Byline: Luisa Zargani

MILAN — The pace of exports buoyed spirits at the latest edition of the Mipel leather goods show here, with sales gains in the U.S. market one of the brightest notes.
Good feelings prevailed even though attendance dipped at the four-day event, which ran through March 17. The show attracted 12,963 visitors, down 3 percent from last year. Half of them were from outside Italy, but only 250 from the U.S., a 30 percent decrease from last year. Discussing the drop in U.S. visitors, a show spokeswoman pointed out that a year ago Mipel was held at the tail end of the Milan designer ready-to-wear collections, while this year the timing conflicted with the rtw collections in Paris.
Nevertheless, exports have been on the rise, and continued increases are expected. AIMPES, Italy’s association of leather goods manufacturers, which organizes the Mipel show, said exports rose 23 percent during the first nine months of 1995, to $1.37 billion (2.14 trillion lire). The U.S. accounts for 16.6 percent of Italy’s leather goods exports.
There were more exhibitors, 527 versus 486 a year ago.
Underscoring the importance of the U.S. market to the Mipel exhibitors, Gabriele Fantappie, co-owner of the Desmo handbag firm, said, “The U.S. market amounts to 25 percent of our total turnover and we have not only confirmed our usual contracts, but we have many new purchase orders coming in.”
Another of the firms building business in the U.S. is Braccialini, which has boosted U.S. sales 30 percent a year in the last two years, according to Matteo Bianchini, who oversees the company’s sales in the U.S.
He attributed this to “a return of the appeal of the ‘Made in Italy’ label” and to a general improvement in the American market.
Redwall, which manufactures leather goods under several license agreements, has been clicking in the U.S. with its established Moschino collection and its newer Giorgio Armani line.
“The U.S. represents 20 percent of Redwall’s total exports, and Moschino amounts to almost 90 percent of our sales in the United States,” said Gian Enzo Rossi, marketing manager. He added he was projecting a 40 percent increase in U.S. orders this year for the Armani bags, which the company has been producing for three seasons.
Among the features of the Moschino line was its shiny leather group of structured styles with gold-tone closures in the shape of hearts, mouths and pens. There was also a round, black leather bag featuring either the face of comic strip character Olive Oyl or a painter’s palette and brush.
At Pibra, designer David Dewar McMillan said his line registered a 30 percent increase at the show.
He showed lightweight, structured handbags made of walnut and Plexiglas in natural wood colors or lacquered grays and blues.

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