ITALIAN TECHNOLOGY ON THE FAST TRACK
Byline: Luisa Zargani
VERONA, Italy — Italy’s prowess in the hosiery market was evident at the second edition of FAST, the only European trade fair showcasing technology for hosiery knitting, dyeing, finishing and packaging.
There were 160 exhibitors, a 30 percent increase from the first show three years ago. Hosiery manufacturers accounted for the bulk of the people who walked the show, which ended its four-day run June 7, but total figures have not been made available.
The show drew many foreign attendees, including 130 from the U.S.and 500 from Eastern Europe, which confirms the growing importance of that region as an expanding market for Italian hosiery.
Ciocca, president of FAST, attributed Italy’s leadership to its high level of technology and product quality combined with the strength of the national textile industry.
Last year, $329 million worth of hosiery machines were made in Italy, a 15 percent increase from the previous year, and around 80 percent of total business in this sector worldwide.
The foreign market, which accounts for 80 percent of sales of Italian hosiery machines, continues to grow. Between 1992 and 1997, demand more than doubled. The U.S. accounts for 37 percent of total sales of Italian-made equipment.
Gianfranco Bossi, general manager of CSP International, the only publicly held hosiery company on the Italian stock market, said the industry’s strength is having its production concentrated in a few districts, such as the industrial cluster at Castel Goffredo, near Brescia.
“Two-thirds of European hosiery is produced by over 300 manufacturers located in this area,” said Bossi.
In the last four years, CSP International, which makes the Oroblu, Sanpellegrino and Starway labels, doubled its turnover from about $68 million to $146 million. According to Bossi, demand in Western Europe and North America is falling, partly because of better-made products.
According to organizers, FAST is the result of cooperation between all sectors of the industry. The importance of this collaboration was emphasized by Ettore Lonati, managing director of Lonati, a Brescia-based company that produces nearly 90 percent of the world’s hosiery knitting machinery. “Hosiery producers are our best partners for ideas and inputs for technological development,” Lonati said.
The company is currently developing a machine that will allow the three-dimensional visualization of products.
“Manufacturers will be able to transmit the images to their distributors even before they start production,” said Lonati.
FAST organizers reported that last year consumers began shifting away from more opaques to sheers and ultrasheers. This is seen as a positive trend, leading the industry to assume that purchases will be more frequent, with a consequent increase in overall sales, they said.
Many innovations were introduced at the DuPont stand, such as Tactel aquator for socks and Tactel climate effect yarns for tights. “Select Tactel yarns in a special, double-faced knit construction enable and accelerate the evaporation of natural skin moisture,” said Carol Pedelty, marketing manager for Tactel and Lycra DuPont.
The inner layer transports natural skin moisture to the outer surface, where it can evaporate.
DuPont is also banking on Tactel micro, a range of high technology polyamide 6.6 yarns consisting of many ultra-fine filaments. “These are many times finer than a human hair and extremely soft on the legs,” said Pedelty. Tactel strata, one of the firm’s latest innovations, is employed to create sophisticated dual-tone effects in opaque hosiery and socks. Filaments of circular and trilobal cross-sections are combined with irregular frequency to create a two-tone color and a dual reflective effect in the dyed garment.
Also from DuPont, Lycra Leg Care was developed, based on graduated compression. “Until recently, hosiery either looked good or did something for your health,” Pedelty said. “But with Lycra Leg Care, we are keeping an eye on aesthetics.”
The pantyhose applies a stronger pressure at the ankle than at the thigh, enhancing its function as a pump flushing blood up the legs.
While browsing at the DuPont booth, Debbie Ladd Koller, executive vice president of sales for the Americal Corp., said she was enthusiastic about the trade fair.
“It’s a great show,” she said. “It’s the first time here for me, but I plan to come back.”
At the Nylstar stand, a full range of semidull and full-dull yarns were developed to give hosiery and tights a natural and velvety effect. “While Europeans in general prefer bright yarns, the Italian market favors a semidull hosiery,” said Leo Romeo, who handles hosiery development at Nylstar.
The firm, which produces the Meryl label, is developing yarns that reduce static electricity and a full range of multi- and microcounts. “Microfiber yarns provide softness, lightness and durability,” said Romeo.
“The purpose is to propose new collections, give a technical support and assistance to clients, experiment with new fibers and technologies and improve project developments with clients,” said Romeo.