MILAN — The slowdown in the economy and its corresponding effects on apparel buying left the high-end textile companies that showed at the recent Moda In show in a grim mood.

“The drop in the luxury goods market had a negative impact on our sales figures for the last quarter of 2001, and that trend will most likely carry over to the first quarter of 2002,” said a spokesman for Braghenti, one of the divisions of giant silk producer Ratti. “Fortunately none of our clients canceled their orders, but the new orders coming in are definitely smaller, and we need to start promoting our goods more actively in other markets”.

“It’s true that the market has slowed down,” said Federico Boselli, owner of Marioboselli Jersey, “but it started about two years ago. Even before 9/11 clients were only buying what they were sure of selling, and we were feeling the pinch of tighter deadlines. What concerns me more is the current mood of the end consumer, and I doubt we will see any great changes in buying patterns this year”.

Trend spotters at the three-day fair, which wrapped up on Feb. 1, had their work cut out for them. Offerings for spring-summer 2003 ranged from delicate pastel flower prints to vivid geometric Emilio Pucci lookalikes to multicolored military stripes and ethnic embroidery. Vendors showed tie-dyed lace that was printed with flowers, striped fabrics that were embellished with embroidery and embroidered squares, as well as hand-painted designs configured to form checkerboard patterns. But in spite of the colors and ornamentation, the overall feeling was staid and solid.

Many vendors showed fabrics rich in natural fibers. Many stands displayed traditional summer fabrics of linen, silk and silk blends, along with fine combed cotton and fluid rayon.

Classic large muted colored blanket plaids in linen, large black-and-gray plaids and cream-and-gray plaids along with a selection of bumpy, nubby textured linen and linen blend fabrics in solid earthy colors were the draw at Stylwool. Owner David Biancalani said his company spends a lot of time and money on upgrading not only their product line, but the quality of service they can offer clients. “We are always looking for ways to improve,” he said.

Braghenti also showed classic styles. According to European sales manager Lorenzo Pirisino, vintage looks were doing well in spite of the slowdown. Manolo Borromeo featured pure cotton and linen in black-and-white geometric prints, soft silk and silk-and-rayon blends in hot summer shades, while at I.T.M. the look was all flowers: stripes with flowers, animal prints with flowers and embroidery with flowers.

On the high tech side, Clerprem offered new finishes and fabric construction. The company, which typically focuses on synthetic fibers, showed blends of cotton with nylon or polyester. New finishes included one that resembled wallpaper.

Many exhibitors groused about the early timing of the show, sandwiched between weeks of men’s and women’s trade shows.

“Apart from the fact that the show is so early that there wasn’t enough time to prepare all of our samples, we can’t expect buyers to stay out of the office for weeks at a time,” said Alessio Merlin, head of product development for Clerprem. “It just isn’t realistic.”

The show featured 10 percent fewer exhibitors than last year’s edition.

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