MILAN — “Let them see newness.” This was the catch cry for exhibitors at Ideabiella and Shirt Avenue, part of Italy’s textile fair, Milano Unica, which ran Feb. 12 to 14 in the city’s fairgrounds. Many mills rejuvenated their spring/summer 2009 offerings with a much-needed shot of color, and many more tweaked weaves and yarns to achieve never-before-seen designs. Product overhaul was a panacea for talk of recession and a pesky exchange rate.
Speaking from the sidelines, Pier Luigi Loro Piana said an optimistic air circled the show, “Companies exhibiting here are enjoying a good season [fall/winter 2008],” adding that for summer 2009 “everyone has renovated their product.”
Loro Piana preempted the launch of its new trademarked fabric, The Wave, by unveiling it at its Milan showroom a day before Milano Unica opened. The avant-garde mill nurtured the fabric in a yearlong process that required inventing a yarn-twisting technology complemented with tailor-made looms. The Wave is constructed with a new yarn, a combination of two merino wool super 130s fibers and an extra-fine filament of 600 silk twisted at extra-high tautness. At the booth, Loro Piana dubbed the fabrics the family-owned mill’s “new generation of textiles.” He added that by spinning the natural fibers in a new way, the end fabric eliminated silk and wool’s normal performance limitations and produced a slippery, supersoft, elastic, resistant and breathable fabric. The twisting technology allowed the mill to bump up the percentage of natural fibers in tech, sports performance fabrics. “Less nylon,” declared Loro Piana. “We need to use more natural fibers to be more environmentally friendly.”
Trabaldo Togna, which made its name on Estrato, a natural stretch fabric it created six years ago, came equipped to Ideabiella with new developments in the cloth. Applying the same Estrato weaving technique, Trabaldo Togna presented a 100 percent cashmere Estrato fabric in creamy beige that boasted 15 percent natural stretch. The mill also managed to add stretch to stiff fibers like silk and mohair in wool blends with sandy colored checks, one dressed up with a sky-blue windowpane. Trabaldo Togna added Estrato to a new weave, a shiny wool poplin that weighed 240 grams—the collection’s highlight. “We have found our niche in Estrato and we have no competitors for it. I certainly don’t see 2008 as a dark year,” said Luca Trabaldo Togna, adding the mill closed 2007 with a 20 percent hike in sales.
Wool poplins also turned up at Guabello. Over the past several seasons the Marzotto Group–owned mill has developed a traditional shirting weave using fine merino wool for a glossy looking, full-bodied handle. A midnight-blue version stood out. Working with a theme of twisting classic woven designs to make them more modern, Guabello’s collection included smoky gray, shadow stripes, revealed when the fabric was turned in the light, along with a tone-on-tone, pale-gray Prince of Wales weave visible only on close inspection.
Traditional fabrics with an off-kilter twist caught the eye of Alessandro Sartori, head designer of the Z Zegna line. “We are searching for the concept of modern tailoring—textiles that are really particular, like wool poplins, wool and silk blends, and really fine, iridescent cottons,” Sartori said. Biellese weavers took a step forward and injected modernity into their fabrics, added Sartori.
Lanificio Ermenegildo Zegna’s collection starred a vibrantly colored silk blend, called Silkskin. Zegna developed the cotton/silk double-faced fabric so that manufacturers could utilize both sides. Color was coaxed into the designs with shades of blue, beige and burnt red on one side; and madras checks, Prince of Wales and stripes on the other. “This is our way of proposing a classic and sophisticated trend,” said marketing manager Bruno Landi.
Angelico offered its version of durable wool with natural stretch—added in a finishing process—with its new line, H Tech Class, woven from super 100s. For summer 2009, the mill amplified its linen blends, including a linen/cotton in gray with a sky-blue windowpane and a dusty indigo version with a slick shantung finish. Massimo Angelico said American clients had warmed to linen blends, a fiber difficult to sell to them in the past. “Overall, American customers are buying less quantities of our fabric, but they buy consistently,” said Angelico.
Targeted at markets that celebrate weddings on a grand scale, Lanificio di Quarona’s vivid ceremonial fabrics have recently been snapped up by new Indian clients. “They are ready to spend a lot of money on a wedding and they are not afraid to dress up,” said CEO Stefano Perrotti. Lanificio di Quarona garnered new Scandinavian and French customers at the fair, looking to make disco-worthy jackets out of the mill’s iridescent silk and acetate blend fabrics in black-violet and chocolate.
Meanwhile Guglielmo Miani, vice-president of his family’s company, Larusmiani, revealed fabric sales to Chinese clients had surmounted those to the U.S. “Chinese luxury brands buy our technical cottons so as to stand out from the other products on the domestic market. What’s more surprising is they continue to increase volumes—and their currency is tied to the U.S. dollar, so it’s expensive,” said Miani. Larusmiani fine-tuned its whole textile production chain—from raw cotton through to weaving—to produce Gold, a line of high-end, super-resistant cotton and cotton stretch. Miani nicknamed the cottons “steroid textiles” because the soft, fuller-hand-feel fabrics sustained their luxurious look after many washes.
Michael Bastian chose fabrics at Larusmiani’s stand for his namesake line and the Bill Blass men’s collection. Admiring the super-compact cottons shown, Bastian said, “I am loving these, especially with the almost polished finish.” And for his color choice, “I like pale, washed-out things, almost like a laundry mistake when a white shirt gets washed with a red sock. It’s that pale, super-washed-out color.”