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FLORENCE — Italian yarn manufacturers are confident about growing their businesses in 2007 after a strong response from buyers at last week’s Pitti Filati trade show.

The yarn fair, which ended its three-day run at the Fortezza da Basso here on July 7, showcased collections for fall-winter 2007-2008 and left executives with a feeling that momentum continues to build. Though 2006 sales for most exhibiting spinners remained on an even keel, some enjoyed substantial profit increases because of increased yarn sales in Japan and the U.S.

“I’m going to be calm for the next couple of years,” said Luciano Bandi, yarn division director for Loro Piana. “We’ve had double-digit growth for the past four quarters, and 2007 is shaping up quite well, with a lot of new interesting contacts.”

There are factors that could dent company sales: If raw cashmere prices — which had remained stable — spike, or if the dollar devalues further, Bandi said. The value of the dollar was a concern among other executives as well.

“The last six months have been a great comeback for our European and American markets … but I am worried that the dollar is going to lose some of its value next year,” said Silvio Botto Poala, director of knitwear at Botto Poala. “That’s the prediction.”

Most executives, however, were content with stable sales. Massimiliano Zegna Baruffa, chief executive officer of Zegna Baruffa, said he expected volume for the 2005-2007 period to remain unchanged, until trends take a turn back to the type of yarns in which the Biella spinner specializes.

“We are waiting for a return to brushed, finer-gauge yarns,” he said. “Right now, there’s a flood of cashmere on the market, and most of it is not great quality.”

Zegna Baruffa expanded product offerings for fall-winter 2007-2008 with a line launched at the 59th edition of Pitti Filati. The line, dubbed 1850, takes its inspiration from the company’s 156-year heritage. The new collection features 25 sporty, trendy yarns made from blends of cashmere, mohair, camel, alpaca and Shetland wool.

Zegna Baruffa’s 1850 line highlighted a trend that was interpreted by most of the 136 exhibitors: soft and fluffy yarns in thick gauges in a palette of natural, dark and dusty colors.

This story first appeared in the July 11, 2006 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The Tuscan mill Ilaria presented hairy mohair yarns mixed with shiny Lurex, bouclé, printed viscose and nylon fibers. Gian Paolo Bruni, president of Ilaria, said the mill had specialized in mohair for 20 years and has increased sales of the yarn, thanks to its return to trend.

“That hairy look to the yarn is back in demand, especially from the U.S. market,” Bruni said. “The difference is, now we have the expertise to make it more defined.”

Botto Poala is also championing fluffy and full-bodied yarns. The mill worked with cashmere to produce a tweed-cashmere yarn and a felted cashmere yarn. Botto Poala also twisted wool with silk in a bubbly, sportier yarn in ochre, emerald and sapphire blue.

“I like the rustic textures at Pitti, cashmere-mohair, cashmere-linen blends and yarns with a tweed effect,” said Sandra Cho, creative director of Inhabit, New York, while at Botto Poala’s booth. “The combinations give a body to the yarn, but they all have a soft hand.”

Cariaggi was also showing new blends of cashmere. The mill, which expects its 2006 sales to jump 13 percent to 52 million euros, or $66 million, produced a treated-cashmere yarn that repels water and oils. The mill updated a cashmere and Lurex yarn by adding silk fibers to turn it super-soft and shiny.

Another cashmere and silk yarn was produced in natural, cereal-like colors. To meet increasing demand, Cristina Cariaggi said the company had widened its stock service offer with 27 new colors. The mill is also mechanizing every part of its stockroom.

New cashmere yarns shown by Loro Piana exhibited innovative spinning techniques, including a yarn woven to produce a pattern of toile de jouy and others that appeared to have textile microstructures, such as tweed and jacquard paisley patterns. The mill produced the yarn in beige, cream, red and tangerine.

Lineapiù also centered its collection around fluffier yarns using alpaca, angora and mohair. Lola Coppini, chief executive officer of Lineapiù, said the company had reorganized its collections and lowered the average price of its yarns. Coppini said the mill worked hard trying to produce different blends of these popular yarns.

“Clients are interested in the thicker winter yarns with a soft hand, but they also want to see ultrafine … yarns,” Coppini said.

A finer angora, cashmere and viscose blend yarn in powder pink and sky blue was popular with the company’s clients, Coppini said. Lineapiù produced a stretch mohair yarn that, when knitted, was gauze-like with a slippery hand. The mill experimented with optical effects in yarn as well, contrasting multicolored yarns knitted together to give the impression the yarn had been printed.

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