Talk in the Trade – Musings from Milan and Paris

Milano Unica, from the 8th to the 10th of February, found Italy’s weaving fraternity in a decidedly more positive mood than in previous seasons as statistics revealed a +3.8% increase in annual turnover in 2014 to over €8 billion. The woollen and worsted industry accounted for 37.2% of total Italian textile production.

Last year it was reported that sales of worsted fabrics in China were around -20% lower due to the much acclaimed anti-corruption drive by the Beijing government beginning to bite, leaving stocks lingering in warehouses across the land. Sales to China and Hong Kong of  all Italian fabrics, many metres of which were traditionally used as gifts, dropped by around -12% in 2014, with certain well placed observers predicting sales will see a further slide of around -5% to -10% in 2015. The Chinese weaving industry is not immune from the domestic downturn and sales of local worsteds are suffering accordingly.

Perhaps the most heartening news to come from Milan was the long awaited improvement in cloth sales to the USA. “The US market is currently one of the most dynamic worldwide” noted Silvio Albini reporting a +10% increase in fabric exports across the Atlantic last year. Given that little is sewn or knitted in the US, evidence of  the American upturn must be masked in export figures to several supplier nations to the US, particularly China, Canada and Turkey. The good news from the States was further sweetened by the continued slide in the value of the euro against the dollar and dollar related currencies.

Many of the Milano Unica exhibitors were setting up in Paris the following week at Première Vision (10 to 12 February) where around 1793 firms from over 30 countries (752 from Italy) were showing at five events all now rebranded Première Vision. Première Vision Yarns (ex Expofil), Première Vision Fabrics (ex Première Vision), Première Vision Designs (ex Indigo), Première Vision Accessories (ex Mode Amont) and Première Vision Manufacturing (ex Zoom)

Cool Wool was the star of the show in the formal wear fabric areas at PV with several key Woolmark weaving accounts featuring light weight worsteds, sometimes blended with silk or linen.

The mood was rather upbeat despite the lack of American buyers who opted to stay at home for New York Fashion Week, or perhaps more to the point, didn’t fancy Paris after the terrorist attacks in January, particularly if they watched the Fox News ‘coverage’ of events. Add to this the palpable lack of important Chinese buyers on the eve of the lunar new year, very few Russians and hardly any Ukrainians, it is not surprising attendance figures showed a clear -5% drop. There were however 58,443 professional buyers about in Paris for the three days and wool was very much on the agenda during what is supposed to be a fallow season. Are we finally seeing the advent of ‘wool for all seasons’? Some of our bigger customers – Marzotto, Raymond, Yunsa and the new arrival at PV, Goldentex – definitively think so, as threats to dilute wool with percentages of polyester seem to have faded, for the time being at least.

– Peter Ackroyd, IWTO President