So many trade fairs, so little time. That’s been the mantra in Italy over the last several years. Although there are still myriad trade shows — ranging from tiny affairs to massive events — the dates of these shows are at least getting closer to one another. Collectively, trade show organizers are working to lure buyers and emerge from the funk brought on by SARS and the currency fluctuation between the euro and the dollar in seasons past.

“Looking at the situation, it’s still a rather difficult environment, but it seems like the worst is past us,” said Riccardo Marini, president of trade show producer Prato Trade. Prato Expo and other textile trade shows have been channeling efforts to concentrate Italy’s textile shows in September, ahead of Paris’ Première Vision, so that foreign buyers can better organize their business trips.

Moda In (Sept. 8-10, at the Milan fairgrounds) kicks off more than a week of textile trade shows in Italy. Following Moda In is Shirt Avenue (Sept. 12-14, at Villa Erba in Cernobbio), Ideabiella (Sept. 15-17, at Villa Erba in Cernobbio) and Prato Expo (Sept. 16-18, at Fortezza da Basso in Florence). Ideacomo (Oct. 20-22, at Villa Erba in Cernobbio) proves the renegade of the season, arriving more than a month after the others.

“The unity in these Italian dates means that those who come from abroad can do everything in one trip,” said Marini, who added that Italian textile firms are targeting both regulars from Europe and the United States as well as those from markets where demand is growing, especially China.

Raffaello Napoleone, managing director of Pitti Immagine, which runs yarn fair Pitti Filati (July 7-9, at the Fortezza da Basso in Florence), agreed that growing demand in places like the Far East and Eastern Europe is compensating for more lackluster markets like Western Europe.

“Demand for knits in the world overall is not on the decline,” he said, adding that once again Pitti Filati will host a special exhibit showcasing yarn’s creative capacity. Last February’s edition worked yarn into sculptures of a beach variety, like an inner tube and a sand pail. This autumn, attendees will find life-size yarn animals.“We want to demonstrate that you can do anything with knits,” he said.

Armando Mammina, director of ready-to-wear fair MilanoVendeModa (Oct. 1-4, at the Milan fairgrounds), which includes trendy subsection Light and innerwear fair Undress, said the fair is looking to spice up its offerings with runway shows to convince buyers to stay longer in Milan before the Paris proceedings begin. He said the fair will continue to work with the Italian Trade Commission, or ICE, to partially subsidize top buyers’ trips to Milan. This year the benefits will probably go to merchants from the United States or Russia, Mammina said.

“The Russian market is always an active market. It’s an interesting one,” he said. “In the U.S., we are hoping that the market is recovering, but we don’t have clear signals yet.”

Cinzia Di Dio, who heads up ICE’s textile and apparel efforts, said that Italy’s trade fairs are still targeting mainstays like the U.S. and Japan, but that more and more fairs are expressing an interest in luring buyers and journalists from emerging markets like China, Russia and Eastern Europe.

“They are pushing a bit on forming and strengthening relationships [in those countries],” she said.

Trade shows are also aiming to respond to competitive market conditions as consumers become more and more selective in their apparel spending. Agostino Poletto, a representative of Efima, which organizes ready-to-wear fair White and its less trend-driven sister show Neozone (both run Sept. 30-Oct. 3, at Milan’s Superstudio Piu’), said that fair organizers are reaching out to new exhibitors, especially smaller brands, to freshen up the offerings. They are also tapping into complementary product categories.

“Accessories are a strong attraction for the buyer, and we want to display it well,” Poletto said.

Also on the accessories front, once again footwear fair Micam and leather accessories fair Mipel coincide (both run Sept. 18-21, at the Milan fairgrounds). Niche fair Fashion Shoe and Leather Goods (June 21-23) is changing locations and moving to the smaller fairgrounds in Modena from larger digs in Bologna for both cost and logistical advantages.Leonardo Soana, chief executive of Micam, said that the fair is working with ICE to attract more buyers from Russia and Eastern Europe and the fair is also concentrating on the all-important Japanese market, which is gaining even more momentum. On the exhibitor side, he noted that “there is a lot of interest in Micam,” and that all display spots are fully booked.

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