MILAN — Soft handbags in strong vivid colors and voluminous shapes, often embellished with shiny details, were some of the key trends at Milan’s four-day leather goods exhibition Mipel.
Roberto Ricci, who researches trends for AIMPES, Italy’s leather goods association, said for spring-summer 2009, “chromatically, we can talk about color block and harmony obtained by assembling various colors corresponding to different parts of the bag.”
Bags are adorned with woven strips of diverse materials, fringes and wooden details. Reptile skins often feature a shiny patina and colors generally veer from neon orange or red and yellow to more earthy, vegetable colors such as olive green, honey yellow, taupe and brown. Contrasting with the large, deconstructed shapes, clutches will still be must-haves.
At Mipel, which closed Sept. 21, exhibitors and organizers were cautious about business and sales projections. AIMPES said countries such as Russia and the United Arab Emirates — where Italy’s leather goods exports in the January-to-May period grew 45.6 and 39 percent, respectively — helped balance losses in more established countries such as the U.S. and France, where sales dropped 8.3 and 11 percent, respectively. In the five months, exports amounted to 1.37 billion euros, or $2.08 billion at average exchange rates, a 6.4 percent increase compared with the same period last year.
Mipel organizers reported 17,369 visitors this season, down from 19,097 in September 2007. This season, the fair attracted 8,065 visitors from outside Italy. Giorgio Cannara, president of AIMPES, said more than 1,000 buyers came from the former Soviet Union countries such as Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and the Baltic countries. Cannara said exports for the rest of the year are expected to grow between 6 and 8 percent but forecast a continued slowdown in Italy, penalized by the negative economy and a reduced desire to spend.
“In these turbulent times, we must be more careful and think short-term strategies,” said Roberto Briccola, chief executive officer of Bric’s. This means cutting costs and “rigorous management,” he added.
Bric’s is also looking east. A store opened in Shanghai in September, another will bow in Beijing at the end of November and a unit will open in Shenyang by year’s end.
“We plan to count 15 stores in China in the next three years,” said Briccola, who is also planning openings in the Middle East — Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Dubai — next year. In tune with a trend at Mipel, Bric’s introduced its Gold collection, in soft calf with a golden hue.
David McMillan, creative director at David & Scotti, said he was “nervous about this season” because “retailers want to see things earlier, but pass orders later.”
But McMillan said he was pleased with business, singling out Germany and Spain as showing brisk sales. It will take two more years “for the psychological need to be careful with money to go away,” according to McMillan.
Like many of his peers, the designer is looking at building his business in Asia and has signed with Toyota Tsusho Corp. to design an accessories line and plans between 2009 and 2010 to open offices, a store, an Italian bistro and a boutique hotel in Shanghai, in an Art Deco villa with a walled garden next to the Four Seasons hotel, leveraging on his new partnership with Shanghai-based Simon Lu. This agreement will allow McMillan to expand in furniture and jewelry design.
For spring, the brand showcased a collection dubbed “eco-ethnic luxury” made with “earth-friendly materials” such as raffia, linen and vegetable-dyed hides. African geometrics and other exotic ethnic patterns, weaves, applications and laser cutouts embellished the soft bags in a palette of ivory, sand, dark brown and black, with touches of washed-out mauves, aquamarine, oranges and yellows.
Braccialini also pursued earthy designs, with canvas bags with floral prints and satchels with ethnic images reminiscent of the Amazon forests. Controlled by Antichi Pellettieri SpA, the Mariella Burani Fashion Group SpA leather division listed on the stock exchange, Braccialini is also focused on ecological fashion through the license of the Amazonlife brand: a new collection of bags and accessories that are made of natural, recycled and environmentally friendly materials.
Lorenzo Braccialini, in charge of communications, said the company does not foresee slowing down in the short-term and that “even if there is a more contained growth, everything is already planned for 2009.” The firm is also working on new headquarters in Scandicci in Tuscany, with vertical gardens and solar panels.
At Principe, the company’s licensed Killah line showed a new travel collection with signature allover patterns. Redwall harked back to the Eighties with a bright fuchsia and orange crocodile print or a faux snake pattern. Tardini, which uses alligator, introduced a zebralike pattern with trimmings in vivid red or yellow.