A handful of Italian knitwear companies will exhibit for the first time at WWDMAGIC in an effort to make inroads in the U.S market, acquire new clients and strengthen relationships with existing ones.

The exhibitors — Antress Srl, Chrysalis, Lorel, Stambecco Srl, Tous Les Garcons and Ypsilon Srl — all hail from Carpi in northern Italy. The companies are part of a group called Consorzio ECO (Export Consulting Organization), or the ECO Consortium. The trade association represents apparel manufacturers and textile companies in the region and promotes the firms internationally.

“The ‘Made in Italy’ label is always a magnet, and if we’re savvy, we can position ourselves well in the U.S. and find room to grow,” said Antress owner Maurizio Setti.

Company executives interviewed prior to their trip to Las Vegas, said they are optimistic that they will acquire new private-label business from department and specialty stores.

“U.S. clients are coming to Italy less frequently, and going to WWDMAGIC is a service we render them because we believe in this market,” said Deanna Morselli, owner of Chrysalis. “We hope to start sowing the seeds so we may later reap the benefits.”

Alberto Spelta, chairman of Carpitrade, an association that promotes knitwear companies from the Carpi area, said, “Our buying offices are telling us that less Americans are coming here, for different reasons, so it’s up to us to find alternatives.”

Dario Galloni, owner of Tous Les Garcons, is eager to make new contacts and to introduce to U.S. buyers his company’s formula of updating collections every 50 days.

“I’m convinced that the same formula will work in the U.S. because working with twice-yearly collections and classical sportswear doesn’t cut it anymore,” he said. “People need to be stimulated with a constant flow of fresh merchandise — a strategy successfully adopted by mass market chains in Europe.”

At Antress, Setti said he is interested in modest growth for the company’s knitwear offerings.

“I don’t expect to sell billions of sweaters, but I would like to pave the way for a healthy growth,” he conceded.

Setti said one of the firm’s selling points is its use of high tech looms that churn out sweaters with hems and eyelets and ones that weave fully fashioned seamless sweaters. But great designs and high tech machinery aren’t enough to fight off Asian competitors offering lower prices. So most manufacturers said they favor natural fibers blended with synthetic ones that allow wholesale sweater prices to hover around $12.

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