Milano Unica Brings Italian Textiles to New York With First U.S. Show

NEW YORK—After celebrating its 10th anniversary in Milan, Italian textile trade show Milano Unica took a small group of mills on the road for its first edition in New York.

Held July 20–22 in a light-filled atrium in the Javits Center, the New York show featured a selection of mills showcasing high-end fabrics for men’s and women’s apparel.

‘We are happy with the quality but especially we are happy with the quality of customers,” said Silvio Albini, president of Milano Unica and owner of Cotonficio Albini S.p.A., based in Albino, a town in the northern Italy province of Bergamo. Albini said he saw “most of the best customers—very good names” at the show, including both well-established U.S. brands and smaller companies.”

Claudio Taiana, owner of Como, Italy–based Tessitura Taiana Virgilio, said he was pleased with Milano Unica’s location at the Javits, which had a “very exclusive” atmosphere. “It’s not for the mass market,” he said.

The company had just arrived in New York from Miami Beach, Fla., where it showed with about a dozen other Italian mills at the Mare di Moda swim textile show within Hammock at the W Hotel South Beach.

Many of the exhibitors at Milano Unica were showing fabrics for menswear. But Taiana, which was showing his company’s women’s and men’s fabric collections, said he met with both men’s and women’s brands.

Among Taiana’s offerings were jacquards and jacquard overprints, fabrics with fancy yarns such as chenille, and other novelties such as digital jacquards with full repeat.

Exhibitor Pam Langlais, director of women’s divisions for HMS International, was at the show representing the women’s division of Lanificio Ermenegildo Zegna & Figli S.p.A, Successori Reda S.p.A and its Reda Active division, and E. Thomas S.p.A. Langlais said womenswear buyers typically do not book appointments in advance.

“With men’s, they’re used to appointments and keeping them as they would in Milan,” she said. “Women’s buyers aren’t used to a closed-booth format.”

Among the new products Langlais was showing was Reda Active’s collection of wool fabrics with bonded membranes for sportswear and active apparel, E. Thomas’ high-end silks and silk blends, and Zegna’s Agnona collection, which includes luxury fabrics made with cashmere, alpaca, silk and “cashco,” Zegna’s lightweight cotton/cashmere blend with stretch.

“[With Zegna,] we work one-on-one with designers from Carolina Herrera to Thom Browne,” Langlais said. “And we customize everything.”

Erco Pizzi, a mill based in Benate, a town in the northern Italy province of Varese, specializes in high-end laces, nets and other fabrics for women’s collections such as Armani, Roland Mouret and Gucci.

Emiliano Di Franco was at Milano Unica representing the family-owned mill founded by his father.

“We are here because this market is, of course, very important,” he said. In recent years, the strong euro made it difficult to enter the U.S. market, Di Franco said. “Now it is easier, so we’re trying again.”

Di Franco said he was pleased to find there is a market in New York for his mill’s products, adding, “There is room for us here.”

Among Erco Pizzi’s offerings are wool laces and technical fabrics used for fashion applications.

Albini, the Milano Unica president, said the purpose of Milano Unica’s New York edition is to show “the crème de la crème of Italian textiles.”

“We want to show America the strategic innovation of the Italian textile chain pipeline, which is unique in the world,” he said.

Albini said he hoped to encourage attendees to visit Milano Unica in Italy to see a much larger selection of Italian fabrics and trim.

“We have 450 mills in Milan; here we have 87,” he said.

He also acknowledged that the New York show featured a “predominance” of menswear companies but added, “We had a great response from women’s weavers.”

For the next New York edition, which is set for January, Albini said organizers will “rebalance” the mix. The show will also take a look at the timing of the show.

“The dates are a bit early for womenswear,” he said. “But, as a first time, we are very satisfied.”