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Italian Mills Seek Better Second Half

Mills set to show at Milano Unica look to improve quality and service.

MILAN — The fall 2014 season is expected to bring a gust of fresh air to Italian high-end textile companies that are gearing up to unveil their collections at the three-day textile trade show Milano Unica, opening here Sept. 10.

“We forecast a second semester even more positive compared to last year,” said Loro Piana chairman Pier Luigi Loro Piana. “Of course, before confirming this we have to wait for the end of the sales campaign, but we are very optimistic.”

Loro Piana’s confidence is reinforced by the recent entry of luxury group LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, which in July bought an 80 percent stake in Loro Piana for 2 billion euros, or $2.6 billion.

While Loro Piana listed China as one of the most promising markets for expansion, Japan and the U.S. are in the target of the Marzotto Group, which controls a series of high-end textile labels, including Marzotto Tessuti and silk specialist Ratti.

Marzotto Group chief executive officer Sergio Tamborini said American companies are now “reviewing their strategies” and returning to a higher-end, quality product, adding that “also small and medium-sized North American fashion companies are buying only Italian fabrics.”

However, manufacturing quality fabrics is not enough to be competitive on the international market, according to Tamborini.

In an industry where big companies are based on a capital-intensive business, “products are not undisputed kings, but we have to get used to improving some elements of the service.” Consequentially, “a reasonable production time has become a sine qua non of the existence of certain products,” Tamborini added.

Balancing high-end quality with fast deliveries is one of the textile business’ biggest challenges, according to Lanificio F.lli Cerruti president Nino Cerruti.

“It’s important to clearly affirm that it takes time to make well-done products,” Cerruti said.

After a temporary interest of fashion brands in fabrics made by Chinese companies, “which guarantee low prices, but deliver bad quality and service at the same time,” Cerruti is seeing a renewed strong attention toward high-end Italian products.

“I think this is a magic moment for Italy, which has to take advantage of it,” said Woolmark global strategy adviser Fabrizio Servente. “Although the national market is still suffering a lot, there are excellent signs of recovery coming from the export markets.”

Giovanni Germanetti, head of Lanificio di Tollegno’s textile department, said, “This season is expected to go better than the previous,” with positive signs coming from all markets except Italy, “which is completely stuck.”

For fall 2014, Tollegno focused on luxury fabrics because “we see that the market is concentrating on the high-end segment of the offer,” Germanetti said.

 

Accordingly, the company developed a new carded flannel fabric blending wool and cashmere that is available in 50 mélange colors, including greens, burnt browns and natural hues. At Milano Unica, Tollegno will also present silk, also mixed with cashmere, with a needle-punching effect.

Milan-based Alcantara, known for its suedelike technical fabrics, is also setting the tone for excellence.

“We are expecting growth, especially in the luxury and premium segment, in line with 2012’s revenues, which were up 55 percent [compared with the previous year],” said Alcantara president and ceo Andrea Boragno.

Among the reasons for the company’s success, he said, was Alcantara’s strong focus on sustainability.

“Alcantara is among the few really sustainable materials — it’s a non-animal-origin product, and it got the carbon-free certification four years ago,” Boragno said. “The fashion industry can’t ignore this issue anymore. Customers are getting more and more conscious of what they choose and buy, and it’s fundamental to take a stance on this problem.”

Alcantara also invested in sophisticated technology to deliver high-end products. At the fair, the company will unveil four collections, named Belleville, Highlands, Ulaanbaatar and Fjord, all dominated by printed fabrics showing patterns spanning from tapestry motifs and Gothic graphics to the images of North European landscapes.

For next winter, Botto Giuseppe, which according to ceo Silvio Botto Poala aims to post revenues of 60 million euros, or $80 million, in 2013, is concentrating on fabrics guaranteeing high-end performance. The Biella-based mill is going to launch the new “Elastic Shield” label, including wool natural stretch fabrics finished with the “multicontrol weather” treatment, making them waterproof, antistain and antiwrinkle.

“There are fabrics which can be used for blazers and suits and have been designed to meet the needs of contemporary travelers,” said Botto Poala. In addition, the company will unveil another new range, named “Liquid Wool,” including wool cloths with a “young look” made shiny through a treatment eliminating wool fibers’ flakes.