VICENZA, ITALY — Call it the Matteo Marzotto Effect.
During his first year as president of Fiera di Vicenza, the body that organizes the VicenzaOro jewelry fair, Marzotto not only boosted the international visibility of the trade show, exporting its business model to Dubai, where a VicenzaOro Dubai edition will take place for the first time this spring, but also engineered a complete makeover of the show itself.
Last month’s six-day fall edition of VicenzaOro unveiled its new format and layout, called The Boutique Show. In particular, the trade show, which until now was somewhat chaotic and difficult to navigate for both press and buyers, was reorganized into six areas — Icon, Look, Creation, Expression, Essence and Evolution — each a gathering of exhibitors operating in the same business segment.
“This is a new, interesting course for VicenzaOro,” said Fiammetta De Simone, one of the three siblings of luxury coral jewelry firm De Simone. “This is the right direction, more international, and we are finally surrounded by other exhibitors with an offering coherent with ours.”
The trade show’s new, more appealing look and improved organization played a role in the 13 percent increase in the number of visitors — to 33,000 — compared with last year’s edition. The number of both international and national buyers increased as well, by 8 and 18 percent, respectively.
Strategic changes were also evident. To enhance the impact of Italian jewelry fairs, which face strong competition from their Swiss counterparts like Baselworld, VicenzaOro and Oroarezzo signed a partnership agreement designed to reschedule their events.
After 60 years, VicenzaOro will move its other yearly edition from May to early September. Oroarezzo, which usually takes place in April, will run May 9 to 12, opening a slot for the new VicenzaOro Dubai, scheduled for April 23 to 26.
“This collaboration between VicenzaOro and Oroarezzo is extremely important to guarantee a competitive trade show offering in our sector,” said Marzotto, who emphasized that this synergy is part of a strategic plan supporting the Made In Italy business promoted by the Italian ministry for economic development.
As announced by Carlo Calenda, deputy minister for economic development, VicenzaOro, as well as other relevant trade shows, is to receive financial support from the government, which this year will invest a total of 40 million euros, or $45.5 million at current exchange, in the country’s fashion and accessories industry.
The Italian goldsmith, silversmith and jewelry sector plays a key role in the country’s economy. The fourth-biggest business in the fashion and accessories field, it includes 9,000 companies employing 32,000 people and generates yearly revenues of 6.6 billion euros, or $7.5 billion.
Russia and the U.S. were cited most as strongest markets among exhibitors at the fair.
“We had a strong December in Russia,” said Yulia Yushkevich, key account manager of Turin-based jewelry firm Mattioli, adding that the company is also registering positive results in the U.S., where its colorful, bold creations are available at Neiman Marcus. “The Americans used to be more conservative, but they have finally opened up to more creative and fanciful products.”
“In 2014, we didn’t register any contraction of sales in Russia,” said Yasemin Piskin, export director of Roberto Bravo, which produces its high-end fine jewelry pieces, ranging from $38,000 to $50,000, between Italy and Turkey. “The quality of the production in Turkey has improved a lot, but there is still a lack of designers.”
Piskin added that, despite the crisis hitting Russia, the company forecasts continued growth in that market, as well as in Europe and the Far East.
“We are targeting North America,” she added, putting the accent on a desire shared by many exhibitors at the fair.
The U.S., which is showing a renewed economic vitality supported by a strong dollar, is once again perceived as a land of opportunity for many brands aiming to expand their business abroad.
“The best customers shopping in our store in Florence are American,” said Riccardo Renai, chief executive officer of Tuscan gold-focused jewelry label Annamaria Camilli, which is distributed in 400 specialty stores worldwide. Spurred by positive feedback coming from U.S. tourists making purchases in the brand’s boutique facing the historic Palazzo Vecchio town hall in Florence, the company is developing relationships with local distributors to expand in the U.S. In that region, Annamaria Camilli is currently sold in just six jewelry stores in New York and Los Angeles.
Russia and North America are the best-performing markets for Pasquale Bruni, too. This season, the label decided to show at VicenzaOro only its Amore collection — featuring gold and diamond pieces embellished with enamel details and the word “Amore,” as well as a range of one-of-a-kind pieces. Among others, there was a set, retailing at 100,000 euros (about $114,500) that included an exquisite diamond and sapphire collar-style necklace recalling the silhouette of a corolla.
Nature remained one of the sources of inspiration for jewelry designers, who proved they were in a sort of maximal mood for next winter.
Known for his luxurious creations combining high-end artisanal craftsmanship with a hyper-sophisticated creative extravaganza, Roberto Coin looked to the sky for his new limited-edition collection, which this season is dedicated to the hawk. The noble bird of prey was the protagonist of a range of upscale pieces, including a bracelet mixing pink gold, brown and black diamonds and onyx. Coin, who will inaugurate his first Milanese boutique at the Park Hyatt luxury hotel in May, coinciding with the opening of the Expo, also introduced a collection called Tanakuilla. It consists of elegant Etruscan-inspired jewelry available in gold matched with brown diamonds or danburite.
The maxi trend in jewelry is boosting the business of brands like De Simone, which turned the combination of colors and large silhouettes into a signature. One of the leading companies in the Torre del Greco district, De Simone updated its high-end pieces, mixing the brand’s famous coral, available in varying shades of red and orange, with gems including sapphires, emeralds and rubies. The designs are shown on bracelets and long necklaces, sometimes featuring detachable details at the closure.
“We are seeing more big, bold, fun pieces,” said Ilanit Zadok, vault manager at American diamond-specialist Le Vian, which sells its pieces in 3,000 doors across the U.S., as well as in 300 in the U.K.
At VicenzaOro, Le Vian, which aims to become a complete lifestyle brand, launched accessories, including scarves, such as pashminas retailing at $600, as well as handbags with gems, which range from $1,000 to $3,000.
In the context of a trade show brimming with products aimed at women of different countries and cultures, Fiera di Vicenza also revealed an affiliation with Women’s Jewelry Association Italy, the most important women’s organization in the jewelry business. In keeping with Italian companies’ improved attention to corporate responsibility, Fiera di Vicenza committed to promoting initiatives aimed at developing women’s creative and entrepreneurial activities in the jewelry industry. Further details were not immediately available.