The 'in' adjective for summer 2005 fabrics is 'fluid.' Colours are essentially cool, while overlays of clear film or cellophane coatings are frequently employed to convey a wet look according to predictions from exhibitors preparing for the next Moda In fashion fabric exhibition in Milan.

In Italy, the prediction from exhibitors who'll be showing fabrics and accessories at Moda In is water, water everywhere. The 'in' adjective for the new season's fabrics is 'fluid;' colours are essentially cool, while overlays of clear film or cellophane coatings are frequently employed to convey a wet look.

Bubbly surfaces include the return of seersucker, and yarns which incorporate clear particles to simulate raindrops are much in favour. Buttons too come in bubble or droplet shapes of clear glass or plastic

Such watery looks are a longer range forecast since they represent the Italian estimate of what women around the world will want to wear in summer 2005.

And gauging international taste is seen as more important than ever for the 426 weavers, knitters and component manufacturers (333 of whom are Italian) who will be at the Milan event in February 2004.

Even in Italy, it seems, the message is getting through that healthy home market trade alone is no longer sufficient to ensure producers' long term survival. And that's a major issue for Moda In where less than a tenth of visitors are from foreign nations.

Attempts to redress this balance have always included preview tours of other fashion capitals, with this year once again Prague added to a list which traditionally includes stops in Barcelona, Düsseldorf, London, New York and Tokyo.

"These get-togethers are attended by nearly 2000 hand picked professionals across the globe," say Moda In's organisers.

And this time around London featured a new venue - the lecture theatre of the Victoria & Albert Museum - plus an invitation to attend that institution's Missoni retrospective runway show marking the 50th birthday of the famous Italian couture house. Both of which helped to bring in the crowds.

Technological challenges
Moda In resident style consultant Angelo Uslenghi says: "The wedding of technology to an essentially natural material as epitomised by the use of silk for parachutes will be very much a continuing theme throughout 2005."

He suggests Italian mills are hoping to sell parachute silks to customers in China, historically the cradle of silk production. And they may well succeed, since according to official Chinese statistics Italy heads the league table of overseas fabric manufacturing nations doing business with the fast burgeoning Chinese garment trade.

"Elsewhere in silk and acetate based collections, fabrics will imitate the veining which lends the leaves of many plant species, from the humble cabbage to the mighty oak, their inherent skeletal strength," he continues. "And with the leafy theme will come renewed colour emphasis on all the green shades found in natural vegetation."

Colours borrowed from berries and from citrus fruits allied to peachskin textures are another variation on the natural themes expected to be important for summer 2005.

Meanwhile buttons and trimmings will simulate the looks of fruit-flavoured boiled sweets. Also borrowing from the confectionery industry will be ceramic buttons hand painted to imitate confectionery items like bullseyes, gobstoppers and Smarties.

"While there will be stress on natural fibre fabrics, with colour effects achieved by yarn dyeing, finishing processes become increasingly complex. Expect a revival of sized or starched, as well as brushed surfaces," says Angelo Uslenghi.

"At the upper end of the price scale hand painted motifs will make an appearance, while for the mass market sector staining, blotched prints and encrusted textures are expected to be important.

"And consumers who fight a constant battle against cellulite disfiguring their skins will find its characteristic pitted "orange peel" texture reproduced on some of the most fashionable of summer 2005 dress fabrics."

Embroidery specialists
Summer 2005 is also expected to bring added business for embroidery specialists, with embroidered motifs often used to lend an added dimension to colour woven striped or floral printed fabrics.

Providing a contrast to the light reflecting qualities of the new season's 'watery' fabrics and to the acidic brilliance of its fruity ranges, Italian fabric producers will be exploring the fashion potential of hemp, jute and raffia.

Trimmings with the look of broiderie anglaise but with embroidery executed in raffia will vie with burnout effects on beachwear and in lingerie laces.

"Tulle will also continue to be in demand by the underwear trade," say Moda In exhibitors. "But by 2005 it will need the added interest of raised effect embroidery to score with the fashion conscious."

For sportswear and in the men's trade, stone-washed finishes will continue to be popular. But even newer are fabrics photo-printed or coated to resemble the tones and textures of natural stone. Slate, granite and volcanic lava rock compete with three dimensional cobble pathway patterns. Polished lava rock, or plastic simulations, will also be widely employed for buckles, buttons and in costume jewellery.

Also simulating nature but turning to marine life as their inspiration are fabrics offering variations on iridescent and textured fish scale effects.

Interestingly for Moda In's London guests who also attended the Missoni retrospective show, one of the first garments sent down the catwalk to typify what first made the Missoni label famous in the early l950s, was a glittery shift dress in which the multi-coloured fabric had been worked into a pattern of overlapping fish scales.

So may be it is true after all that in fashion there is never anything wholly new, just contemporary re-workings of good ideas from other eras.

By Sonia Roberts.

The 41st Moda In tessuto & accessori takes place from 9-11 February 2004, in halls 15 and 16 of the Fiera Milano Portello complex. For more information click here.