Fendi, Salvatore Ferragamo, Gucci, Prada and Tod’s will join the upcoming The Micam footwear fair in Milan to support the industry.

Running Feb. 12 to 15 at the Rho Fiera Milano fairgrounds, – a 30-minute subway ride from the city’s center – TheMicam’s 83rd edition will also showcase a renovated layout and advertising campaign aimed at enhancing its international attractiveness.

“I have always dreamed of bringing to the TheMicam the industry’s big names, the ones that contributed to making the history of Italian fashion,” said Annarita Pilotti, president of Assocalzaturifici, the Italian footwear manufacturers’ association.

Pilotti never thought this could be possible until she met Diego della Valle, Tod’s chairman and chief executive officer. “I asked for his support in this project,“ she revealed. “He told me he wanted to take part in this, also involving Italy’s fashion chamber, and to help the [footwear] industry,” Pilotti continued, stressing how the attendance of prominent names will draw international attention not only to the fair but also to all the small- and medium-sized companies exhibiting.

Italy’s fashion chamber’s president Carlo Capasa reiterated Della Valle’s effort when revealing the five top-players’ involvement. “I believe these brands are the best the footwear market could offer. They are joining a fair for the first time ever and they chose The Micam, so [this is] good for this show, for the brands and for the whole Italian fashion system,” he concluded.

The goal of the project is to help revamp the Italian footwear industry, which counts 77,000 direct employees in almost 5,000 companies, 80 percent of which are small- or medium-sized.

To be sure, Assocalzaturifici’s data highlighted several issues that are still slowing the recovery of the sector.

In 2016, footwear production decreased 2 percent in volume compared to the previous year. As a consequence, the number of companies also dropped 2 percent, with 97 firms shutting down in 2016.

Exports totaled 8.9 billion euros, or $9.5 billion at current exchange. Even though that figure was up 2.5 percent in value compared to 2015, a 0.9 percent decrease in quantities highlighted how the average wholesale price for a pair of shoes climbed 3.7 percent to 42.29 euros, or $45, which is the highest worldwide. This is a positive signal in terms of quality recognition, but could backfire in the case of exports to countries with higher duty costs.

Economic and political issues influenced the export figures, including the Russian crisis and the slowdown in Chinese growth. A slowdown in the Middle-Eastern market caused the 4.9 percent and more than 15 percent decrease in value and in volume, respectively. The U.S. also showed a trend reverse after six years, registering a 3.6 percent decrease in value and a 5.2 percent drop in quantities, also due to the protectionist political change that may have psychological and commercial consequences.

France is steady as the top export destination even if data shows 5.7 percent and 1.2 percent decreases in volume and value, respectively, in light of the instability caused by terrorist attacks. Germany and Switzerland are the second and third largest markets, ending the year with positive figures. Following the U.S., the U.K. came fifth in the ranking with a 4.3 percent increase in value and proving that Brexit had no major impact so far.

Fendi, Ferragamo, Gucci, Prada and Tod’s will be showcased in the new Fashion Square area, dedicated to luxury brands. The five exhibition booths will be flanked by a stand presenting emerging designers, including Boté A Mano, Lamperti Milano and Manuel Dupont, among others.

The whole fair’s layout has been renovated to offer a modern and more appealing design. New sections will include the Proraso Man Square, an area dedicated to men’s footwear that will feature a barber shop staged in partnership with beauty label Proraso.

The Micam Award will be assigned to the best Italian and international buyers during the “Wonderlust” special event, held on the evening of Feb. 12, when a DJ set by British singer Skin will celebrate the opening day of the fair.

A total of 1,405 exhibitors coming from 30 countries are expected to attend the upcoming edition, including the comeback of well-known names such as Bruno Magli, Bagatt and Alberto Guardiani.

Inspired by Dante Alighieri’s “Divine Comedy,” the fair’s new advertising campaign is photographed by Javier Vallhonrat. The concepts of Inferno, Purgatory and Paradise will be developed in the fair’s communications in the next three years, spotlighting a different theme every season. This edition will be dedicated to “Lust” while in September “Seduction” will be the main motif, followed by “Envy” and “Vanity” in 2018, and “Art” and “Beauty” in 2019.

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