Byline: Phyllis Macchioni

MILAN — If visitors and exhibitors at the fall-winter 2003 edition of Modamilano’s ready-to-wear fair this month were concerned about the current economic downturn, it wasn’t evident.
On opening day, stands and corridors were crowded and buzzing, unlike other recent Italian trade fairs. Modamilano had something else other expos have been missing in the past half-year: foreign buyers.
Key trends that emerged were concentrated in classics with subtle glamour and a neutral palette, with dark blue chasing black for the most-favored spot.
The activity continued throughout the fair’s four-day run, and when it closed on March 4, organizers reported a 9.7 percent increase in attendance over last year’s show. According to S.I.Tex, the group that organizes MOMI-Modamilano, the total number of foreign visitors increased by 4.2 percent. While that might not seem particularly high, for the 340 exhibitors, it represents a much welcomed return of foreign buyers, who, because of the global economic downturn, have been conspicuously absent for the past six months.
Fair officials reported a 45 percent increase in the number of French buyers, and a 13 percent increase in the number of Koreans, but they would not release the total number of visitors or break out the numbers from other European and Asian countries.
Wool was the fabric of choice, although there was more cashmere evident than there has been recently, as the cost of cashmere fiber continues to drop.
Colors were soft and elegant, with black still prominent but being seriously challenged by blue, especially dark blue. As the market continues to focus on essentials, there was a return to neutrals, and a general softening of the palette.
Knitwear designer Amina Rubinacci was showing a deep inky blue, soft pale banana and dove gray. Her mix-and-match line, which includes dresses, sweaters and slacks, was clean and polished.
“Banana is our new neutral,” said sales manager Federica Spada, “and we believe blue is going to become the new black.” Also featured were a knit baseball jacket in cashmere and fresh-looking cable knit sweaters. Lightweight stretch rayon separates, which included skirts as well as slacks, were destined for the ever-growing transitional market and aimed at business travelers.
Another proponent of blue was Liviana Conti, who prefers to call herself an artisan rather than a designer. But whatever the label, her line was creative and innovative and did not escape the sharp eyes of Henri Bendel buyers, who visited her atelier in Rimini about a month ago. Blue and cream, dark brown, and the ever-present black and white were featured at the stand, but, she explained, clients could choose whatever colors they wanted from her extensive color book. Bendel’s chose blue.
“I don’t follow fashion trends”, said Daniela Bizzi, owner of the company that carries her name, “and I make many of my own fabrics.” The individuality of the Daniela Bizzi line was most evident in the details she presented, such as leather zip cuffs on a wool jacket and the sparkle beadwork on the cuffs of the slinky long- sleeved T-shirt she put under it. Unzip the cuffs, and the beadwork is exposed.
Maglificio Da-Ni’s export manager, Nicola Nicolini, was just back from New York, where, he said, the firm’s She’s So line was well received by its American clients. According to Nicolini, the American market seems to be picking up after a slight setback, and he said he felt that business would soon be back to normal. The fall-winter line is the first collection he has designed by himself, and he described it as “comfortable and easy to wear, but chic.”
“Black is still big in the U.S.,” said Nicolini, “so I centered the new collection around it, and then updated the look with a powdery beige that has just a hint of pink.”
Black was also the focal point for the Tiziana Natta collection, a division of innerwear giant Gruppo Parah. According to sales manager Barbara Cingolani, bridge clients tend to be more conservative, so the Tiziana Natta designers stayed with basic black and added a few neutral colors and a touch of red for interest.
At the MOMI fair, which ran concurrently with Modamilano, there were several new categories housing the 350 collections, including a bridal section that showcased bridal gowns and formalwear, a new high-end zone and a lingerie and stocking area.
The bridal section featured designs for 2003 and was billed as a preview of Sposaitalia Collezioni, which will be held at the fairgrounds here in June. Among exhibitors were Stella Tyler, Egon von Furstenberg and Andrea Couture. Blumarine Underwear, Roberto Cavalli Underwear and Wolford were among the top names in the lingerie section. In the couture area, there were 10 international companies exhibiting, and the key word here was diversity. Well-known names like Katharine Hamnett, Ken Scott Jeans and Michael Kors eyewear were side-by- side with young, up-and-coming designers like 26-year-old Francesco Scognamiglio, who hopes to carry on in the tradition of other Neapolitan sartorial artisans. One of his creations, a satin turquoise evening gown, was drawing positive reaction from buyers, he said.
The next edition of MOMI-Modamilano will be held Sept. 15-17 at the Milan fairgrounds.

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