Byline: Kristin Schelter

FLORENCE, Italy — The talk at the 36th edition of Pitti Filati here bounced from fiber price hikes of 20 to 30 percent to the shiny looks and growing acceptance of synthetic yarns.
The three-day yarn fair last week at Fortessa da Basso featured 53 Italian yarn manufacturers and four foreign spinners displaying their spring-summer 1996 collections.
Yarn manufacturers said the price of natural materials had increased an average of 30 percent, and in some cases, costs skyrocketed as high as 100 percent over last year’s.
“Animal hairs, like mohair and cashmere, are all up, and wool has doubled since last year, particularly merino wool,” said Igea’s Pietro Fioravanti, the firm’s sales manager for U.S. and Hong Kong markets.
Cashmere prices are up 30 to 40 percent, reported an executive at Loro Piana, one of the world’s leading cashmere producers that purchases the fiber in Mongolia.
Dramatic price hikes were not limited to natural fibers; another common grievance was the startling price of synthetics such as acrylic and rayon.
“The price of synthetics has gone up about 50 percent,” lamented Andrea Lupi, yarn division manager of Lanerossi, a division of Marzotto SpA. The increase in rayon prices has been blamed on the lack of synthetic fiber suppliers, who are primarily located in Germany, and a dramatic increase in the demand for synthetics in the apparel industry.
Manufacturers are dealing individually with these price increases.
“At Ilaria, we have been able to absorb the extra costs,” claimed Gian Paolo Bruni, managing director.
Unfortunately, not all manufacturers can absorb the hikes, which will result in increases of up to 20 percent in the final product.
Raw materials are not the only factor in price fluctuations; exchange rates also influence costs. The low lira is a double-edged sword in the Italian market: The strong buying power of the German mark and the U.S. dollar against the Italian lira has boosted Italian exports to record levels, while rising prices are hampering recovery of a still sluggish domestic market. According to Assofibre, an Italian yarn association, wool exports for the third quarter of 1994 were up 9.4 percent. Another interesting statistic — 65 percent of synthetic fibers manufactured in Italy were exported last year.
Shiny synthetic yarns, especially rayon, nylon and polyester blended together or with cotton, made a big splash on the fashion front.
“The market is no longer afraid of synthetics,” commented Alessandro Zannoni, general manager at Lineapiu, a high-end yarn manufacturer.
“People are more open to what I would define as high tech fabrics,” Zannoni continued. Lineapiu’s hot high tech collections include Glass, a metallic colored thread in polyester and polyamide, which when woven feels like “glass dust,” Zannoni said. Another Lineapiu special is called Cellophane — a rayon thread, which, when woven, has the look of raffia.
Loro Piana, renowned for its fine cashmeres, took the metallic theme one step further, presenting a translucent, crinkle stretch silk blend, made of 65 percent silk and 35 percent steel.
Single strands of glimmering synthetics, blended with natural fibers or other manufactured materials to create a smooth, even texture, were also popular. A sleek and shimmering gold metallic blend of acetate, viscose and polyester is expected to be a big seller at fancy yarn manufacturer Igea, according to Fioravanti.
Fioravanti said straight yarns in mercerized cotton were some of the firm’s bestsellers last year, and he expected this trend to continue. “But it’s still early,”he said.
On the flip side were yarns with a simple matte texture. Zegna Baruffa, a yarn mill specializing in worsted wools and fancy yarns, showed smooth blends in 75 percent cotton and 25 percent nylon, as well as classic, 100 percent merino wools. Other important trends included intricately worked, transparent synthetic blends and richly textured cut silks.
Various shades of gold, silver, bronze and copper dominated the color wheel among the shiny acrylic fibers. Single threads of these metallics were also woven in with pastels, adding a shimmer to lavenders, apricots and baby-blues. Deep and natural shades of brown, eggplant and pumpkin-orange, all reminiscent of designer Romeo Gigli’s palette, were popular. Traditional pastels, recalling Chanel, were sought out in twisted yarns and bouclés, in pink, orange, yellow and green.
Fewer linens and neutrals made the scene, as yarn manufacturers jumped into color and texture, moving away from “nature” in general.
Shopping the fair, Marina Spadafora, an Italian designer specializing in knitwear, pointed to the abundance of shiny and matte yarns at the fair.
“I’m not sure which way the market will go, but it is definitely very clean and linear,” said Spadafora. She also commented on the flashback to multicolored, twisted “hippie yarns,” which she felt were new and different.
“We like the updated synthetics,” commented Morton Alper, vice president of Calvin Klein’s knitwear manufacturing division, attending the fair with Clare Wright, a designer for Calvin Klein. “We are going with a toned-down shiny look, as well as some matte yarns in the deep, rich Indian shades,” Wright said.
“I like the shimmer effect, especially when woven into sorbet pastels,” commented Allyson Shenar, a designer for Adrienne Vittadini, who mentioned Ilaria and Filpucci among preferred suppliers.
Organizers at Pitti, pleased with the fair’s results, reported an increase of 600 visitors, up 20 percent from last year’s edition. Foreign attendance was up 16 percent, and the number of American visitors increased 19 percent.