MILAN — Exhibitors at the Mipel leather goods and accessories trade fair battled a dour economy by showing off fantasy, newness and remarkable craftsmanship at the four-day expo.

According to Aimpes, the Italian leather goods association, total revenues of the nation’s leather goods industry grew 20.4 percent in 2011 compared with 2010, and are estimated at 4.5 billion euros, or about $6 billion at current exchange, thanks to dynamic export activity.

 

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In 2011, new markets for Italian leather goods contributed strongly to the industry’s general growth despite the economic crisis. Data shows the following increases in exports: China (up 97.5 percent); the United Arab Emirates (up 51 percent); Turkey (up 50 percent); South Korea (up 41.8 percent), and Russia (up 11 percent). Americans are also back: In 2011, the U.S. imported 29 percent more Italian-labeled products than in 2010.

Major trends at the March show included a mix of fabrics and skins, standout patterns and original appliqués. Medium-size bags gained momentum, and differentiation has become a common strategy adopted by Mipel exhibitors. Braccialini was inspired by the world of music for fall, showing a violin-shaped bag, an accordion bag and a mockingbird bag.

This edition also showed that Made in Italy is still a hot label to buy and to sell. According to Naoya Uehara, president of the Tokyo-based bag importer B-Egg Co. Ltd., “Mipel is the only real show for Made in Italy. When I come to the fair, I only buy from Italian manufacturers. This time I also found medium-high quality at competitive prices.”

American outdoor brand Timberland showed for the first time at Mipel and was honored for best visual merchandising. The label states that its quality standard is guaranteed by unique Italian resources in terms of materials, design and craftsmanship.

“Made in Italy is still one of the most important values in determining the success of products,” explained Laura Lucchini, product trainer manager at Mediterranea, which holds the license for Timberland bags and leather goods.

At the Ermanno by Ermanno Scervino stand, the use of textured fabrics and colors illustrated the brand’s focus on offering fresh merchandise. In general, retro styles represent a great part of the fall collection and feature fancy skin-textile combinations.

At Gherardini, bestsellers include Fifties-inspired bags like the Dodicidodici in beaver fur.

Mipel registered a total of 358 exhibitors, of which 248 were Italian.

Among the 16,401 visitors, 48 percent were foreigners. The number of visitors this March fell 6 percent compared with the same period last year. However, buyers placed orders and shared their enthusiasm for the new setups and innovations presented during this edition of Mipel.

“Even though the final data shows slightly fewer visitors in the exhibition, you cannot talk about a negative trend, as the retailers in attendance showed a deep interest in buying. The contacts turned into true orders,” said Giorgio Cannara, president of Mipel and Aimpes.

This edition of Mipel celebrated heritage with an exhibition detailing travel with trunks, bags and accessories from 1850 to 1950. In a nod to the past and a wink to the future, the Mipel 50th anniversary book, presented during the fair, is part of a charity initiative to support Japan. All the proceeds from the book’s sales will be channeled to the Japanese Red Cross.

Also, Aimpes launched a creative initiative to denounce counterfeiting. Students from the Italian Institute of Photography in Milan have been asked to interpret the theme of counterfeiting as a way to promote true Made in Italy leather goods. Their photos will be displayed during the September edition of Mipel. Three awards and a cash prize will help the winners finish their studies and launch their careers.

Aimpes also selected some established brands and companies that show at Mipel, including Arcadia, Valentino Orlandi and Ripani, to represent Italian craftsmanship in China during the Chic in Beijing fair that took place in late March.

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