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MILAN — Italian yarn producers at next week’s Pitti Filati show will highlight new trend-based fibers amid increased confidence that the market has made a significant upswing.

The three-day yarn fair for knitwear, which starts July 5 at the Fortezza da Basso fairgrounds in Florence, is expected to be a platform for new and innovative yarns now that Italian yarn firms have been boosted by solid sales results across the board for the first half of 2006.

“There has been a true reawakening of the market and much renewed interest in knitwear,” said Stefano Borsini, president of Igea, which increased sales 12 percent in the first six months of 2006 compared with the same period in 2005. “We are enjoying the results of that.”

Eugenio Parravicini, general manager of the Manifattura Sesia mill, has seen revived interest in Italian-manufactured products.

“There is a very real want for knitwear yarns, now,” Parravicini said. “There’s renewed faith in ‘Made in Italy.’ From the very beginning of 2006, we’ve had great feedback for our samples, and it looks as if that will be followed up by orders.”

Parravicini added that the company’s volume in the first half had risen 10 percent compared with the year-ago period.

Some executives attributed the results to the market’s fascination with quality. Loro Piana’s yarn sales have consistently achieved double-digit growth for three years, said Luciano Bandi, yarn division director.

“Buyers now desire more quality and that is our specialty,” Bandi said. “These past six months have been very interesting, and we have yielded spectacular sales even in classic cashmere yarns.”

Others said in order to keep the market stimulated they needed to stick to niche, quality yarns that couldn’t be sourced anywhere else, in addition to eliminating extraneous basic yarns.

“We are sticking to the strategy we adopted two years ago — we abandoned the basic yarns we used to produce and invested more into high-end yarns,” said Arianna Leone, vice president of Luigi Botto. “We are starting to see the fruits of that decision now.”

Another tactic involved strengthening relationships with clients by offering and sharing exclusive capabilities with them. That’s what Filatura di Grignasco will provide to clients in a new service with its raw merino wool yarns.

This story first appeared in the June 27, 2006 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

“The idea is clients will produce this raw merino into garments, and as part of the service we will pass on our know-how through a set of instructions and products on how to then achieve their desired color and finish,” said Riccardo Osella, managing director of Filatura di Grignasco.

The company recorded a 10 percent increase in sales for the first half and Osella is expecting to boost its $63 million annual volume.

The air is expected to be thick with trends for the 59th edition of Pitti, and historic mill Zegna Baruffa is ready to step up with a line of novelty yarns and a rare new yarn. The Biellese yarn producer will introduce cashgora, which is produced from a relatively new breed of cashmere goat introduced in Kazakhstan in 1997.

“This yarn has all the positive attributes of mohair and cashmere,” said Mila Zegna Baruffa, marketing manager of the family-owned mill. “It’s shiny, has a soft hand and is really long.”

Zegna Baruffa has spun the cashgora yarn with wool to achieve a rustic, thicker fiber, and with wool, cashmere and polyamide to give a soft version. The cashgora yarn is priced about 30 percent lower than a cashmere yarn, according to the company.

“We are proposing this as an alternative to those buyers who only have the budget for a lower- quality cashmere yarn that they usually source out of Italy,” Baruffa said.

In addition to cashgora, Zegna Baruffa will introduce 1850, a line of 18 quality casual yarns it hopes will give existing clients a fresh take on high-end knitwear aimed at a younger market. Baruffa said 1850 utilizes camel and alpaca fibers in a series of natural, lighter colors, including beige, antique rose and powder blue.

Overall, thick but lightweight wool-based yarn is one of the key trends for fall-winter 2007-2008. Loro Piana will show bulky cashmere yarns that are feather-light and delicate to touch.

“Trends dictate a return to sportier knitwear that has a little bit of irregularity to it,” said Luciano Bandi.

He noted that mohair and alpaca yarns are popular, revisited with a more classic approach than the hairy attributes the yarns exhibited in the Eighties.

Manifattura Sesia will show a voluminous and light blend of cashmere and wool, dyed in an intense ruby color. The mill will also exhibit a new line, Sesia Studio, a selection of three knitted, carded merino yarns that are attached to leather and shearling. The collection can be ordered in custom colors for clients for knitted items such as shawls, sweaters and scarves.

Igea also played with the bulky and light concept, and will showcase six yarn mixes of wool, mohair, silk and cotton. The yarns, grouped under the title Air, have slight irregularities and are puffy and hairy. Igea also created a wool gauze yarn that, when knitted, resembles a spider’s web and is transparent with a soft hand. The wool gauze yarn will come in a range of browns, which includes a dark coffee color.

“Mohair, merino and alpaca are the stars of the season,” Borsini said.

Meanwhile, Luigi Botto has used its XT-Four patented technology to create a pure XT-Four cashmere yarn. The result is an ultrasoft, high-end yarn the mill has dyed in mélange and pastels.

Filatura di Grignasco has concentrated its efforts on dying its collection of sporty, soft and casual cotton-and-wool blend yarns in an array of brilliant colors that include a section of off-white hues. On the other end of the scale are more sophisticated tones of deep violet, amethyst and navy blue. The mill achieved an ultralightweight wool yarn with character by combining a carded yarn with a combed one. The result, said Osella, was volume-pumped clean, but light yarn.

“This is the sort of yarn buyers expect out of the Italians, something new,” Osella said.

The Fiber Price Sheet
The last Tuesday of every month, WWD publishes the current, month-ago and year-ago fiber prices. Prices listed reflect the cost of one pound of fiber or, in the case of crude oil, one barrel.
Fiber
Price on 6/26/06*
Price on 5/30/06
Price on 6/27/05
Cotton
51.80 cents
54.21 cents
54.30 cents
Wool
$2.43
$2.53
$2.48
Polyester staple
85 cents
83 cents
69 cents
Polyester filament
82 cents
80 cents
76 cents
December Synthetic PPI
114.2
113.6
112.3
Crude oil
$70.87
$71.32
$59.84
*The current cotton price is the MAY average on fiber being delivered to Southeastern region mills, according to Agricultural Marketing Services/USDA. The wool price is based on the average price for the week ended JUNE 23 of 11 different thicknesses of fiber, ranging from 15 microns to 30 microns, according to The Woolmark Co. Information on polyester pricing is provided by the consulting firm DeWitt & Co. The synthetic-fiber producer PRICE index, or PPI, is compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and reflects the overall change in all synthetic-fiber prices. It is not a price in dollars but a measurement of how prices have changed since 1982, which had a PPI of 100. Oil prices reflect last week’s closing price on the New York Mercantile Exchange of future contracts for light, sweet crude oil to be delivered next month.
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