Byline: Luisa Zargani

MILAN — The upbeat mood returned to Mipel, the leather goods trade fair held here in March, following a low-key September edition.
“We are waiting to see how 2002 will fare, but we believe the economy will improve and sales will pick up,” said Mauro Muzzolon, general secretary of Aimpes, the Italian leather goods association, at the opening press conference.
Muzzolon noted that comparisons were hard to make, because, “with the exception of the last four months, 2001 was a great year for the leather goods industry.”
According to exhibitors, U.S. buyers were back at Mipel, after staying home during the September edition that was held shortly after the terrorist attacks.
In 2001, the American market was the main export country for Italian leather goods products, registering a 10.7 percent increase in sales and accounting for 15.9 percent of total exports. The show registered an 11 percent increase in visitors over last year, totaling 16,333, helped by an increase in foreign buyers. The number of American buyers increased 17.6 percent compared to a year ago and Japanese buyer attendance increased 26.4 percent. In addition to Russia, China is also emerging as an important market for the sector and the show registered an increase in buyers from both of those countries.
Overall, shapes were soft and large.
David Dewar McMillan, designer for Pibra, said that bestsellers were laser-cut embroideries on fake pony skin and ruched suede handbags. Last month, McMillan launched his own accessories line and named it “Made on Earth for David & Scotti,” a collection that blends themes from all over the world. McMillan also designs the Mali’Parmi and Principe lines.
“Sales slowed down for about six months, but business is on the rebound and back to pre-Sept. 11 levels,” said Gianni Dori, owner of Rodo. “Buyers from the U.S. are back, with a positive attitude.”
Dori noted that American buyers liked the company’s mink box and the sequin- adorned evening purse shaped like an upside-down mushroom. Dori said lacquered purses also booked well.
With its flourish of flowers, fringes, studs and mink pom-poms, the Braccialini booth offered a virtual trip around the world with touches of India, the Mideast, Spain and Old America. Braccialini, which was acquired by Mariella Burani Fashion Group in 2000 and produces accessories for Mariella Burani, Mila Schon and Vivienne Westwood, has signed a three-year agreement to produce bags for the London-based footwear designer Patrick Cox.
Krista Nelson, buyer of women’s handbags at Jacobson Stores, praised Braccialini’s designs and materials as she browsed the company’s booth.
This year, Mipel organizers staged an exhibition to honor accessories designer Giuliana Camerino, designer and founder of Roberta di Camerino. An array of the company’s vintage handbags were displayed in windows between photos of two diverse fashion icons — Grace Kelly and Madonna — both carrying Di Camerino handbags.
“We still employ wooden weaving machines from the 18th century, closures are made of 50 separate parts patiently assembled by artisans, and it can take up to three days to make one velvet bag,” said ceo Francesco Pellati.
In the U.S., which accounts for about 8 percent of the firm’s sales, or $15 million retail, the label is available at Barneys New York, Neiman Marcus, Jacobson’s, Jeffrey New York and Tootsie’s. The company plans to open a showroom and an office in New York in 2003. The firm also plans to launch a jeans and casual line, produced by Factory Fashion.

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