Tattered, torn, stained, slashed and crumpled now seem set to be the adjectives Italian textile manufacturers strive for as they make ready their collections for the 35th Moda In trade fair due to take place in Milan from February l2 to l4, 200l.

Surface treatments so extreme that they verge on the brink of destruction are in vogue. Look for mesh fabrics with weft threads missing, creating apparently random holes, purposeful ladders in knitted stockingettes, and seersuckers in which the bubbles that give the fabric its characteristic texture have been overblown to bursting point.

Similarly patterns emulate accidental damage. Extended "ink blots," smudges and simulation staining take over from the usual print motifs. And where flowers are used, usually on sheer fabrics, the motifs are carefully faded with edges blurred to melt into the base colour.

This apparently cavalier attitude to fabric care is not the only paradox presented by Moda In designers.

On the one hand manufacturers are stressing delicate diaphanous fabrics, using man made micro fibres to create wispy see-through chiffons in powdery pale shades or smokily dark tones. Often these sheers are used as overlays, as draperies softly veiling the outline of a body bare or clad merely in a body stocking, or to partner glossy "underwear" satins which now take their place as party time outerwear.

But the same Italian fabric producers are also proclaiming the return of crisp cotton poplins in bunting bright colours that not only borrow the palette of the flag maker but also his favourite motifs - stars, stripes, and contrasted quartering.

Classic striped shirtings are also coming into style - either as womenswear fabrics for the high fashion end of the market or the kind of striped fabrics normally reserved for men's pyjamas. Men's shirting in flowered designs are also making their bow.

After six, the rustle of taffeta and the crackle of crisped silk will once again echo across European ballrooms as the raw materials for feminine frocks echo the fashions of the early l950s.

Look out too for that favourite 1950s trim, stiffened grosgrain ribbon used as edging. More dainty silk ribbons meanwhile develop wired edges to hold bows and rosettes stiffly in shape while traditional broiderie anglaise edgings get a totally new look when layered with a rubberised coating.

New materials also move into the fringing market with rainbow mixes of metal and plastic beading used to create fringes that are used asymmetrically rather than as straight edgings.

Buttons grow glassy or irridescent, making widespread use of both traditional materials like mother of pearl and tinted plastic overlays.

Novelty buttons in black and white come with computer graphic inspired motifs while multicoloured buttons decorated with popular cartoon characters and similar to those that have always been produced specifically for the childrenswear trade are now also being widely sold to makers of garments for fashion conscious adults as a part of a "trash comes to town" moment that Milan manufacturers predict will sweep through the young fashion market by midsummer 2002.

It is also a look that tracks back the 1950s. It is not however the look of the haute couture salons when Dior and latterly Givenchy were the undisputed kings of Paris, but popular 1950s fashion as epitomised by the outfits worn by Marilyn Monroe in Bus Stop, with emphasis on glossy plastic accessories instead of leather and high heeled shoes with cutaway transparent panels.

In the accessory and trimmings market both straw and raffia are important. The raffia can be either natural or simulated plastic ribbon. Wickerwork and basket weave motifs abound in both fabrics and as the material of accessories that have been moulded rather than cut and sewn together.

By Sonia Roberts