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FLORENCE — French lace was draped with wool cardigans and silk negligees were covered up with warm fleece at the Immagine Italia & Co. lingerie trade fair — just in case more bone-chilling cold and snow storms are on the horizon.


With that idea in mind, exhibitors at the Feb. 4 to 6 fair showcased fall-winter 2011 collections geared toward practicality, comfort and versatility without forsaking luxury looks.


Around 80 international buyers from Europe, Russia, the Middle East, Japan and the U.S. attended the fair which had a total of 279 exhibitors from the innerwear arena as well as specialty spa, yachting and home accessories and textiles firms.


Andrea Rienzo, export manager for Gallarate, Italy-based Parah SpA, said that while distribution in Italy remained a priority, expansion in the global market place was essential.


“We would also like to grow in foreign markets,” said Rienzo, noting the company wants to boost its retail franchises to 50 from a current total of 18. So far, Russia is Parah’s best foreign market and the company is exploring the Chinese and Japanese markets, he said.


Meanwhile, bold colors made a lively statement. Parah’s nightwear featured pajamas, cardigans and nighties of fleece and chenille in peacock blue and green tempered with hues of dark and lead gray. Cosabella showed a wide range of bright tones including amethyst, red, pink carnation and flame orange  in its Soire, Never Say Never, Ceylon and Bellissima lines, while Simona Barbieri also displayed a bold palette underscored by a deep shade of red.


A highlight of the fair was the Intimo Italia fashion show, where brands featured on the runway included Christies, Gianantonio Paladini, Parah, R. Crescentini, Ritratti, Milano, Valery, Verde Veronica and Verdissima.


Abundant were vintage-looking polka dots and floral prints coupled with satin ribbons and lace, as well as dark shades including black and earth tones.


But despite the prevalence of fashion, a number of companies were concerned by the soaring costs of raw materials such as Grazia’Lliani, whose commercial director Caterina Chiesi said the price increases are affecting margins. The company is working on creative ways to keep prices at a reasonable level for its clients because of growing demand for lower prices, explained Chiesi. To help boost sales and reach a broader clientele, Grazia’Lliani has developed a more affordable line called Soon, which uses softer and less sophisticated materials. For example, the collection features a sleeveless fleece lounge set that ties at the chest with pants that Chiesi said is “perfect for sipping tea by the fireplace and presentable enough to open the door for an unexpected house guest.”


Regarding shapewear, Wacoal teamed up with Spain’s Nurel SA to develop its Beauty Secret Slim body-shaping line that offers fashion, function and value. The line is made with micro-encapsulation technology to combat cellulite with ingredients including caffeine and aloe vera.


“We thought we needed to do something new because clients believe in our product,” said Sophie Knis, marketing and communications manager for Wacoal France. Shapewear is driving Wacoal’s business in Europe, where sales rose over 30 percent in 2010, she said.

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