MILAN — More uncertainty looms ahead for yarn spinners in 2023, as companies saw mixed performances resulting from a contraction in consumption — dented by fear of or actual recession — and market volatility.
Around 120 industry operators, 19 of which hail from abroad, are gathering at the three-day textile trade fair Pitti Filati starting Wednesday to unveil their fall 2024 collections, hinged on 3D and fuzzy effects.
Although yarn-makers’ executives consistently noted the reality of subdued growth since 2022, there seems to be cautious optimism about the sector’s resilience, given its high dependance on the luxury sector, which, according to the latest Bain & Company’s Luxury Goods Worldwide Market Study — Spring 2023, is projected to grow between 5 percent and 12 percent in 2023.
According to consolidated data, in 2022 the Italian yarn spinning sector registered a turnover of 3.24 billion euros, up 24.7 percent compared to the previous year and up 16.9 percent compared to sales in 2019, which stood at 2.77 billion euros.
Last year, exports jumped 17.8 percent to almost 1 billion euros driven by wool, cotton and linen yarns, particularly high-end options, while in the first three months of 2023 performances were mixed, with exports inching up 4.9 percent and imports decreasing 5.2 percent.
“The market is certainly facing big uncertainties linked to geopolitical instability with the war in Ukraine, a slowdown in the U.S. and uneven performances in the Far East,” said Alberto Enoch, chief executive officer of silk spinner Servizi e Seta.
“We’re hoping Greater China will make a comeback ensuring bigger volumes and margins for luxury companies. For sure after the euphoria in 2022, the current climate is more uncertain with contrasting information hitting and impacting the market every other day,” he added. The company is not skimping on investments, though, and plans to hire around 24 new employees by the end of 2024, as well as reshore its production of recycled silk in Italy by 2025.
Lorenzo Piacentini, CEO of the Zegna Baruffa Lane Borgosesia wool mill — which has recently issued its sixth sustainability report on 2022 showing an 11 percent reduction in CO2 emissions and progress in energy efficiency and supply chain traceability — echoed that sentiment, hoping for a rebound in Asia at the end of the year that would fuel growth in the luxury segment.
The Eastern continent, as well as the U.S. — the latter viewed as a strong driver for the sector’s sales uptick last year — have both slipped out of the list of the top five exporting countries.
This shift will be felt particularly by companies generating the bulk of their revenues via exports, as is the case for Monticolor. Its cofounder and CEO Alberto Conti said despite a 9 percent jump in first-half sales this year, the volatility of global economies, combined with a decrease in costs for raw materials don’t allow for a forecast of further growth.
To this end, Silvio Botto Poala, CEO of the Botto Giuseppe mill, which has also been experiencing good performance in the first half with sales fueled by South Korea, France, Italy and the U.S., voiced his concern about how markets will respond to recession, which has hit a few countries already and cast a shadow on consumer confidence overall.
Against the unpredictable scenario, speedy services, sustainability credentials and flexibility geared at customization are all factoring in, executives concurred.
Boris Xue, owner and the CEO of Consinee Group, the Ningbo, China-based, $800 million cashmere spinner, highlighted that “the speed of change and personalization [requested] by fashion brands is increasing more and more. More colors, orders in small quantities and fast deliveries have become the norm.” He touted the company’s recently unveiled AI-powered factory as a contributing factor to meet demand, ensuring a 35 percent uptick in first-half sales compared to the same period in 2022.
Largely trading with Europe supplying its premium cashmere fibers to luxury players, Consinee is experiencing an uptick in business toward its domestic market and North America, which “need even faster delivery, more innovative and personalized products,” Xue offered.
On a similarly upbeat note was Lincoln Germanetti, president of Tollegno 1900, saying the sector “is reappropriating a more stable condition after years of fluidity.” The company, which is now owned by the publicly listed Indorama Ventures firm, experienced brisk business activities in the first six months of the year and is busy enhancing its stock services.
Cariaggi’s president and CEO Pier Giorgio Cariaggi sounded optimistic and shared that the company registered a 10 percent like-for-like sales increase in the first months of the year, lifted by a 23 percent jump in exports driven by France, the U.S., the U.K. and South Korea. The executive touted the recent M&A deal that saw Chanel and Brunello Cucinelli each nab a 24.5 percent stake in the company eyeing further expansion.
Yarn-makers didn’t pull back on fashion-leaning offerings for fall, hinging on 3D effects courtesy of bouclé spinning techniques and blends exalting the hairy qualities of natural fibers, done in a rich wintery palette.
The appetite for textured yarns echoes in Botto Giuseppe’s Cashmere Air fiber and cashmere and bison blend with a vintage effect, as well as in Monticolor’s Live Sense, an Organic Content Standard-certified bouclé blend of cashmere and organic cotton with a curly surface and mélange effect, part of the recently launched “Sense of Cashmere” initiative.
Like Cariaggi’s Poodle blend of cashmere, baby alpaca and silk, they cater to luxurious leisurewear, a top of mind category for yarnmakers.
Knitwear is still enjoying momentum in fashion. To this end, Loro Piana’s registered Steel Wish, which features two-thirds of wool blended with metal threads to achieve an almost-iridescent and crinkled effect suitable for women’s 3D knits, ditto for Cariaggi’s Wacky bouclè blend of cashmere and silk that is spiced up via tiny sequins.
The trend is evident in the Servizi e Seta’s fall collection, too, where the 100 percent Mulberry silk bouclé Zibellino thread and the Chenille Opacum product are air-brushed to obtain a light yet meaty look. The company’s sales of knitwear-leaning threads skyrocketed 70 percent in the first half.
In the Zegna Baruffa range the H2Dry family comes in a 100 percent merino wool version, as well as in blends with cashmere or organic cotton. Machine washable and boasting low pilling and easy-care qualities, these knitwear threads mingle with Sherwood, a woolen boucle fiber best suitable for fuzzy and cocooning overcoats.
Overall, the color palette is two-pronged, banking on light tones spanning from ivory white to sandy beige and richer earth-inspired hues like tan, tangerine, forest green and brown.
At Zegna Baruffa and Tollegno 1900, the primary goal is to showcase the versatility of woolen yarns and their seasonless approach, which the latter stressed by ditching the season in the collection’s naming.