanding.

However, it's a fiber that's really captured Spadacini's imagination. "The most amazing material I found is Tencel," he said. "You can do anything with it. I have used it in my men's sportswear for shirts, jeans and jackets and it's good for prints. You can make jacquards...anything you want."

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