By  on November 21, 2007

MILAN — Innovative formats and a super focused selection of merchandise are increasingly key elements for the success of a trade exhibition today.

New appointments appear on the Italian trade show calendar every season, but competition is apparently not a deterrent, as long as the vision is clear and the location is valid. In addition, the contours between women's and men's clothing collections appear increasingly blurred. Pitti Immagine is launching a women's exhibition, Pitti W Woman Precollection, which will run alongside long-established men's wear show Pitti Uomo in Florence Jan. 9 to 12; in Milan, women's ready-to-wear show White is introducing White Homme, which will comprise men's collections and accessories and women's pre-collections of clothing and accessories, Jan. 14 to 16; Fiera di Vicenza is working on a new annual high-end jewelry exhibition in Milan called About J, scheduled for March 2 to 4.

"We are convinced that fairs are even more im­portant than in the past, but not in the same format and not the same way as before," said Maurizio Castro, general director at Fiera di Vicenza, which also organizes Vicenzaoro. "They should be less about [product] exhibitions, and more about offering a commercial direction. Each show should be recounted as a story," he said, noting that About J will be business-oriented.

Fiera di Vicenza is in the midst of an overhaul, as the management structure has entirely changed with the recent privatization of the company. Vicenzaoro Winter will open Jan. 13 to 20 with a new name, which will be revealed at a press conference next month.

"We rediscussed our strategies and realized that Vicenzaoro was too commercial and homogenous," said Castro, who joined the organization in May. "We are aiming at a more specialized exhibition aiming at different market segments."

At the end of the year, organizers plan to also add another show, likely in Barcelona, Paris or Antwerp, Belgium.

Vicenzaoro Spring, running May 17 to 21, will also change name and target. "It will be more about bridging the gap between consumer and production and be more about innovation," said Castro, adding that Fiera di Vicenza is aiming at increasingly becoming more specialized in jewelry and luxury. In accordance, the exclusive exhibition Luxury and Yachts will move from Verona to Vicenza next year. "And we plan to make it even more exclusive," said Castro.Pitti W Woman Precollection is expected to show 40 international brands. Organizers said Mulberry, Cacharel, Rebecca Brown, Sissi Rossi accessories, Archivio Privato by Alberto Zambelli, British eyewear brand Linda Farrow Luxe, Carlo Contrada and emerging designers 6267 are among the brands that will be present.

"The group of companies we are working with has strong common traits: stylistic identity and quality product," said Agostino Poletto, marketing director of Pitti Immagine. Poletto said exhibitors have consolidated businesses with prestigious boutiques and department stores around the world; have "significant sales volumes," and, though they may at times be under the press radar, are "well known by trendsetters and scouting journalists and buyers."

Raffaello Napoleone, chief executive officer of Pitti Immagine, said, "The market requested Pitti W to us and the response to this exhibition is in line with our goals. It's an experiment that is already giving us a lot of satisfaction."

White founder Massimiliano Bizzi said, "The sector is greatly evolving and companies tell us that they need modern exhibitions, new in terms of selection and image." Bizzi attributed these factors to the success of White, which recorded a 15 percent increase in visitors over last season, reaching a total of close to 10,000. "We have diversified our product offer, including a limited number of innerwear and footwear brands, for example, but [remain] very much design-oriented," said Bizzi.

Bizzi said he keeps his ears close to the ground and described the organization as "realistic." To cut costs for exhibitors, for example, Bizzi said White Homme keeps its length to just three days, instead of four. "Also, the fact that the same company is allowed to show both its men's wear collection and its women's wear pre-collection at the same booth is a way to reduce the expenditures a company faces during such events," said Bizzi, noting that this is a moment where firms are especially cost-conscious.

"Although trade exhibitions have lost some appeal, they continue to be a fundamental moment for a company," said Mauro Muzzolon, general secretary of AIMPES, the Italian leather goods association that organizes Mipel, the industry's exhibition. "It's the only moment in a limited time frame that allows a large number of buyers to meet up." Muzzolon said one way to maintain the show's draw is to focus on a high-end quality product. "Of course, the [euro-dollar] currency woes are influential and clients grumble about the strong euro, but in the end they want a quality product," said Muzzolon. "There is a strong demand to show at Mipel, there is an increase in requests that is comforting, and a number of exhibitors that have been absent for a while are coming back."Mipel will run Feb. 28 to March 2. For the first time in years, Mipel will not exactly coincide with Micam, the international footwear exhibition, which is scheduled Feb. 26 to 29.

"We have decided to remain hooked onto the Sunday, because this remains a fundamental day for our exhibitors who work very well on Sundays with Italian clients," said Muzzolon. In September, the two fairs will be separated by only one day, which suits Mipel organizers better. "The one-day gap is physiological and helps Micam visitors check out Mipel, as well," said Muzzolon. Mipel will also once again stay open until 10 p.m. on Friday to allow more buyers to attend both shows. "This has been a successful initiative," said Muzzolon.

Paolo Zegna, president of textile show Milano Unica, also made reference to the currency factor. Zegna expressed some caution, given the signals coming from countries such as the U.S. and Japan, caused by the weakening of their currencies compared with the euro, but was pleased to say exhibitors from emerging countries grew 10 percent in September compared with February 2007, citing China, Hong Kong, South Korea, Poland and Romania. The sixth edition of Milano Unica, which comprises Ideabiella, Ideacomo, Moda In, Prato Expo and Shirt Avenue, is set for Feb. 12 to 15.

"This past edition was particularly well received," said Zegna. "Exhibitors were pleased with the relationships created and Unica, once again, confirmed the validity of the strategy aiming at positioning the exhibition in the medium-high range of the textile market."

Echoing other organizers, Zegna pointed to the importance of services, layout and communication, investing in promotion and marketing actions in emerging markets.

"We are currently studying a number of projects and events, aimed at two objectives," said Zegna. "The first will allow our clients around the world to increasingly see the added value of Italian fabrics, and the second, less immediate but substantial, is to convey the cultural background lying behind our history, tradition, know-how, technological evolution and passion," said Zegna.

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