FIBER PRICES MAIN TOPIC AT PITTI FILATI

Byline: SARA GAY FORDEN

FLORENCE — As it has been at other textile shows this year, the rising cost of fiber was the subject of much talk at the recent 35th Pitti Immagine Filati yarn fair here.
In this case, the conversation centered on cashmere and mohair, and a tour of exhibitors also showed that while yarn prices were up — steeply in some cases — this had not perceptibly affected demand, which, in turn, only put more pressure on price.
With raw material costs up some 15 to 20 percent for standard wools and stretching anywhere from 50 to 100 percent higher than last year for kid mohair and some grades of cashmere, yarn makers were reporting price increases across the board.
Many producers interviewed said they had tried not to pass on the full burden of the price hikes of these luxury fibers to their customers, but they generally reported increases of around 30 to 35 percent.
The three-day show ended July 8, as the event returned to its usual July timing after a trial move to September last year. This was seen as having helped push up attendance by foreign retailers. The number of foreign stores, at 1,397, was up 3.4 percent against a year ago, according to Pitti organizers. Representing the stores were 2,440 buyers.
“When the show is held in July, it becomes a true preview for the season, and we see a significant increase in foreign buyers,” said a Pitti spokesman. The number of Italian firms attending the fair, however, was down 7.6 percent to 2,716, representing a total of 5,010 buyers.
The total number of stores shopping the fair was down 3.8 percent to 4,113, with a total of 7,450 buyers. Pitti organizers said that while the winter show will be held as usual in February, the dates for the summer edition haven’t been decided yet.
Discussing the price hikes, Pietro Fioravanti, owner of Prato-based IGEA, explained that one of the principal causes is that production of long-haired yarns, such as kid mohair, had dwindled after several years of demand for smoother carded yarns. Now that a trend in irregular and long-haired yarns has caught on, many producers found themselves caught short.
“A lot of these suppliers have reduced their herds over the past few years, and now they’re not able to meet the boom in demand,” Fioravanti said.
Supply problems were also at the root of rising cashmere prices, added Luciano Bandi, yarn division managing director of Loro Piana, based near Vercelli in northern Italy. With shipments of cashmere from China increasingly uncertain, both in terms of deliveries and of quality, Loro Piana, one the largest producers of cashmere fabrics in the world, was on the verge of taking a momentous decision to diversify into noncashmere yarns, Bandi said.
“In the end, we decided to stick with cashmere,” he said. “It didn’t make sense for us not to.”
However, in order to give customers a margin of choice, Loro Piana developed a program whereby clients can customize a yarn with blends, putting together a less expensive base fiber, such as wool and silk, with cashmere fibers.
“It’s a very flexible collection that can be put together in a number of ways to make it more personalized,” Bandi said.
Loro Piana has also developed a “color box” of some 450 different color cards that it will lend to its clients for a 15-day period so they can more effectively select the colors they want. The company is also offering a quick, 20-day delivery turnaround for colors already in stock.
“Usually, it can take up to two months. We started the first tests during Expofil in Paris [a yarn show in June], and it is proving quite a success,” Bandi said.
At Loro & Festa SpA, which is based near Biella and has traditionally specialized in more classic yarns, such as merino wool, U.S. designer Rebecca Moses has consulted on the collection to give these traditional yarns a new, more textured, twist.
“Just because you use a classic yarn, it doesn’t mean you have to come out with a straight jersey,” said Moses. “With this collection we have tried to show how irregularly it can be knitted, giving these yarns a new texture and dimension — not making them trendy, but refining the novelty to put them into a more high-fashion category,” she added.
“We only work with natural, classic fibers,” added president and chief executive officer Giacomo Festa Bianchet, “but this year we’ve concentrated on uneven hands and textures.”
Elsewhere, knitwear designer Giuliano Marelli at Filatura di Grignasco, also based in the Biella area, presented a collection of primarily merino and virgin wools broken down into three broad themes: a natural group based on grays and beiges; a colorful, folklorist group inspired by the colors and costumes of South American Indians, and a third group he called “metropolitan activewear,” featuring melange yarns and a minibouclÄ.
Jon Weiser, president of Charivari, New York, who was shopping the show for the store’s own collections, said he liked the new lightweight and textural yarns he saw. In particular, he noted the shimmery, metallic yarns at Filpucci Industria Filati SpA, based near Florence.
“The rustic look has really peaked, and I really liked some of the more glamorous yarns being shown here,” Weiser said. Filpucci showed mohairs with extremely soft hands as well as innovative blends with metallic threads such as silver and copper.
U.S. designer Carol Horn raved over the airy mohair yarns shown by Vercelli-based Zegna Baruffa.
“It’s so incredibly light it’s like a soufflÄ, and that’s what you want in winter,” she said. “It’s got the rich, full look I’m after but even the biggest sweater weighs just ounces.”

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