Italian yarnmakers exhibiting at Pitti Filati are adopting innovative strategies as they deal with domestic and international difficulties.

Yarn spinners showcasing their spring 2018 collections at the Pitti Filati fair are taking a tempered approach to the year ahead, as the Italian banking crisis and euro-dollar parity are likely to cause a crimp in spending.

This story first appeared in the January 11, 2017 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The euro-dollar exchange rate is hovering at around $1.05. In December, the euro dropped to its lowest levels since 2003 and analysts expect the dollar to strengthen further this year.

“This isn’t good because we buy a lot in dollars,” said Alessandro Bastagli, chief executive officer and president of Prato-based firm Lineapiù. “At the same time, it is rewarding for customers from the U.S. who buy from us in dollars. But at the end of the day, sales generated in dollars are less than what we actually purchase as a company We are cautious when it comes to making forecasts for 2017.”

ISTAT, Italy’s economic statistics office, said the international outlook for Italian companies continues to be defined by the solid growth of the American economy, the decline in international trade and rising oil prices.

“In Italy, positive signals are confirmed — new orders are increasing and consumer assessments indicate a widespread improvement,” ISTAT said.

But uncertainty still dominates the business environment. Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi resigned last month, as the nation grapples with the bailout of its third-largest bank, Monte dei Paschi di Siena. The interim government under left-wing politician Paolo Gentiloni has just begun to take shape and economists continue to fret that the banking crisis will reverberate throughout Europe.

“There are a lot of uncertainties for 2017, aside from the banking crisis in Italy and elections in France and Germany, and many other tests like Brexit to determine whether or not Europe will continue in the same direction,” said Botto Giuseppe ceo Silvio Botto Poala, citing the U.S., Italy, Asia, South Korea and Japan as among the best-performing markets for the brand.

“In addition, Donald Trump said he would implement fiscal measures and lower taxes to boost public spending,” Botto Poala said. “Let’s hope he maintains the promises he made during the campaign.”

Tessitura Monti's heather gray knit.

Tessitura Monti’s heather gray knit.  George Chinsee

Final data for the yarn industry’s performance in 2016 has not yet been released, but economic reports show that sales in the Italian yarn sector have been on a steady decline since 2011, dropping to 2.92 billion euros, or $3.06 billion at current exchange, in 2015 from 3.38 billion euros, or $3.54 billion, in 2011.

Exports have followed, dipping to 871 million euros, or $923 million, in 2015 from 996 million euros, or $1.05 billion in 2011.

The fair will unfold under the aegis of a passenger-voyageur theme that will be divided into subthemes like “the walk,” “the treat,” “the anywhere,” “the rich” and “the game.” The anywhere, for example, will feature threads that transcend the seasons, while the game sector will showcase activewear yarns, highlighting an uptick in European activewear products and brands.

Pitti Filati will feature an exhibition and research project under the artistic direction of fashion designer Angelo Figus and knitwear expert Nicola Miller. The new spring collection will be dedicated to the concept of movement and functionality, Figus explained. Overall, collections will reflect the spirit of necessity and adapting to every situation.

“Surprisingly, there will also be a lot of artificial materials that appear natural but are actually made of polyamide materials because you need to wash and dry it in a hurry to adapt to the growing need to travel — and to adapt to changing weather patterns,” Figus said.

Top firms such as Cariaggi, Filpucci, Tollegno 1900, Lanificio dell’ Olivo and Safil have continued producing yarns under the “artisanal” and “eco” ethos for several seasons.

As global warming and more weather-transcendent jet-setting persists, mills continue to focus on seasonless, year-round materials and intricate blends that combine natural materials with technical fibers.

Lineapiù, for example, said it’s focusing on viscose and ways to make it more luminous and shimmery. The company credits itself as one of the first makers of viscose yarn, which is derived from tree cellulose from plants like soy, bamboo and sugar cane. Lineapiù said it continues to work on other cellulose-based products such as Cupro, which breathes like cotton and looks like rayon.

Versatility will be the key for Biella-based Tollegno 1900, which will unfurl its “#24hoursworkandleisure” collection of easy-care performance lines that bear the same characteristics as merino wool but are also antibacterial, hypoallergenic, elastic, temperature-controlled and are mixed with carbon, Tencel and nylon.

In the same vein, luxury firm Cariaggi has developed an exclusive yarn made of 60 percent cashmere, 25 percent silk and 15 percent Lurex metallic, mixed with micro-sequins that the company says are the smallest on the market.

Elsewhere at the fair, Pitti Immagine’s Fashion at Work section is dedicated to innovation in such facets of manufacturing as style consulting, stitch and prototype development and printing. Companies showing here include ArteViva, Fiona Colquhoun, Studio/Zero, The Collection, Mode Information, Shima Seiki Italia, Moda Futuribile, Dicart, Marra and Sophie Steller.

As Pitti Immagine’s digital fair continues to develop, collections from Pitti Filati 80 will be online on e-Pitti’s info commerce from Feb. 2 to April 23.

Pitti Immagine expects 110 brands to show, of which 19 are foreign, hailing from the U.K., Japan, Romania, Peru, Germany, Republic of South Africa, Turkey, Switzerland and
New Zealand.