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MILAN — Optimism was the plat du jour during the Milan trade expos this season, as foreign buyers returned, checkbooks in hand.


The fairs all saw a general uptick in buyer attendance, and hopes seemed to be pinned on emerging talents.


MI Milano ready-to-wear, one year after its debut, attracted 7,725 buyers, reflecting a 6 percent increase from the previous edition in March, which was challenged by a downturn in participation. The number of foreign buyers rose, with 22 percent hailing from abroad as opposed to 2 percent at the September 2009 edition. In particular, emerging markets like Brazil and Ukraine showed potential as attendance from those two countries doubled.


“Made in Italy brands saw a lot of success this time, including Roberto Avolio and his sartorial pieces,” said Marco Serioli, executive director of Fiera Milano Rassegne, which organized the event. “Foreign brands like Phaedra from Japan and Minitz from South Korea also did well.”


A total of 200 collections were on display. There were also two initiatives aimed at putting the spotlight on young designers. One was Collisions, which paired four under-30 designers with veteran firms to create capsule collections.


The other was The Hothouse, a space dedicated to emerging brands like A-lab, which presented a highly structural line characterized by a muted yet colorful palette and Greek mythology-inspired prints.


For the first time, there was an area devoted to beachwear and high-end loungewear, which included brands like La Perla, Pierre Mantoux and Byblos, among others. “The presence of beachwear was particularly appreciated by foreign buyers, who recognize the quality of Italian products in this area,” Serioli said.


Touch, Neozone and Cloudnine ran from Sept. 24 to 26 at the Nhow Hotel in Milan, and pulled in 7,022 buyers — a 14 percent increase over last fall. U.S. buyer participation doubled and there was a 50 percent increase from Switzerland. The Pitti Immagine-organized expo showcased 65 new brands among its 170 collections from Italy and abroad. There was particular interest in the accessories sector and in the collections of emerging talents.

Gentucca Bini was the special guest at Touch, where she presented her latest project, called “by Gentucca Bini.” The Italian designer restyles items from past collections of various fashion houses and juxtaposes her own label with the original. The aim is to give new life to a product without deleting its history. At Touch, Bini showcased Comme des Garçons by Gentucca Bini, where old Rei Kawakubo pieces assumed a different identity, like a pencil skirt that became a zipped cape for 170 euros, or $236 at current exchange, or a classic formal shirt that transformed into a feminine evening top (120 euros, or $167).



At contemporary-focused Neozone, Canadian designer Sara Roka showed her namesake collection, which revolved around a reinvented version of the classic men’s button-down. Roka added ruffles, folds and gathers to simple oxford and poplin shirts and shirtdresses to add a romantic touch. Wholesale prices range from $113 for basics to $240 for printed pieces.


Italian bag brand Le Pandorine presented its new Luxury Line at Cloudnine. The collection includes a limited edition eco-leather shopping bag with denim details and studs, available in gray, white and hot pink at the retail price of 132 euros, or $183.50.


The 21st edition of White, which brought together 350 brands, registered a 23 percent increase in buyers from last September. “Exceeding 10,000 buyers has been an extraordinary success for us,” commented Simona Severini, general director of the fair. “We saw a strong increase of German buyers and we also noticed that the Americans are finally coming back to buy in Italy.”


For the first time, White invited a special guest to the fair. On Sept. 22, in a dark postapocalyptic setting, Danish designer Henrik Vibskov staged a runway show of his spring collection, with fluid shapeless dresses, oversize pants and blouses in contrast with tight and dressy suits. Tones ranged from gray and lilac to black, with flashes of neon yellow.


Several other events added some flair to the three-day expo, including a theatrical performance-cum-presentation of Italian designer Ilaria Nistri’s latest collection. For spring, Nistri mixed silk wrap dresses and fluid asymmetric tunics with leather cigarette pants in a range of colors from black to coral red to pale rose. “Accessories companies saw extremely good results,” noted Severini.


“Accessories are becoming more and more important. They are now considered a completely independent product category.”


Riccardo Goti, president and designer of Italian niche luxury jewelry brand Goti, commented, “This edition we registered an increase of 30 percent, collecting about 80 orders.” The line ranges from a simple crochet silver chain at 100 euros, or $139.50, to more than 800 euros, or $1,115, for a silver and embossed leather necklace with cubic zirconium embellishments.

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