Wool made from the Record Bale

MILAN — “Presenting ourselves on the international scene as a united and cohesive system” is the priority for the Italian textile and fashion industry, according to Marino Vago, the new president of SMI Sistema Moda Italia.

Vago, who succeeded Claudio Marenzi at the Italian fashion and textile consortium and is also the chief executive officer of dyeing yarn company Vago SpA, met the press for the first time during a lunch presentation on Thursday here, highlighting the key pillars of his program.

Along with promoting a “holding strategy,” where each company operates on its own but in accordance with a vision shared by the entire industry, Vago put the focus on the importance for the textile chain of “building a digital reputation,” along with “learning to communicate the authentic values at the base of our products,” such as traceability — which allows a competitive edge and differentiates Italian production.

According to Vago, this is key to continue to develop an industry that in 2017 generated a turnover of 54.1 billion euros, up 2.4 percent compared to 2016, based on SMI data.

Last year the exports of Italian fashion and textile products grew 3.5 percent to 30.5 billion euros. In particular, in the initial part of the pipeline, exports were up 1.7 percent, and the national companies operating in the later part of the supply chain saw their exports increase 4.5 percent.

While exports to the United States were down 1.7 percent to 2 billion euros compared to 2016, those to Russia registered a 10.9 percent increase to 157 million euros. Total exports of Italian fashion and textile products to China and Hong Kong were also up, by 3.9 percent to 2.7 billion euros.

“Both in Russia and in China we are seeing an increased demand of Italian men’s fashion and textile products due to their high-end, unrivaled quality,” Vago said.

Although he highlighted the uncertainty gripping the textile and fashion industry “where the demand of products is changing on a weekly base,” the executive noted that for the first time in years, the total number of the industry’s employees registered a tiny increase, corresponding to over 400 new jobs.

With about 45,000 employees retiring in the next five years, the Italian fashion and textile industry needs to find a way to attract fresh blood, according to Vago.

“I think that in Italy we should start to value technical education,” said Vago, who highlighted the necessity to develop highly specialized training, which can coexist with the more creative and cultural education offered by fashion schools.

The latter are actually at the center of a book recently published by Marsilio and promoted by CFMI — Centro di Firenze per la Moda Italiana.

Titled “White Book. Learning fashion in Italy,” this is the result of the roundtable for education established by the Italian Ministry for Economic Development in 2016.

According to CFMI president Andrea Cavicchi, the Italian fashion education business, which accounts for 10 percent of the sector’s global offering, “reflects the distinctive features of the Made in Italy industry and can be a great asset to further enrich the image of our country abroad.”

Cavicchi added that to fully use the potential of the sector, Italian schools should start thinking as a cohesive system, which can definitely benefit from the proximity to some of the world’s most prestigious manufacturing districts.

“This is the incredible and precious asset that the Italian fashion schools should put at the center of their strategy by building a stronger communication and relationship with companies,” he said.

After an initial presentation of the “White Book” earlier this year in Milan, the tome will also be discussed in Florence on Tuesday during a conference that will see the participation of relevant figures in the sector, including Camera Nazionale della Moda president Carlo CapasaCFDA education and professional development director Sara Kozlowski; charity organization Graduate Fashion Week director Martyn Roberts; Venice’s IUAV professor Maria Luisa Frisa, and Max Mara fashion director Laura Lusuardi.

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