Byline: Phyllis Macchioni

MILAN — The pendulum of fabric fashion appears to be swinging back from heavily technical styles, which have been attracting so much attention, to natural fibers.
That was the message at the recent Moda In trade show here, where spring and summer 2001 textiles were shown.
“It’s just the beginning of the season, so it is still too early to tell, but there definitely seems to be a strong renewed interest in cotton and other natural fibers,” said Giovanni Proserpio, Limonta’s sales manager.
Limonta was one of 530 exhibitors at the fair, which ran Feb. 14 to 16 at the Fiera facility. Last year 586 companies exhibited at the event.
Many of Limonta’s fabrics were soft and fluid, often of viscose and nylon mixed with cotton, a combination that produces an elegant, silky feeling.
There were strong, vibrant colors in the collection, but according to Proserpio, buyers are slow to change their palettes radically.
“Our customers are looking at the strong colors with interest, but their orders show more conservative choices. We are starting to see a shift in trends, a shift away from black, but the strong colors only appear to liven up a collection. The color of choice from our winter line was khaki, and it looks like the spring-summer 2001 collections will follow that same classic look, as our customers seem to prefer to stay with beige, blues and shades of green.”
Elegance and color were also the keynotes in the Paolo Gilli collection, where cotton was king and the look was natural. Colors of the savannas, like browns, golds, wheat, beige, rust and colonial blue, were prominent in fabrics of pure cotton and linen. Elegant elements included silk shantung with a small percentage of pineapple fibers in saffron, paprika, burnt orange and butterscotch.
“Our clients are looking for a return to natural fibers,” said Roberto Federici, owner of Paolo Gilli.
At Luigi Botto, designer Ricardo Cardascer reported, “We have produced a series of jersey fabrics that are for the most part viscose, silk and Lycra [spandex], but mostly mixes of silk and viscose, using an irregular thread to make them interesting.”
Viscose continues to be very important for Botto’s summer collection, not just for its women’s line, but for its men’s line as well. Cardascer developed a special blend of cotton and viscose jersey that can be used for men’s and women’s wear.
“We used a cotton-polyamide thread that has more of a feminine look than a masculine look, but companies like Versace or Dolce & Gabbana can easily use the jacquard design for both applications,” he said.
While many designers at the show talked up color, Cardascer admitted that if he had to choose the colors for a client’s collection, he would rely on ecru, black, white and blue because they give a certain guarantee that the goods will sell.
“But keep in mind,” he said, “that every collection has to have a certain amount of color. We have chosen to feature the colors of nature, like sand, butterscotch, dark blues and blue greens.”
A newcomer to the textile scene is Clerprem, an Italian company that specializes in seating systems for the railway and automobile industries. In 1997, it created a textile division and began producing bonded, resined and coated technical fabrics, primarily for outerwear applications.
While the backbone of its fabric line is manmade, this year’s collection also included a selection of cotton, linen and silk that had been treated, giving the classic fibers a new technical and functional dimension, which the company hopes will appeal to American clients.
Everyone working at the stand was dressed in water-resistant, resin-treated orange denim that, according to managing director Gian Roberto Marchesi, can be stonewashed or stressed without losing its technical qualities. Orange was the only strong color featured at Clerprem, which had a limited palette of chalk, gray, cactus, marble and its signature orange, called henna.
Orange was also prominent at Marioboselli Jersey, which featured many retro 1970s-style prints in orange and brown.
“Requests for techno fabrics are declining,” said owner Federico Boselli. “Buyers are asking for natural fibers, primarily 100 percent cotton and linen, either mixed with each other or with a little viscose. We are offering a lot of strong colors and Seventies prints, but what we actually sell might be quite different from what is on display. Clients seem to be looking for soft colors, although it is too early to say what is going to go. We have to wait and see which colors emerge as the winners. At this point, it is all up to the buyers.”
Of the 23,000 visitors to this year’s fair, there were more than 5,000 foreign firms, primarily from nearby European countries. “About 40 to 45 percent of our overall sales are generated by exported goods, primarily here in Europe,” said Federici of Paolo Gilli, whose situation is shared by the majority of the Italian textile producers exhibiting at this year’s fair.
The consensus was that while exports to Korea and Japan are starting to come back, it is going to be a long and slow process, and no real turnaround is expected much before the end of the year.
Closing figures showed a 4 percent increase in attendance over last year’s show, much to the relief of its organizers, who had pushed the fair date back this year, putting it almost a month ahead of Premiere Vision. There was a 5 percent increase in foreign visitors, including more than 200 American buyers.

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