GOING FROM SHINE TO SHEEN FOR PRATO EXPO’S SPRING ’96

Byline: LUCI MUIR

FLORENCE, Italy — The dazzling shine of the fabrics walking this season’s runways will be giving way to a more subdued sheen for spring 1996, according to exhibitors at the 33rd Prato Expo fabric fair here this week.
While there were still plenty of brights to be seen at the three-day fair, which ended Monday at Fortezza da Basso, the new direction was toward softer shimmers, sometimes with a retro pearlescent look.
Other key ideas turning up the fair included:
Microscopic textures.
Geometric weaves, both subtle and bold.
Innovative linen blends.
Increased emphasis on eco-friendly production processes.
The presence of man-made fibers, evident during the past few seasons at Prato Expo, also continued to grow.
As at most fabric parlays these days, the increased costs of raw materials were a topic of conversation, and exhibitors indicated this has resulted in price hikes generally of about 10 percent for their new spring fabrics, against a year ago.
Despite this, the mood at the fair was lifted by several elements. Attendance rose 17 percent to 4,984 visitors, with the number of Americans up 50 percent to 197.
Figures released by the fair organizers also pointed to a 13 percent increase in the value of Italy’s total exports of fabrics in 1994, to $1.7 billion (2.8 trillion lire) at current exchange, compared with 1993. The figures also showed a 12 percent rise in production of fabrics last year.
Executives at such mills as Lanificio Canglioni and Masterloom also noted that they were seeing sales increases this year of as much as 40 percent to the U.S., which continues to be the strongest market for many Italian mills.
The continuing strength of the dollar against the lira is helping to deflect the impact of price increases.
According to Masterloom’s head designer Michele Alaura, business was “brisk,” with a lot of interest from U.S. buyers for its new linens blended with viscose, cotton and mohair, to give a new look to sportswear. The innovative blends were refined for a subtle surface sheen, replacing the dazzle of last season.
Semi-shiny effects were also done in viscoses blended with polyester and cotton for a canvas-like durable finish.
“We have a new concept to present synthetics in a more natural way, which we feel will continue,” said Alaura of the new pearly sheens.
Colors were diverse, including dusty pinks and creams, slate grays and military greens, which were contrasted in thin stripes and tiny checks. Spicy shades of orange, earth and rusty brown crisscrossed to form a variety of plaids.
A Donna Karan Co. team was at the Masterloom stand, looking over the new linen blends in soft colonial shades, fine stripes and delicate plaids. Andrew Nipon, responsible for fabric development at Donna Karan, remarked, “We came here with very clear directions and ideas. The show continues to be an important stop.
“I’ve seen some really great outerwear [fabrics] and some very strong cotton blends, which are interesting in subtle colors.” he said. He added, though, there still seemed to be a lot of really shiny fabrics around, which were last season’s news.
At Picchi, viscose and nylon blends were getting action in soft retro pearlescent shimmers in apple green and orange hues, according to Fred Rottman, export manager.
“This season, fabrics are very high tech with as much fashion news as possible,” he said. Lightweight linens and textured acetate and viscose weaves were speckled with metallic dust effects on tangy pink and orange backgrounds. Stripes and checks were more formal in gray and slate tones.
All-Tencel and Tencel blend jerseys and pastel colors continued to be a popular choice with Americans, according to sales manager Alberto Fabbri at Pontetorto, whose showcase also included printed viscose and polyesters in indigo stripes and snowflake patterns printed on sporty fleeces. Acrylic and cotton cross-weaves came in a variety of melange effects and hot earthy tones.
Pontetorto also debuted its ecologically aware fabric collection inspired by Indian silks, called Eco, using blends of linen and cotton dyed in toxin-free colors in delicate stripes. “The future is here,” said Fabbri, who said the mill plans to move ahead with this eco-aware philosophy.
The ecological trend was also apparent at Lanaficio Cangioli, which continued to play up a cleaner dyeing process with its purification plant outside of Florence.
For Americans shopping the booth, a big draw was the mill’s group of acetate and cotton jacquards in pastel green and white checks, pink and cream floral weaves and solids, said owner Vincenzo Cangioli. The U.S. buyers liked them in coordinating colors, he noted, a different approach from that taken by the Europeans who go for a wide mix of colors, prints and fabric weights to create a total look.
Other highlights at the Cangioli display were an array of metallic effects on viscose and wool crepes and unique viscose nylons made with trilobal yarns of different fiber widths to give a glistening surface.
At Lanificio Cecchi Paolo, new lightweight machine-washable wools in black and taupe minichecks were bestsellers. Its Ecolana group, which featured wool developed with bio-degradable colors, was also popular.