The combination of elements was the remedy that the 115 companies exhibiting at Fortezza da Basso Jan. 24 to 26 featured in their collections of natural, lightweight and shimmering textiles to beat international competition and overcome the challenges stemming from the market’s instability.
The current state of the market was confirmed by the fair’s performance, which drew 4,350 buyers, 1,800 of whom were from abroad. The number of international buyers was up 1 percent while Italian visitors were down 2 percent compared to Pitti Filati’s January edition last year. In particular, buyers coming from France, the U.S. and Switzerland were up 5 percent, 18.5 percent and 10 percent, respectively.
“We close this edition with optimism and we already look to the upcoming Pitti Filati edition in June with a high expectation,” said Raffaello Napoleone, chief executive officer of organizing body Pitti Immagine.
Spinners opted for a positive yet slightly more cautious approach, as they particularly lamented the increasing cost of raw fibers — wool, mohair and yak, especially.
“Our only chance to defend ourselves from the difficult availability of raw materials is our creativity and taste,” said Lineapiù Italia’s president Alessandro Bastagli, underscoring that “the solution remains to keep working hard, without making any drama.” The company introduced the innovative, photosensitive Lumen yarn. Developed over four months, the cotton yarn was treated with the “continuous coating” technological process, which allows transparent photosensitive pigments to be applied on its surface and be activated only when it is exposed to direct sources of ultraviolet rays. The result is an iridescent fabric that changes color and acquires new hues according to the intensity of the natural light. The yarn then resumes its initial appearance after 15 seconds, if no longer exposed to the ultraviolet rays.
“[This] is an opportunity for members of the trade and couturiers, who are always on the lookout for new elements to experiment their concepts with,” said Bastagli, underscoring the company’s commitment in combining “beauty and technical performance.” Every year, Lineapiù Italia invests from 2 to 3 percent of its revenues in R&D activities, and an additional 2 percent in structural renovations. In 2017, the company’s sales grew 2 percent to 43 million euros from its yarn-making business only, with Europe, North America and the Far East its best-performing markets.
“We can’t change the cost of raw materials but we can use fibers in a different way and work with our imagination,” said Chiara Taddeucci, board member at Lanificio dell’Olivo, underscoring the importance of keeping a proactive attitude. Taddeucci also forecast a market recovery and “good performances from Europe” for her company’s business in 2018. The spring 2019 collection presented at the spinner’s booth focused on cotton in particular, as such fabric “enables us to create a continuity among the seasons.” With clients’ increasing demand for trans-seasonal textiles, the company introduced the “Cotton 4 seasons” yarn, a warm cotton conceived as a prelude to the summer season. Inspired by the natural wrinkles in wood or sandy dunes, it was presented in offerings with a wavy surface.
Wool specialist Tollegno 1900 channeled creativity not only in its yarns but also in how they are used. The company is undergoing trials to expand its markets, discussing partnerships to enter the footwear sector using its yarns to create sneakers and sportswear items. In addition, the Biella-based spinner is considering home interiors as another potential market. Although the spring season is not the main one for the company, Lincoln Germanetti, ceo of Tollegno Holding — comprising Tollegno 1900 SpA and Manifattura di Valduggia SpA — was upbeat about the outlook at his booth, which balanced loyal clients with new ones – 70 percent of them coming from abroad.
Cristiana Cariaggi, managing director of the namesake company, confirmed the positive mood, as longtime clients of the cashmere specialist made the new Armour and Gritty textiles best-sellers. The former is a lightweight and shimmering mix of cashmere, viscose and silk, while the latter stood out for adding micro-sequins and Lurex threads to a soft cashmere and silk blend. Cariaggi’s effort in boosting creativity not only resulted in a refined yarn offering, but also in structural strategies. Last year, the company debuted a new building in its Cagli, Italy, plant, featuring dedicated laboratories and open spaces to encourage interaction among employees and boost the development of innovative ideas and research. Additionally, this year the firm will invest 2 million euros to enhance R&D activities and improve its customer service.
In general, Cariaggi, whose company closed 2017 with sales down 5 percent to 88 million euros compared with 2016, said the market is still reeling from the industry’s crisis, but that now “there’s a new blood, a will to do and pragmatism. It’s not a dead market at all; many companies are closing but new ones are emerging, too. It’s only a matter of time.”
“When there’s a will, everything is possible, especially if you invest in the product,” said Filpucci’s president Federico Gualtieri. “At least now companies feel like wanting to do more while two years ago even that was missing,” he added, echoing Cariaggi’s impression.
Filpucci reported a 5 percent decrease in sales compared to the previous year, which the executive attributed to the general crisis fashion labels are facing in retail, especially in the U.S. — one of the company’s main markets along with France and Italy. This didn’t stop the spinner from developing eight new yarns highlighting sustainability, as they are realized with eco-natural fibers such as cotton and linen and eco-technical fibers like the biodegradable Cupro. “Sustainability is our company’s philosophy, not a one-season fling,” said Gualtieri, underscoring the seriousness of his firm’s commitment having production processes and fibers certified by external institutions.
Certified sustainability was also central at Botto Giuseppe, where ceo Silvio Botto Poala explained how the Cradle to Cradle organization controls and guarantees the firm’s wool, cashmere and – from this year – silk, their traceability and all the production processes, including dyeing realized with sustainable colors. Along with launching the cruelty-free silk Slowsilk style, the spinner aims to expand its Naturalis Fibra collection in 2018, which is produced in the company’s Tarcento plant that features solar panels and hydroelectric power. “Clients today acknowledge sustainability in a very positive way and in five to 10 years it will be essential to have sustainable yarns,” said Botto Poala, adding that if in the past this asset “was considered as something subtracting [quality]” and it was adopted only by sports companies or small- to medium-sized ones, now it’s key for luxury firms as well.
While not exhibiting at Fortezza da Basso but in an art gallery in central Florence, Hong Kong-based UPW also made the topic a priority, focusing not only on the environmental but also on social sustainability. Divided in three parts, the company’s collection upgraded natural fibers with technological innovation, featuring the Eco group, the Unique group and the Wellness selection, which comprised creative blends impacting well-being.
“We have an element of recycle in this last group as well,” said UPW’s creative director Stephen Trigg. “Mental wellness is also knowing you are looking after the environment,” Trigg added, underscoring the importance of communicating and educating customers by making all the information available in tags delivered with the yarns. The Wellness collection included the Therapy blend of Supima cotton and Copper acrylic, said to impact and help the blood stream; the Energy yarn mixing cotton, recycled cotton and Outlast acrylic fiber, which is proactive in temperature control as it absorbs and releases heat, and the Jade option, which keeps the body cooler thanks to micro-particles of stones that take longer to heat up. In addition, the Tropical yarn is treated with processes that are said to help reduce mosquito bites.
In general, UPW’s stock service offers speed in production and flexibility in orders, as clients can acquire even just 1 kg of yarn, or a minimum of 30 kg in case of customized textiles. “This avoids waste and meets also the demands of small labels’ designers, which can still have the level of service of multinational corporations. It’s an equalizer,” concluded Trigg.