By  on February 10, 2009

MILAN — Italian mills tried to lift the dark mood at Milano Unica last week with fabric collections enriched with edgy trends.

At the eighth edition of the textile show, which ran Feb. 3 to 6 at the Milan fairgrounds, talk centered on the recession, which was underscored by an 18 percent drop in exhibitors to 543. Visitor numbers were also down 20 percent to 24,000.

According to Pier-Luigi Loro Piana, Milano Unica’s new president, the industry’s downturn encouraged exhibitors to ramp up new trends for their spring-summer 2010 collections.

“Exhibitors have really put everything into these collections. We have to show newness,” said Loro Piana, adding that while mills expected to see smaller orders, most executives were hoping for late ordering.

Beppe Pisani, president of Ideacomo, Milano Unica’s silk mill sector, said the crisis has forced the Italian textile industry into standby mode, but several positive aspects have emerged. These include a drop in the price of raw materials, a more favorable exchange rate and a slowdown of fabric production in China.

“In spite of the positives, it has to be seen whether the Italian banks will be there to back the industry, and so far they haven’t,” said Pisani.

His mill, Serikos, laid on the trends with taffetas woven from a Japanese polyester yarn that produced silklike jacquards of graffiti-esque shapes and flowers. Using new dyes, printed silks in vividly colored geometric shapes appeared as if they were under glass.

Other fabrics from silk mills included a soft tulle festooned with cutout flowers of the same fabric at Zibetti & Orsini, and chiffon and satin woven with a new generation polyester for a crumpled, silk hand at Seterie Argenti.

Michele Vigano, Seterie Argenti’s chief executive officer, said the collection balanced innovative fabrics, new finishes and prints with lower prices.

“The polyester we used is superior, it mimics silk but at a lower price, which American clients have appreciated,” Vigano said.

Marioboselli Jersey expanded its services from only weaving to include apparel manufacturing. Clients can order finished garments in personalized designs made from a choice of 300 fabrics. Jerseys on show came in natural fibers like linen, cotton with a crepe hand and silk mixed with MicroModal for a slippery hand. Marioboselli Jersey also upped its men’s fabric offer with a compact jersey in jacket and bottoms weights.

“It’s a wait-and-see game,” explained Federico Boselli, ceo of Marioboselli Jersey. “If our clients sell fall in the next few weeks, we’ll get orders. The good thing about this crisis is that the dyeing plants aren’t at capacity, so we can turn around an order very quickly.”

At Ideabiella and Shirt Avenue, color and technology spearheaded men’s wear woven cloth and shirting fabrics.

Ermenegildo Zegna launched Cool Effect, a fine wool and wool-mohair blend treated in the dyeing process to block the sun’s infrared rays and render the fabric 10 degrees cooler than the outside temperature.

“Times like these call for significant newness,” said Bruno Landi, marketing director for the mill. “Yes we can always aim for finer, lighter weights, but that’s a continuous trend.”

Loro Piana added an ultrafine filament of silk to merino wool to create a lustrous and feathery summer formalwear fabric. The firm also experimented with a new lightweight water and windproof treatment applied without membranes.

At Shirt Avenue, shirting manufacturers combined new fabrics with an explosion of color. Testa led the pack with soft, washed cottons in gelato tones of raspberry, lemon and peach with small pink, white and blue stripes. Running with the Seventies theme, Testa proposed cruise ship-style shirting fabrics that featured a vertical and a horizontal band of fine blue and brown stripes on a white background, and jersey shirting fabrics in silk and cotton blends with interlocking geometric designs.

“We’ve used women’s trends and applied them to men’s fabrics,” said Gian Luca Bena, product manager at Testa. “Shirts of summer 2010 have to be fun, colorful and a pleasure to wear. We have to stir in the customer a new desire to buy.”

Following its acquisition of Borgomaneri, a fashion label founded in 1862, Oltolina launched its first collection under the line of 15 fabrics, like piqué cottons, stretch satins and poplins available in 40 sorbet-inspired colors.

“This will become a fashion fabric line,” said Massimo Parenzan, commercial director for Oltolina. “Borgomaneri was famous for its rich jacquards and that’s something we’ll explore in future collections, as well as textiles for pants and jackets.”

Other manufacturers targeted customer sensibility. Taiana treated striped cottons with aloe vera, which moisturizes the wearer’s skin for up to five washes, to be sold with extra cartridges so customers can renew the treatment at home.

“It’s tactile and easy to understand, but more importantly it gives the consumer a new reason to buy,” said Matteo Taiana, manager of Taiana’s shirting division.

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