MILAN — Italy’s textile sector was severely hit last year by the COVID-19 pandemic due to decreasing demand from brands and consumers alike, but the country’s star companies continued to invest in extensive research and eco-friendly collections.
According to preliminary figures released by Confindustria Moda, the textile sector last year registered a 27.4 percent decline in sales in the January to October period to 5.48 billion euros, with exports falling 26.7 percent compared to 2019 levels.
After an IRL edition last September filled with hope and resilience, leading textile trade show Milano Unica was forced this month to go digital-only, hosting its first virtual event.
Although experiencing textiles virtually is no easy task and the e-Milano Unica Connect info-commerce platform developed in 2019 with Pitti Immagine leaves room for improvements, some 192 companies out of the 400 that generally show at the IRL trade show took part in the digital showcase to present their spring 2022 collections.
The virtual fair will extend over the next six months, allowing textile makers to update their product portfolios throughout the season and for smaller players to reach far-flung markets.
Some exhibitors — including Reda, the Marzotto Wool Manufacturing company and Bonotto — have also launched their proprietary online platforms to manage their sales campaigns, a sign of the digital shift taking place in the sector.
“Companies are trying to keep up with the current situation especially as Asia is the only region showing positive signs of recovery and not all textile makers have the strength and means to export there, especially not in China,” said Milano Unica president Alessandro Barberis Canonico.
Exports to China decreased 32.4 percent in the first 10 months last year and Barberis Canonico noted that both the U.S. and countries in the European Union, except for Northern European ones, have seen dramatic downturns compared to pre-pandemic levels. This means a recovery is unlikely before 2023, or with the orders for the fall 2022 season.
The trade show president said he does not expect the spring 2022 season to experience a rebound, because brands and retailers were left with unsold inventory from the spring 2021 season, intuitively one in which they played it safe, reducing orders in the wake of ongoing uncertainties in the business outlook.
While demand for formalwear fabrics, traditionally a prime sector for Milano Unica exhibitors, started to see signs of a downturn almost five years ago with the advent of the streetwear craze, in recent seasons luxury companies and fashion brands have resurrected it via new leisurewear-inspired silhouettes and fabrics that are breathable, lightweight and naturally comfortable, not to mention sustainable.
Women’s wear is not immune to this shift either, with performance and environmental responsibility taking center stage, along with a focus on the new WFH routine.
“To this end, textile companies are further banking on performance fabrics and comfort, as the number of social occasions has dropped dramatically,” Barberis Canonico said.
To be sure, there was a good sample of hybrid textiles blending leisurewear and formalwear on show at Milano Unica.
WWD surfed the digital platform to identify the key textile trends for the spring 2022 season.
The New Laid-back Suit
Tapping into the new hybrid trend blending formalwear with leisurewear-inspired silhouettes, Biella, Italy-based woolen mill Reda developed for its spring 2022 collection a ZQ-certified, mulesing-free and fully traceable pure merino wool suitable for jersey knit suits with a tactile feel.
Part of its Reda Active line, the fabric leverages the natural qualities of merino wool, is breathable and boasts thermoregulatory features, which make it also appropriate for breezy and lightweight woolen shirts.
A focus on sustainable and comfortable suiting fabrics also took center stage in the spring 2022 collection of the Marzotto Wool Manufacturing Company, which is not compromising on its formalwear offering but at the same time recognizes today’s customers’ needs for easy-care textiles.
Banking on the ever-expanding trend for natural stretch fabrics, the mill has introduced the B-Dynamic+ range of woolen textiles, which are wrinkle-free and naturally elasticized thanks to mechanical processes that strengthen the stretch qualities of the fiber in warp and weft avoiding the use of chemical compounds. The family of fabrics is ideal for breathable and summery suits in classic solids such as midnight blue and gray.
Botto Giuseppe, a champion of sustainable research, continued to expand its Naturalis Fibra eco-friendly collection, breathing new life into to its Slowoolly and Slowool lineups by developing a range of super fine 160’s fabrics intended for duster coats and other sartorial outerwear options. The former is an RWS-certified, traceable, soft combed wool crafted into both super thin poplin and fishbone patterns and is suitable for women’s everyday dresses and overcoats, while the latter is a natural stretch option that retains its lightness, even in double face fabrics in contrasting patterns.
Maxi Stripes, Graphic Motifs and Wild Animal Motifs for Spring Shirts
An organic, earthy mood ran through the spring 2022 collection developed by shirt-specialist Tessitura Monti, which banked on summery fabrics such as GOTS-approved linen and hemp, dyed using inorganic compounds derived from ferrous oxides treated with a polymer made from 40 percent renewable sources. The special dyeing technique provided a worn-out but refined look and feel for these fabrics, which are complemented by traditional options such as the striped Leicester Bio cotton poplin in pastel tones such as baby pink and ochre.
On the more flamboyant end of the offering, the mill introduced a range of printed cotton poplins bearing graphic motifs in neon and saturated hues.
Similarly, Canclini 1925, which is based in the outskirts of Como, the textile district in the Lombardy region, adopted a two-pronged approach for its spring collection nodding to the Hollywood days of yore. Drawing inspiration from James Bond’s penchant for striped shirts, the company offered several takes on the classic men’s wear item, some featuring oversize stripes in pastel hues, others with super thin iterations combining popsicle-inspired shades.
Like other competitors in the shirting arena, Canclini 1925 aims to expand its product assortment by offering indigo fabrics that can be used for casual chino pants and lightweight overshirts with camp collars featuring different motifs, including safari-inspired prints of wild animals referencing 1950s bowling shirts.
In maintaining its focus on its signature Sensitive Fabrics textile, Eurojersey played on the duality of traditional striped motifs and richer patterns including nocturnal and muted floral prints, as well as tie-inspired geometric and micro chevron motifs that would add a dash of character to sartorial shirts injected with extra comfort thanks to the breathable and comfortable fabric that Eurojersey has built its USP on.
The company also continued to expand its sustainable mission, which entails more efficient processes to reduce its carbon footprint and energy consumption.
Nature Meets Performance in Luxury Women’s Wear Textiles
At the forefront of sustainable innovation, high-end textile company Bonotto looked to Mother Nature to create its new bio-based and biodegradable fabrics. The textile firm sourced seaweed and crab shells to develop bio-based nylon and viscose cady fabrics, featuring smooth, fluid textures. At the same time, Bonotto sourced lyocell, a cellulose fiber made from dissolving pulp and then reconstituting it by dry jet-wet spinning, as well as Himalayan nettle and jute to realize biodegradable and compostable gabardines and canvasses.
In order to offer extra comfort, feminine tweeds showed textures evoking knitwear, while technical performance attributes were conveyed through rubber-coated tailoring wool, heat-sensitive cotton and fluorine-free, water-repellent outerwear fabrics.
Como-based Ratti also put the focus on performance, delivering silk and cotton fabrics with a ripstop finishing, as well as coated, jacquard and quilted ripstop textiles. Classic nylon twills were revamped to create viscose or nylon duvet cloths, while glossy or matte effects, as well as rubberized texture, were rendered on double face textiles, specifically conceived for outerwear.
In keeping with its heritage in the world of prints, Ratti experimented with a range of patterns, spanning from kaleidoscopic tartans to nocturnal scenes combining dark tones and vibrant shades on silk and viscose twill, silk chiffon and Lurex. Tie-dye continued to steal the spotlight, along with prints of palm trees in a color palette of earthy tones mixed with acqua green, while wild animal patterns got a black-and-white graphic makeover.