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FLORENCE — High-end Italian yarn producers at Pitti Filati were eyeing improvement in the second half of the year after a period of economic uncertainty that has cast a shadow over the sector.

This story first appeared in the July 23, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Spinning mills showed their fall-winter 2014-15 yarn collections at the trade fair that ended its three-day run on July 5 in the Medici rampart Fortezza da Basso.

Final figures for Italy’s yarn sector 2012 confirmed grim forecasts for the year. Following two years of double-digit growth, sector sales slumped 7.8 percent in 2012 compared with the previous year, according to Italian fashion and textile consortium SMI Sistema Moda Italia. Consumption net of inventory contracted 14.2 percent.

While a poor showing in Italy’s domestic market led the way, even exports slipped 6.8 percent last year compared with 2011. But in the first quarter of 2013, orders were up 7.7 percent at woolen spinners, and if turnout at the Pitti Filati trade fair proves to be another weather vane, it also points toward renewed sector vitality.

“Much, much better than expected” is how Raffaello Napoleone, chief executive officer for the fair organizer, Pitti Immagine, described turnout at the fair. “This edition confirms the fundamental role that Pitti Filati plays in the fashion system. One can not avoid passage through Pitti Filati to understand the colors, raw materials and creative qualities” emerging for the season.

Buyers totaled 4,800, up from 4,600 who visited the July 2012 edition. It was the second show in which international buyers outnumbered Italians, yet domestic buyers did hold steady from last year. Foreign buyers flocked from more than 50 countries and grew in number by 6 percent from last year. British buyers made up the largest group, but interest grew among Chinese and Turkish buyers, whose numbers grew more than 50 percent. Japanese buyers are trickling back, up 3 percent, while Spanish buyers surged by 32 percent.

Visits were “far more” numerous at the Botto Giuseppe & Figli stand compared with the same season last year, according to Silvio Botto Poala, managing director at the upscale classic woolen yarn spinner and fabric maker. The firm makes yarns, as well as jersey and wovens for matching coordinates. Sales last year were 58 million euros, or $74.4 million, up 20 percent over 2011, according to Botto Poala, who expects 2013 growth to slacken to single digits.

Botto Poala said the firm keeps some best-selling yarns in stock, including a 16 micron, 70 percent cashmere and 30 percent silk blend called Dream, available in 90 colors, to address a trend in the market to demand ever-faster delivery.

“From the moment they decide, they don’t want it in two months but in two weeks,” Botto Poala said.

Cristiana Cariaggi, a director at premium cashmere specialist Cariaggi Lanificio, said clients need not only faster deliveries but a new level of responsiveness to a range of demands, requiring yarn makers “to invest in order to remain efficient and continue to deliver high quality.” Cariaggi is investing 1.8 million euros this year in its Digital Yarn and eBiz projects, initiatives aimed at pumping client-service with digital color charts and computerized order processing. Carriagi’s performance in the first half of 2013 points to a year-end result of 103 million euros, or $132.1 million, a 2 percent increase on the same period in 2012.

Cariaggi said clients showed particular interest in two debut yarns — Wave (87 percent cashmere, 13 percent silk), which combines different hued natural fibers to achieve printlike effects, and Alps, a silk, cashmere and polyamide blend with a silky, luminous core and warm-hued, soft fuzz across the surface.

Buyers responded to “color mélanges, warm color combinations…almost no uniform colors” and “no gray hues,” reported Ilaria Taddeucci Sassolini, who runs premium fancy yarn spinner Lanificio Dell’Olivo’s creative, marketing and sales areas with her sister, Chiara. Sassolini also reported gravitation toward contrasts, like combinations of shiny and opaque, and viscose and wool.

“Feltlike qualities, elasticized wool-angora mixes” played well for day at premium yarn spinner Lineapiù Italia, as did tweedlike yarns, especially with Americans, said Giuliano Coppini, company founder and creative head.

“People are asking for color, not the usual grays or blacks,” said Coppini.

Yarns that are “puffy and extremely lightweight, but also a bit of pattern” are what clients sought at Zegna Baruffa Lane Borgosesia, said marketing and fashion coordinator Paola Rossi.

Paolo Todisco, ceo at the Italian wool spinner, reported group results that seemed to mirror the sector.

“The 2012 consolidated results of the group…closed with a turnover of 119 million euros [$152.6 million], a 14 percent decline compared to 2011,” said Todisco, but “in the first six months of 2013, we’ve encountered an overall increase in orders of over 8 percent.”

Pitti Filati introduced the Knitclub this edition, featuring a small group of Italian knitting specialists — Fuzzi, Mely’s, Scaglione, Pini and Teodori. Marco Sanarelli, owner of Mely’s, called the experiment “100 percent positive,” facilitating interaction among supply chain players.

The Fashion at Work area of the fair also helped buyers research new knitting possibilities, exhibiting swatch specialists and accessories suppliers.

“We’re selling a lot of sheer and chunky together, lots of 3-D textures, cables that travel over the body,” said Anne Wilson, who runs the British swatch specialist Yellow Minnow with her partner, Maggie Smith.

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