A THREE-TIERED APPROACH

Byline: Alessandra Ilari

MILAN — In an era when fashion houses are bending over backward to deliver super-technical fabrics and revolutionary finishes, Enigma has an ace up its sleeve: triple-layer fabrics.
Enigma, an Italian knitwear line that’s produced and distributed by McAdams, an apparel and knit maker based near Vicenza, boasts a state-of-the-art factory where technology and manual skills live in perfect harmony. Here, chief designer Valeria Cremonese came up with a three-layer knit sandwich. Depending on how the looms are programmed, the three layers can be attached, giving beefy and textured effects, or separated so that the individual layers are distinct.
Each layer can have a different weave and different fibers.
“Aside from being our designer, Cremonese is also Enigma’s product manager, and she invests a lot of time and energy in research,” said Angela Eupani, marketing and communications manager.
Owned by Cremonese and Fabio Longo, Enigma unveiled its three-layer number with its spring 2000 collection. The style that best portrayed the idea was a cardigan fashioned with a metal and viscose blend, sandwiched between two layers of linen. On most of the cardigan, the layers are attached, but half way down the front, they split apart to form a big, soft pocket that can be used as a bag.
“Thanks to the pocket, all three layers are visible,” explained Eupani. For a chunky look with surface interest, there was also a crewneck version where all three layers are attached.
Enigma is reaping the benefits of a five-year investment program for which it shelled out $6 million to buy advanced machinery. Triple-layer knits, in fact, are the last of a series of treatments and experiments that have allowed the company to conquer new markets and double sales points from 120 to 250 over the past five seasons. This season, the company expanded its range of wovens and introduced leather and suede for the first time. Sales for the spring 2000 collection registered a 400 percent increase in Japan against the same period last year. Though a breakdown of sales figures wasn’t available, Eupani said that they estimate McAdams to close 1999 with a volume of $17.5 million.
Highlights of the spring collections include off-the-shoulder tops crafted with linen and paper yarns for a furry effect; loose-weave cotton tops with a subtle layer of silicon for a wet look, and tops made with copper-tinted metal fibers that are ruched at the waist. The palette is awash with earth tones: vanilla beige, tobacco, olive ochre and pumpkin. Wholesale prices range from $125 for wool knit T-shirts to $400 for a leather jacket.
Plans call for the company to expand the small collection of bags that bowed this season and add a footwear collection.