MILAN — Italian leather goods manufacturers showed fall-winter collections that were all about experimenting with embellishments and treatments, and relied on traditional craftsmanship in a drive to boost business at Mipel.

This story first appeared in the March 30, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The four-day fair closed here March 7.

Giorgio Cannara, president of Mipel and Aimpes, the industry association that organizes Mipel, said that amid the weak economy Mipel exhibitors were “leveraging on fashion, combined with an artisanal tradition” for which they are known.

Although the “difficulties outside Italy at the end of the year weighed heavily on the industry’s performance,” Cannara said exports in the first three quarters of 2008 totaled 3.08 billion euros, or $4.56 billion at average exchange rate, up 3.3 percent compared with the same period in the previous year. Sales to the U.S. dropped 14 percent, balanced by a 22 percent growth in Russia and a 30 percent rise in the United Arab Emirates.

Main trends at Mipel included animal hides, often treated with colors and contrasting graphic motifs; patent leather in vivid hues, such as red or plum; appliqué embellishments, such as flowers, fringes or studs, and details like metal buckles, wooden or bone rings and buttons. Shapes varied from evening clutches and retro vanity cases to soft and roomy shopping bags. The color palette included earthy browns, from dark chocolate and toffee to walnut and mahogany, along with red, deep purple and plum and ice, acid green and fuchsia.

The show had 15,304 visitors, a 16 percent decline compared with a year ago. Of the total, 7,760 were from Italy. Mipel registered a 23 percent slide in visitors from outside Italy, including decreases of 24 percent from Russia and 26 percent from the U.S. However, attendance from Japan grew 12 percent to more than 1,000.

Cannara said Mipel performed in line with expectations and added that holding it simultaneously with fur show Mifur, eyewear show Mido and show exhibition Micam for the first time was positive, despite the “unhappy economic moment.” The events drew 66,492 visitors.

David McMillan, founder and designer at David & Scotti, was negative about timing and costs of Mipel, lamenting the clash with Premiere Classe, which kicked off March 6.

David & Scotti’s multicultural collection was in sync with the embellishments trend, showing soft totes and sacks adorned with pieces of leather cut and placed by hand to form a geometric design, multicolored African or Polynesian patterns, and delicate leather knots or round petals.

Paolo Amato, owner of century-old Leu Locati, said the way to overcome such a difficult moment is “to do things nobody does anymore.” The company, which provides made-to-order bags for royalty and Hollywood celebrities and produces for designer brands, is also known for its needlepoint wrist bags. Locati looked to the past and showed structured bags sewn entirely by hand, which is a 30-hour process. Evening clutches are also the Milan-based company’s forte, and for next fall, Locati showed models made with titanium blended with silk or stainless steel, and velvet adorned with Swarovski details.

Braccialini contrasted romantic and modern elements with precious inlaid works, multicolored mosaic appliqués, soft napa flowers with ruches, fringes and large square zigzag patchworks to highlight the value of Italian handmade craftsmanship.

Nives Zanotti, who designs Via Repubblica, opted for refined buckles, studs, locket closures and minimal metal details to complement suede, calf, pony, crocodile and Nabuk handbags in chocolate brown, butter, burgundy or purple.

Tosca Blu revisited one of its styles, a 10-year-old structured tote in glittery, ruche patent in black cherry and sea blue.

The Tuscan company I Santi, which distributes the American Rampage line in Italy, showed soft quilted nylon messenger or shopping bags with a down effect, at times embellished with tiny studs. There were also boiled wool totes with a checkered Scottish pattern in burgundy or blue.