Byline: Alessandra Ilari

MILAN — German rayon filament maker Enka is trying to cozy up to the high-end designer world with two new ventures.
The company has launched Enka Fashion, a new division that offers designers a range of services to streamline the numerous production links and steps, from the raw materials to the clothes. It also plans to hold a fashion contest next September, called Enkamania, which will sponsor and finance young designers.
Within Enka Fashion, the company joined forces with 50 Italian select twisters, spinners, knitters and weavers, including Jackytex, Lineapiu and Mario Boselli. Enka also is recruiting designers that will supply creative input in the way of colors, finishes and prints. The goal is to offer full-package fabric sourcing, to stimulate designers to use rayon and, at the same time, make their lives easier in turning sketches into clothes.
“We wanted to develop very special and exclusive relationships with designers and, as a consequence, get closer to the final consumer,” said Enrico Freidhof, Enka’s managing director for sales and marketing. “We have the quality, we know the machineries like the back of our hand and now we’re focusing on design.”
With 2,000 employees and an annual production of 25,000 tons that translates into $178 million in sales, Enka strengthened its leadership two years ago when the rayon market was crippled by a harsh crisis. Supply far exceeded demand, forcing a number of companies, including the Japanese giant Asahi, to shut down.
Enkamania, on the other hand, wants to promote young talent. The contest will give five young designers a chance to stage a runway show at Milan’s fairgrounds next September, and the 20 retailers that are part of the jury will agree to carry their spring-summer 2003 collections. Franca Sozzani, Donna Karan, Yohji Yamamoto, Jean Paul Gaultier, Peter Lindbergh and Milla Yovovich, along with top-notch retailers, are all jurors.
The top designer’s prize will be that Enka will pay for his or her ad campaigns and will employ the designer to work on new projects for three seasons.
“With this project, we wanted to make a concrete investment in the future of fashion, focusing on young designers but giving them the opportunity to be seen by the market in general,” said Freidhof.

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