MILAN “The leather goods’ business is less dented by the current economy, compared to others. We expect the September edition of Mipel to be a strong one, although the market has proved not particularly positive,” said Riccardo Braccialini, president of Assopellettieri, Italy’s leather manufacturers association, in unveiling the September edition of Mipel TheBagShow here.

Running Sept. 16 to 19, the upcoming edition of the trade show will host around 300 exhibitors showcasing their spring 2019 collections and is expected to attract more than 12,000 visitors. Braccialini was confident in projecting the number of buyers as he explained the trade show organizers are “already sensing a lot of interest and positive feedback.”

Mipel fair is expanding its location at the Milano-Rho fairgrounds, particularly for the Scenario area, which will double its space and increase the number of emerging international brands. Along with The Glamorous project, Scenario aims to offer young talents the right platform to showcase their creations.

As part of its expansion plan, Mipel is also introducing the Mipel Hall Spazio project, located inside the fairground’s Pavilion 12. Here, a selection of manufacturers hailing from and producing in foreign countries, including China and India, will showcase their companies’ knowhow. “We needed to involve also non-Italian producers,” contended Braccialini, explaining that the project will target the mass market.

The initiative reflects a trend that emerged from figures released by Assopellettieri, previously named Aimpes, on Thursday, for the January to March period. According to preliminary data, China accounts for 29.5 percent of Italy’s leather goods imports and India is a growing supplier, up 24.9 percent in the first three months of 2018 compared to the same period a year earlier.

Exports registered 7.2 percent growth in terms of value compared to the same period in 2017, although quantity dropped 3.6 percent. According to Danny D’Alessandro, Mipel’s chief executive officer, “This means that the country is exporting more high valued products, thanks to the appealing power of Made in Italy.”

Overall, leather goods net exports were up 4.2 percent to 1.24 billion euros in the first quarter compared to the same period last year, proving that “Italy is the go-to hub for foreign buyers.” Following double-digit growth in 2017, which closed with a 17 percent uptick compared to 2016, Assopellettieri is confident that results will improve in coming months and is committed to “engage with even more buyers, which are the main asset for the fair,” said D’Alessandro.

The strongest markets were still represented by Switzerland and France in the first quarter, up 21.7 percent and 9.7 percent, respectively, as both countries serve as important European logistics hubs. While Japan dropped 6.6 percent, D’Alessandro was confident that “this decline is not alarming, as it may indicate that sorting is managed in other countries [rather than Japan].” To wit, Mipel presented on Monday its Tailor Made project in Tokyo, aimed at strengthening the relationship between Italian companies and Japan, which “is still a booming market,” said D’Alessandro.

The U.S. lagged behind European countries as well, showing a slowdown in terms of exports, with a 2.5 percent drop. Buyers from the U.S. are a top priority for the fair’s organizers. D’Alessandro said “the U.S. still represents the third market at least, when it comes to leather goods; we are somehow concerned about the U.S. government’s trade policy, which may cause a drop in the near future,” adding that he hopes the Italian institutions will deal with this issue along with the European Parliament.

Partnering with other Italian entities within the trade show business is key to Mipel’s organizers as well. “When Italian entities work together, the whole country is successful,” said D’Alessandro as he unveiled the new Mipel Streetstyle Area and the U.S.A. Influencers projects.

The former, which showcases seasonal trends, will benefit from a partnership with Unic, the entity behind the Lineapelle leather trade show. Such a partnership will offer insight into the entire leather goods pipeline, from leather hides down to the final product. Along with zipper manufacturer YKK and Unic, Mipel will celebrate the partnership through a collaboration with the Alta Scuola di Pelletteria [Leather Goods’ Manufacturing School] in Scandicci, near Florence. The school’s students will create a 200-piece limited edition purse to be offered to top buyers at the fair.

The U.S.A. Influencers project backed by the Lombardy Region was established in partnership with the Micam footwear fair. Thanks to the initiative, a group of American digital personalities will be invited to the Milano-Rho fairgrounds to spotlight the Italian knowhow on display at both fairs through their social media channels.

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