Byline: Phyllis Macchioni

MILAN — Texture, in a variety of forms, seems to have superseded the highly embellished looks of handbags in recent seasons.
At the 79th edition of the Mipel leather goods fair, which ended its four-day run here on March 4, the look was luxurious and the feel was sensual, with handbag shapes also softening considerably.
Among the top materials providing warm, textural contrasts were:
Touches of fur, predominately fox, often paired with brushed suede or smooth, polished calfskin.
Boiled wool, bulky wool knits and tweeds, often laced with Lurex.
Quilted and trapunto treatments.
Exotic skins.
In addition, soft color combinations were frequently punched up with brightly colored linings, as were classic, quilted-leather bags, which were treated to colorful contrast stitching. Classic shapes were also popular, with hobos, buckets, totes, doctor’s bags, sacs and slouches among the most prevalent.
Contrast was the theme at Braccialini, where earth tones of burgundy, rust and cognac were paired with contrasting turquoise stitching. Special finishes ranged from laser-cut leathers to metallic shades of bronze or green gold.
At Pibra, where 30 percent of exports go to the U.S., designer David McMillan reinvented classic looks using less decoration and more detailing, pushing the shapes of the bags into the spotlight.
“The quilted look is definitely important, as is gold detailing, contrasting color and a metallic finish,” said McMillan. He described the look as “classical punk” and “chic radical” with studs, rhinestones and dual-colored trims.
Instead of turquoise, McMillan opted for teal blue to provide contrast for the rich tobacco and brandy colors in the Pibra fall color palette.
Fabric, too, was an important trend at Principe, a company for which McMillan has recently begun working. Boiled wool bags in shades of burgundy or gray, classic houndstooth checks with Lurex trim, tweedy totes with leather detailing, flat bags updated with colorful, bright linings and Sixties optic prints rounded out the collection.
For women who need their bags to be work horses, Desmo offered the “porta-computer” bag in textured calfskin from it’s Cervo line. The fashionable line features suede bags with fox trim and wool-knit pouches done in boxy, and more rounded, oval shapes.
How orders generated by the fair will impact end-of-the-year export figures — critical in a country where 68 percent of leather goods are exported — remains to be seen. Many exhibitors felt there were fewer Americans who made the trip this time.
“They moved the Mipel fair date up three weeks, which conflicts with the accessories market in New York,” said Roy Kean, owner of the New York handbag showroom Accessories That Matter.
Kean, who represents Pibra, Principe and Plinio Visona, all of which exhibited at the show, said: “This created problems for buyers and some of the New York showrooms have had to extend their market because of the change.”
Riccardo Braccialini, whose company produces bags for Vivienne Westwood, Mila Schon, Roccobarocco and Mariella Burani, said “the reduction in the number of American buyers may also be due to a slight hesitation on their part, as they wait to see which way their economy is heading.”
Braccialini added that he felt American buyers needed to understand their markets a little better and offer more fashion choices because, he said, “they might be pleasantly surprised with the results.”