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The Rupp Report: FILO: The European Art Of Surviving In Spinning

Jürg Rupp, Executive Editor

Spinning was most probably the impetus for the first Industrial Revolution in the 18th century. And most probably, there is no other sector in the whole textile production chain that underwent such drastic changes over the centuries and decades.

From humble beginnings in Great Britain, the spinning sector started conquering the European continent in the 20th century. Until the early 1960s, for staple yarn spinning, there was mainly one technology: ring spinning. Then, new technologies came into the market: open-end or rotor spinning; then, compact spinning; and also, air-jet spinning. Today, virtually all of these technologies have their space and markets.

The Two Sides Of The Coin
However, where are these markets today? The answer to this question is quite simple: almost everywhere. But where are the production sites for these yarns? The answer to this question is not that easy. It depends on the requirements of the various end-uses. Over the last four decades, yarn production moved eastward and arrived — no surprise — largely in China. On the one hand, the textile machinery industry sold millions and millions of spindles to Asian markets, bringing the Western spinning industry deep troubles. On the other hand, the quality of Asian yarns increased considerably. However, some fine-count cotton yarns were still produced in Western countries, although not for a very long time. The prices of these yarns were and are so competitive that many spinning mills in the Western world closed down. That was the very end of the commodity market for Western spinners.

For quite a long time, China has been seen as an antagonist for virtually every textile-producing country in the world. China is today competing in all sectors of the textile industry, including machinery. The saying goes that Chinese manufacturers, and mainly yarn and fabric producers, have no competition. Is this the undisputed truth? China is also facing the well-known problems of today.

The Art Of Fashion
So, one should talk about quantities, and about delivery times — this is about fashion, and so, it's about colors, and above all, quality. In every market, and definitely in the apparel market, there are and always have been a low-end and a high-end or niche market. And niche markets are not willing to buy the quantities that are needed today to be considered as a customer for Asian spinners.

In a nutshell, one should talk about the art of fine yarn and fabric production and not about prices. There must be some remaining spinners that have the will and are capable of producing yarns for a very defined market segment. You think, dear reader, this a fairy tale? To check whether it's true or not, the Rupp Report went to Milan — sorry, French people — the center of design and fashion.

The Art Of The — Mostly — Italian Way
As the Rupp Report mentioned some weeks ago, the yarn exhibition FILO took place in Milan last week. And, to an observer from a neighboring country, it is always fascinating to see how the Italians live and organize their lives and survive with an attitude that is second to none. Is there maybe a secret behind all this? An explanation is quite difficult. The official opening of the show demonstrated in a way how the Italians conduct their way of life. Words like non mollare, grinta and amore were used in different speeches.

Non mollare means, essentially, "we never give up." Grinta means something like "the will to do it, to get it done," or just "hang on to it." Amore is obvious — it means "love." But here, it refers to the admiration, the commitment and the love for the job, for the work to do. The summary of all this could be named Italianità, meaning "the Italian character."

The Art Of Being Different
Well, most of the interviewed exhibitors have been attending FILO for a long time. However, there are always newcomers like Camenzind & Co. AG, which produces 100-percent silk yarns Made in Switzerland. Managing Director Nicole Camenzind said that her company is selling a lot of silk to Italian customers, and she was told that FILO provides a good opportunity to present the products. Yet, the first contacts were quite promising.

Roberto Belloli and his company, Antonio Aspesi S.r.l., are doing something very different: this Italian company is selling tailor-made filament warps. "Our customers are weaving special products, so they need special warps, customized to their needs. And that is what we are doing."

One well-known yarn producer is Switzerland-based Hermann Bühler AG, which has a big subsidiary in the United States — Buhler Quality Yarns Corp. in Jefferson, Ga.: The company is an established producer of fine-count yarns made of extra-long-staple cotton and MicroModal® and blends. Renata Franz, business development and marketing manager, said that the company is still going to Expofil; however, it seems that the Swiss are not very happy with the Paris exhibition. On the other hand, she said, "we are here at FILO for the second time and have already booked for October."

Botto Poala S.p.A. is an Italian producer of fine yarns made of wool, cashmere and silk, all Made in Italy. The company is a part of Italy-based Zegna Baruffa Lane Borgosesia S.p.A., and Nicoletta Meriglio of Botto Poala mentioned that FILO is the most important yarn show for weavers; however, many companies presented yarns for knitting, too.

Another Italy-based exhibitor with excellent products is Filatura Pettinata "Luisa 1966" S.r.l. The company is exclusively producing fine and finest yarns made of 100-percent Merino wool. Laura Mauri presented a range of yarns to the Rupp Report, which, with all due respect to other exhibitors, it found to be just mind-blowing. To this old horse from spinning and weaving, these yarns were so unique that he will need another report to describe them. More information about this spring's FILO is to come in the near future.

All this reporting covers just a fraction of the impressions that the exhibitors — that is, their excellent products — provoked in this reporter. All of them are playing in the top league of yarn and fabric production. The customers are mainly specialized weavers and knitters in Europe — including Italy, France, Germany and Great Britain — and also customers from Japan, the United States and Canada.

The Art Of Perfect Customer Service
When asked how they persist in today's harsh market, all of the interviewed exhibitors said they are not competing with Asian products. "Only experienced people with perseverance, passion and the love for their job can do this," one of them said. The issue is not the price; it is the unique products and the possibility to buy small lots, even 25 kilograms. "Textiles are emotion," mentioned Franz, of Bühler. And at the end of the conversation with Antonio Aspesi's Belloli, while discussing customer needs, he said: "We are not selling yarn, we are selling service." And that seems and must be the essence of the art of survival for European manufacturers.

The 40th edition of FILO will be held October 9-10, 2013.

March 26, 2013