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MILAN — Italian textile manufacturers showing collections at this week’s Milano Unica fair are counting on the winter season to mark the fashion industry’s turnaround.

This story first appeared in the September 8, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Executives were largely upbeat heading into the ninth edition of Italy’s leading textile trade show that kicks off today at the Milan fairgrounds.

“It’s clearly going to be a time when many industries will regain their footing, and we are getting the indication this will be a better season,” said Guido Capelli, product manager for Gruppo Dondi. “It has been a difficult year. We had to cut clients who we weren’t sure would pay and that offset a sales decrease of 18 percent.”

Shirting fabric manufacturer Canclini also expects larger-quantity orders.

“We saw the signs the market is ready to come back with the summer 2010 collection orders, and certainly we are expecting better results for next fall,” said Simone Canclini, chief executive officer.

Despite the optimism, many executives acknowledged 2009 has been defined by dramatic sales declines. Reda, a men’s suiting fabric mill based in Biella, has seen a 35 percent drop in sales this year.

“We’ve lived through one of the biggest crises,” said Ercole Botto Paola, ceo of Reda. “It’s really been bad, and I think it will be very slow to turn around.”

Beppe Pisani, president of silk mill Serikos, said the Italian textile sector has been waiting for the fashion industry to reawaken. Like Gruppo Dondi, Serikos refused orders from clients with shaky financial histories.

“It’s a crucial moment,” Pisani said. “January through to May was just terrible, while June showed small recovery signs, but the real question is what will be the quantity of the orders once clients are ready to order again?”

In an effort to stimulate business, mills emphasized innovation and assortment in their fabric collections.

Seterie Argenti cut costs in other areas to funnel extra capital into developing innovative weaves and washes and will attend Milano Unica with more than 300 new fabrics. Among them are prints inspired by the Eighties on gauze wools and fil coupe silk georgettes. The silk mill also experimented with embroidery over flock silks and leatherlike finishes to silk jacquards.

Michele Viganò, ceo of Seterie Argenti, said clients ordered lower quantities in recent seasons, but hoped it would pick up for next fall.

“We are making a declaration, trying to show as much newness as we can to push the market, at the same time keeping our price list in check for the current climate,” Viganò said.

Pisani agreed that price and quality were key. Serikos’ collection for fall 2010 includes flock silk velvets and crinkled taffetas embroidered with Twenties-inspired motifs.

Gruppo Dondi will show a more densely woven performance jersey in natural blends that can be laser cut, washed in the washing machine and woven with a built-in lining.

“These new fabrics are a message that says we are 100 percent Italian, we are a healthy company that is still on the market and we want to be here because we believe in it,” Capelli said.

Men’s wear fabric weavers also sought to shake up trends.

“To distance themselves from before, the client is going to want to show there’s been a change and the best way to do that is with the product,” Reda’s Botto Paola said.

At Ideabiella in Milano Unica, Reda will be pushing its BSide double-sided fabrics that reveal diverse patterns and colors on either side. The firm took inspiration from its Eighties archive to produce dark madras suiting fabrics. Reda also will promote a new ecological philosophy it has dubbed “Real.” The mill has cut carbon dioxide emissions by 1,000 tons annually.

Also at Ideabiella, Lanificio Angelico will offer jersey fabrics for casual men’s outerwear pieces. The mill’s double-sided fabrics with macro checks on one side and a bright hue on the reverse for car coats cater to a more chic, sporty way of dressing, said Francesca Delleani, commercial director for Lanificio Angelico. The mill also will unveil a line of fabrics called Velvet Revolution, consisting of velvet wools, silks and mohair blends with a mélange of effects in emerald and cobalt blue.

“These textiles attract attention,” Delleani said. “Clients aren’t looking for the classic black fabric for a suit that every man has in his closet. It’s time now for change.”

Canclini produced a pre-collection for the first time to preview to its best clients in July.

“It’s a way to be tailor made for all of your clients because from there we understood how to adapt it for what we show at the fair,” ceo Canclini said.

In Canclini’s fall collection of fabrics, intense colors such as royal blue and oranges are contrasted against buff shades in densely woven cottons, some of which are piece-dyed with oversize checks, tartans and stripe designs.

Milano Unica organizers are trying to bring a bit of fashion pizzazz to the fair with On Stage, a catwalk show of pieces by 10 international budding designers, including Alexis Mabille, Suzuki Takayuki and Thomas Engel Hart. The runway event will be staged today in an effort to nurture rapport between up-and-coming design talent and Italian fabric producers.


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