By  on May 25, 2005

MILAN — The Italian trade show calendar always has been a kinetic entity, characterized by last-minute venue changes and political wrangling. This September's first megatextile show — a feat that literally took years to come together — marks a significant step toward unity, which is not to say the Italian calendar isn't still full of activity.

The consolidation seen among textile shows has several causes. European manufacturers, especially those in the textile industry, are suffering as China emerges on the scene, and a strong euro-to-dollar exchange rate is eating companies' margins. A consistently sluggish European market and signs that U.S. economic growth could be slowing don't help, either.

But overall, organizers of fairs small and large are staying upbeat and optimistic that buyers will still flock to Italy for everything from the finest silks to Tuscan leathers. There are hopes that a bigger, more unified textile trade show will create a more formidable competitor to Paris' Premiere Vision, and Italians are banking on Milan's newly opened fairgrounds in Rho-Pero to accommodate more exhibitors and buyers.

"People still have to come to fairs to continue doing business," said Raffaele Napoleone, chief executive officer of Pitti Immagine, which organizes several fairs, including men's wear event Pitti Immagine Uomo, to be held July 22-25 at Florence's Fortezza da Basso.

The birth of the unified textile show, called Milano Unica, Il Salone Italiano del Tessile, comes after years of mulling the prospect. Fair organizers said late last year that they had finally gotten it together for a show in March — only to postpone it once more until September. Insiders said organizers from different trade entities argued over everything from location to the regional provenance of the food and beverages to be served at the event.

But in the end, organizers managed to work past those differences to combine men's wear fabric shows Ideabiella and Shirt Avenue with women's textile events Ideacomo and Moda In. The unified show will take place in the older downtown Milan fairgrounds Sept.13-16.

Unica organizers had hoped that Prato Expo would join up for the event, but the Tuscan textile show is sticking to its original separate format for now. It runs Sept. 15-17 at Florence's Fortezza da Basso, overlapping Unica by two days.

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