Byline: Luisa Zargani

MILAN — The latest edition of Mipel, the international leather goods fair here, left Italian exhibitors with mixed feelings about sales in their homeland, but consistently positive about business overseas, particularly in the U.S.
The four-day trade show, which closed Sept. 21, attracted 13,187 visitors, up 2 percent from last year.
During the show’s opening press conference, Nino Rossi, president of AIMPES, the industry association, expressed moderate optimism because of the stall of national inflation, a reawakening of internal demand and a 3 percent increase in exports in the first three months of 1997 compared with the same period a year ago.
Exports to the U.S. were stable, he said, accounting for $79.36 million in the first three months of this year, or 16 percent of the $496 million in total exports for that period.
Discussing sales in Italy, Luca Nannini, an owner of the Nannini leather goods company, said, “The national panorama is depressing, but there is some potential.”
There has been a partial weeding-out of brands, along with a recently renewed interest in accessories, he said, adding, “Before, there were too many labels, and this created too much confusion in the mind of consumers.”
Several other exhibitors reported success at expanding their U.S. sales, leading to good results overall.
Particularly strong results were cited by Florence-based makers such as Pibra, which registered a 70 percent increase in sales during the last 12 months.
“The U.S. is our largest market,” said Pibra designer David Dewar McMillan, noting that it accounts for 40 percent of the company’s total business.
The U.S. has become a stronghold for Desmo as well, accounting for 30 percent of the firm’s exports. There was a 15 percent increase in U.S. sales in the first six months of 1997.
Gabriele Fantappie, commercial director, said one of Desmo’s lines, Trendy, was a hot pick for U.S. buyers. It features a lizard-printed nylon material in off-white and blue, oval chrome rings and Seventies-styled, round, metal handles. This line accounts for 25 percent of the company’s sales, he said.
Also well received were new versions of the shopping bag silhouette, in innovative materials such as soft copper mesh with rigid copper handles and a knotted satin net lined with iridescent pleats.
Noting the increasing number of firms doing designer label leather goods, Fantappie said he believes more in focusing on one’s own company and image.
“Our goal is to make Desmo strong by concentrating all our efforts on our company,” he said.
Among buyers shopping the show, Peter Herminn, owner of the eponymous New York store, was positive about Desmo, but less enthusiastic about displays at other booths. He thought there weren’t enough new ideas and too many overdesigned accessories.
“I’m not finding anything quite right for my store. I’m looking for something simpler,” he said. “I’m sure that I’ll find something in the end, but it will take a lot of scouting through the stands.”
In contrast to Desmo, the news at Florence-based Braccialini was its latest licensing agreement, with apparel designer Mila Schon.
Braccialini signed a five-year contract with the designer to produce and distribute both a signature, designer-priced line and a second-tier line, called Schon, both of which will hit stores worldwide for spring. Wholesale prices range from $100 to $200 for the higher-end line and around $85 for the secondary line. The signature line uses napa and saffianello leathers in cream, brown, navy and black, often accented by a glossy silver metal “M.” The Schon line uses nylon and jacquard fabrics, accented by a small, white enamel plate with Schon in black letters.
Besides Desmo, the shopping bag shape was seen at many booths, including Rodo, which is better known for its jewel-encrusted evening bags.
This time, Rodo offered linen shopping bags with leather handles that can be folded and stored until needed. The new item attracted buyers, as did its more classic rhodide evening bags in cream or camel hues and constructed satin bags in pearlized white, red, ivory, gold and black, according to Rodo’s sales manager, Gianni Dori.
He said the firm has logged a 7 percent increase in U.S. sales thus far this year.
U.S. business accounted for 28 percent of the company’s total exports. Dori said he was satisfied with the growth, noting, “Today, it’s good enough to be able to maintain one’s business.”

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