MILAN — With the domestic market still in a slump, Italy’s fashion trade fairs are working to attract international buyers, and September — when the fashion circus descends on this northern Italian city — is a key month for trade show organizers and exhibitors.
Retailers have more than a few thoughts on strategies to boost business, distinguish assortments and make the fairs more user-friendly.
“During fashion weeks I always check out the trade fairs,” said Tancrède de Lalun, general merchandise manager for men’s and women’s apparel at Printemps in Paris. “One criticism I have of the Italian fairs is that either there are a lot of French brands that I see in France — which I don’t need to see again in Italy — or there are a lot of smaller labels aimed at Italian clients who are buying for Italian customers. I’d like to see more exportable brands, in the fashion sense of the phrase, and not just from France, also interesting [labels] from Italy and other countries, that I won’t find at French fairs.”
Italian fairs are rising to the occasion, with assorted initiatives to woo retailers from around the world. Leather goods show Mipel is introducing an area dedicated exclusively to artisanal Italian products, in response to the 12 percent year-on-year increase in exports of Italian leather and synthetic leather accessories; top importers include Switzerland, France, Japan, the U.S., Hong Kong and Germany, although China and Russia are quickly becoming key customers, too. For the first time, Mipel is participating in the Milanese edition of Vogue Fashion’s Night Out on Sept. 17 and introducing a special e-commerce initiative.
Shoe fair Micam is partnering with Rolling Stone magazine on an initiative called “Foot Rocker,” presenting street style footwear at Pavilion 10 through multimedia channels. It’s also introducing the Foot Rocker competition for young designers, who can win a six-month internship at a footwear manufacturer. The fair is also offering tourist services, providing information on Milan’s hot spots and facilitating travel to and from the city’s airports.
Meanwhile, a special collaboration with the South Korean consulting group Interfashion Planning will bring new South Korean brands to niche fair White, and just this week, ready-to-wear trade show MI Milano-Pret-à-Porter, known as Mipap, launched its redesigned Web site, featuring a more bloglike stream of images and news. In September, the fair will unveil its VIP buyers’ lounge, where retailers can arrange meetings, relax and sample Italian cuisine. Mipap’s location on Via Gattamelata ensures easy access to the second edition of neighboring fair Super, a joint initiative started by FieraMilano and Pitti Immagine.
“Domestic consumption is in a delicate situation now. You read every day that the sales going on across Italy are not such a success,” said Pitti ceo Raffaello Napoleone, noting that although summer sales began more than two weeks ago, many of the most popular shoe sizes were still available. “That’s an indication of how little was sold during the season.…Exports are definitely growing, however, so we’re focusing on that.”
Ramzi Tabiat, creative director of Kuwait-based Al Ostoura, said he would be scouring the Italian racks for “creativity,” not specific items or categories of merchandise. “It is our role as retailers to keep the consumer’s interest high at all times and under all circumstances.
“I believe it is the biggest mistake to solely think and look for specific products and categories,” he added. “That is a scientific approach based on formulas that do not work, in my opinion.…I look to keep consumers’ interest and curiosity high.”
Tabiat said he foresees a general movement toward more polished looks. “I expect that we will continue to distance ourselves from dressing down and the punk rock look that fashion went through the past few years. It is the time to be totally fabulous and elegant in a modern way.”
“What’s going to interest us in this fragile economic context are standout pieces,” said de Lalun of Printemps. “Clients are still willing to spend money for something different that brings something new to their wardrobes — a color or an unusual cut or style. I’m open-minded, and I don’t go in with preconceived ideas; it’s up to the fairs to propose memorable pieces.” RELATED STORY: Milan Trade Shows at a Glance >>
Although many fairs are targeting the international crowd, Italian buyers are also prudently approaching the offerings at September’s trade shows. Rosi Biffi, owner of Biffi Boutique in Milan, said, “The moment is calm. Clients have become very sensitive to the relationship between quality and price, although the desire to escape remains. All categories are needed to create a look, especially in a multibrand boutique. Naturally, [we will provide] lots of space for accessories.”
Biffi added she continuously adjusts budgets and has noticed customers’ increased reliance on e-commerce. In fact, Netcomm, the union of Italian electronic commerce, reported that from 2011 to 2012, online shopping jumped 55 percent in Italy.
Alessandra Rossi, multibrand commercial director of Yoox Group, said Christmas will be “full of high-quality products and multimedia content. We expect excellent results from the addition of prestigious brands such as Lanvin and Bottega Veneta to Thecorner.com and Shoescribe.com for fall, starting in November.”
As for key trends from resort, she pointed to “floral and tropical prints that we saw, for example, at Giambattista Valli and Erdem, and we expect to find these also in the main season’s offerings, as well as looks that combine ultrafeminine silhouettes that have a retro flavor with sportswear-inspired pieces.
@tradesy is turning the concept of a showroom upside down with its new space in Santa Monica. Here, the company plans to hold events, art exhibits and a showcase rare fashion pieces like this Louis Vuitton boxing set. Get all the details on Tradesy’s first showroom on WWD.com. #wwdnews
Spotted last night at the @erdem x @hm launch event: Kate Bosworth, Rashida Jones, Kirsten Dunst and Selma Blair. The party, which took place in LA, also marked the opening of their pop-up shop. “I was interested in creating a collection that wasn’t in any way disposable. It was about pieces you’d create and keep forever, things that have a permanence to it,” designer Erdem Moralioglu said. #wwdeye (📷: Katie Jones)
Renee Zellweger in yellow in 2001 and again in 2017. Chosen as one of the 12 @pantone Leading Spring Colors (and dubbed “Meadowlark”), it only makes sense that the bright hue stands the test of time and is making a resurgence this season, seen already on stars like @blakelively and @gigihadid. (📷: Donato Sardello & @rexfeatures) #wwdfashion #tbt
Dior’s 70th anniversary celebration continues with a new exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. “Christian Dior,” which is scheduled to run through March 18, takes a look at the founders tenure from 1947 to 1057 and feature 40 designs. Pictured here is an evening gown from the Ailée, fall 1948-49 haute couture collection. #wwdfashion (📷: Brian Boyle)
As one of the most recognizable models in the world, Christy Turlington Burns has an insider’s view of the fashion industry and the allegations of sexual harassment swirling around it. “I can say that harassment and mistreatment have always been widely known and tolerated in the industry. The industry is surrounded by predators who thrive on the constant rejection and loneliness so many of us have experiences at some point in our careers,” Turlington told WWD, along with her suggestions for how the modeling world should protect younger women and men. Read more on WWD.com. Link in bio. (📷: Tony Palmieri) #wwdnews
@asics America has tapped a new brand ambassador: famed DJ/record producer @steveaoki. This initiative is intended to set the tone for the new brand identity and philosophy and will include partnerships with influencers and in-store and off-line activations that will continue into next year. This is Asics’ most significant marketing effort in two decades, and is expected to attract younger consumers to the brand. #wwdfashion
24-year-old Jean Prounis is redefining the rules of jewelry. Formerly a studio assistant to Jemima Kirke and a design apprentice at Ghuran, she focuses on handcrafted subtleties and ancient goldsmithing techniques. “There was a really sterile feel in the environment and I wanted to have jewelry with character that shapes how you wear it everyday,” Prounis said. Each piece is hand made in New York, either by Prounis or three other jewelers in the district. #wwdfashion
“These collections continue to build on that vision, empowering differently abled adults to express themselves through fashion,” said @tommyhilfiger of his line of adaptive apparel, which launches today. The line consists of 37 men’s and 34 women’s styles based upon the pieces from the spring Tommy Hilfiger sportswear collection. #wwdnews