Milano Unica, the international haute-de-gamme textile show held in Milan, from 12 to 14 July, was pervaded by a highly optimistic and energetic atmosphere and closed its last edition registering the presence of 4,052 visiting companies, of which 2799 Italian and 1253 from other countries, + 31% compared to the 33rd edition, held in July 2021.
Alessandro Barberis Canonico, president, Milano Unica, commented on the closing results of the of the 35th edition: “Strong growth in sales during 2022, led by the United States and Europe, stimulated companies to invest in the trade show, confirming once again, with 445 exhibitors, of whose 65 from abroad, the creativity and quality of the offering presented by the top textile manufacturers. Additional confirmation was provided by the presence of important buyers from all over the world, proof of the inestimable value of personal contact and the importance of being able to see and touch the new collections.”
“The textile-clothing sector is in strong recovery. It is expected that by the end of 2022 we will return to pre-pandemic levels,” he pointed out. “This is an excellent signal of growth and an injection of confidence for the future,” he added, while underlining that Milano Unica not only offers fabrics aimed at the menswear segment, but also for womenswear. In this edition, out of the total exhibitors, 157 companies offered a broad range of products for women.
A new business overview
As reported by Claudia D’Arpizio, senior partner at Bain & Company, the market is recovering faster than expected as the fashion sector (premium and luxury only, not the mass market segment) has reached accounted for nearly €280 billion in 2021 (+28% vs. 2020), with a sharp recovery led by China, America and Europe.
This, coupled with an ongoing positive performance in the luxury sector and encouraging projections, is providing impetus for the strong comeback in textiles, with orders already equal to or greater than 2019 levels for the SS23 season (a trend projected to continue in AW23/24) and an overall turnover for the segment that should thus return to pre-pandemic values starting with the first semester of 2023 – about a year earlier than expected.
According to D’Arpizio this recovery is speeding in all segments, but especially among the youngest 18-24 consumers, especially in the US by black and Latin communities and Europe thanks to local consumption, differently from China where the policy zero-covid did not help to boost a return to consumption. Along with it, womenswear has already gained a good recovery, while menswear is still at pre-2019 levels.
Among the most significant fashion trends, D’Arpizio pointed out a return to formal wear, ceremony apparel and evening wear, but also clear influence of streetwear and casual wear. “Despite we have been used to wear comfy casual clothes for long, there will be return to formal apparel, trough transformed with comfier silhouettes and softer materials, to be worn as evening wear, for formal moments but also - including the younger generations - as a means for self-expression,” she said.
As part of these objectives a key aspect is the phenomenon of reshoring as shipping back and forth from China is no longer possible for lockdown problems, exploded costs (from €1,000-€1,500 to €10,000-€15,000 for a single container), higher prices of fuel, longer waiting tours and less control on the production of goods. Such range is now slowly bringing back production for the US from China to the US, and for Europe to the Mediterranean basin, Italy included for high-quality production.
Sustainability is cool
Loro Piana is offering Cashmere Raw, a fiber obtained from a black goat that is added with other natural fibers and creates different natural shades without the need to be dyed.
Ermenegldo Zegna is betting on a series of eco-friendly fibers. In particular, it launched Island Fleece, a special soft white wool fiber, from a sheep living in the Falkland Islands. This fiber is sustainable and traceable. They also produce fabrics by recycling entirely the remains from their own wool production process.
Tessuti di Sondrio is safeguarding and growing the Ciuta Sheep, an exemplar that has always lived in the Valtellina area, in the North of Italy where the company is based and is now risking extinction. The company has started offering fabrics made with its wool during Milano Unica for f/w 2023/2024.
Another new sustainable collection by the same company is Herbarium, a line of cotton fabrics dyed with a decoction of left local herbs, flowers and roots.
Manteco has developed Vita, a recyclable wool fabric made with recycled wool and guaranteed to last long.
Piacenza 1733 is launching First Class - Albatross, a 100% merino wool fabric made with a sustainable wool.
How fashion meets high-tech
Some new high-tech solutions will also characterise f/w 2023/2024 collections. Among them, Loro Piana presented its new Regenera System group of fabrics, a special pure wool or wool blend fabric added with a bio ceramic thin layer on the back side of the material. This natural mineral layer helps blood micro circulation helping to feel better.
Clerici Tessuti for its Tex Homme menswear collection presented an outerwear material made from a printed Tyvek doubled with a cotton jersey. The result is a double face material that recreates a 3-D touch effect.
Maglificio Maggia developed a jersey added with a special silvery coating that once it is washed breaks and conveys a particular aspect and soft touch.
Canclini launches its new Kashcot Light fabric, a new article made with cotton-cashmere yarn in intimate blends, to obtain a warm fabric with a final composition of 85% cotton and 15% cashmere.
Discovering the shirting evolution 4.0
Is the classic shirt out? Apparently yes as many companies have been offering a new version of the white, Oxford blue or striped shirt made with a special stretch ultrathin jersey that looks like a true yarn-dyed woven fabric. Striped, yarn-dyed or in plain colors, many shirt fabric manufacturers presented their own interpretation. Among them there are Albini, Maglificio Maggia and Eurojersey.
Eurojersey is betting on it strongly by offering high-definition printed knit jersey that perfectly recreate thick checked wool effects, as well as superfine argyle jacquard motives. It’s a pity they don’t provide the same warming action.
Among this season’s trends, Eurojersey took its inspiration from a collection of US contemporary art paintings hosted at Villa Panza, in Varese. Works by David Simpson, one of the greater contemporary colorists, inspired colored surfaces added with colored and metallic pigment accents, along with James Turrell’s references to connections between art and nature, recreating prints like windows to the sky or Dan Flavin's blurred effects reminding of modular sculptures lit by fluorescent lamps.
Is streetwear the new menswear?
This trend was a recurrent theme of the show. Woolmark played with this aspect for its The Wool Lab trend inspiration curated for this season by Edward Crutchley, a young and trend-setting designer who follows a sustainable philosophy, was the winner of the 2019 International Woolmark Prize and is the current director of fabrics and soft accessories at Dior.
Within the show, some exhibitors took the opportunity to celebrate some special anniversary. For instance, Colombo Industrie Tessili, designed “Woven Stories”, its special celebrative booth-event for its 60th anniversary. Visitors could experience a series of thematic spaces inspired by the elements that have allowed the company to develop over time incorporating the collections of the companies ITS Artea and Boselli Jersey, it acquired. Collaborations with upcoming designers, reinvented past stock fabric solutions and virtual reality experiences were protagonists of the special celebration.