It is said that creativity and innovation thrive amid chaos – and that couldn’t ring truer for the WHITE Milano Trade Show, a trade event for the fashion industry, held four times a year in Milan.
In January and June, the show takes form as WSM FASHION REBOOT, the White Sustainable Market dedicated to sustainability in the fashion industry, and in September and February focuses on women’s wear collections.
This year, due to the coronavirus pandemic, things will run a bit differently. Show organizers said that for its event taking place on September 24 to 27, in the venues of the Torona Fashion District, the physical experience will be further enhanced by a special designated area that spotlights “Made in Italy” businesses, alongside an enhanced digital format to help promote Italian and international brands located in Milan.
Affectionately named “WHITE Focus on Italy,” the show will offer a special section dedicated to Italian and Made in Italy brands that underscores native talent, heritage and excellence in the fashion industry, inclusive of unique in-store events and a newly launched B2B Marketplace, which offers businesses the opportunity to digitally interact with a wide-ranging network of Italian and international retailers for one year online. Its platform is multilingual, available in several currencies, and enables brands to invite and contact existing and prospective clients by selecting them through the marketplace, allowing commercial and distribution networks to further expand their businesses, show organizers explained. The event will feature about 200 brands at its physical show and 100 brands in its B2B Marketplace.
Massimiliano Bizzi, founder of WHITE, said that “With this edition, we aim to launch a message of courage and positivity by betting on Milan and on the economic recovery, which must start from here. Hence, I feel that it is vital to support the Italian businesses with the project WHITE for Italy. I exhort all the entrepreneurs not to back down and to show solidarity with Milan, a city that has given us so much, and will keep on doing so.”
The show’s focus on visibility is where it brings the most value to brands that have struggled since the onset of COVID-19. Brenda Bellei Bizzi, chief executive officer at WHITE, said that “Nowadays, the offer of the e-commerce and B2B websites is extremely wide-ranging, and most of them are very similar one to another. WHITE’s challenge lies in offering visibility to all those little-known businesses on the market, which, on the contrary, by putting online, the stores that purchase and sell them can gain great visibility and connotation in terms of brand identity and renown among end-users.”
“The stores and the brands of the SMEs (small to mid-size enterprises) represent a true resource for the fashion market, as they employ thousands of people in Italy and around the world. WHITE, through its digital strategy, aims to create a business development platform dedicated exclusively to them, so as to assist them and help them to grow in this time of crisis.”
And Federico Poletti, WHITE’s marketing and communication manager, added that thanks to the support of Confartigianato Imprese, a Rome-based Italian organization that represents more than 700,000 entrepreneurs, brands using the inclusive platform can “grant numerous fashion insiders the chance to have an online show window, enabling them to access a number of services [extending beyond] B2B, without forgetting the strategic combination of physical and digital worlds.”
Poletti explained that its physical format will feature “a wealth of dedicated communication and marketing activities” that serve to assist the businesses – and allow them to reach international buyers. “Not only have we entered a number of partnerships with international players, we are also setting up professionally equipped digital rooms within the tradeshow, which will be available to all of the brands, so they can live stream video presentations of their collections, as well as showcase them to the buyers who will not be in Milan through targeted appointments.”
Here, Bizzi talks to WWD about the new show format for its upcoming event in September, and how WHITE is helping Italian brands and retailers recover from losses during the coronavirus pandemic.
WWD: What will the physical edition of WHITE look like this year? How will this edition differentiate from past shows?
Massimiliano Bizzi: For the September edition of the WHITE Show, we are working on a special layout for the exhibition that perfectly complies with the anti-COVID-19 rules to reassure all of our visitors. The booths will be wider and a greater distance will be created between one booth to another; a special route will be designed with signs that direct each visitor down a one-way lane; our reception areas will be equipped with plexiglass to protect visitors during registration; and the flow of visitors will be managed in the best possible way to respect and guarantee their safety.
WWD: Would you elaborate on WHITE’s digital strategy and its launch of the WHITE B2B Marketplace? What led to the creation of the platform?
M.B.: From the first day of the lockdown, we understood the need to create a WHITE digital platform to give our customers the chance to be viewed by international buyers that are blocked by the pandemic in their respective countries. We believe that the physical and digital platforms are perfectly integrated and complementary to one another.
WWD: How will the message of economic recovery” be conveyed to attendees?
M.B.: The simple fact that we have not given up on organizing the trade show – with the support of ITA, the Italian Trade Agency and Confartigianto – with all the risks and unknowns related to the pandemic, shows that we believe in the recovery of the sector. We met with the experts in every arena and teamed up with them inclusive of sales showrooms, agents, distributors and our customer brands. Many of them are ready to go back to working hard and investing in sustainability, as well as in the digital projects we proposed.
WWD: There is a growing movement to support Milan and the Italian supply chain. Would you share more about what WHITE has learned about this movement and how it’s evolved throughout the coronavirus pandemic?
M.B.: The main players in the fashion system joined forces – with the Institutions too – to give momentum and new energy to Milan, the fashion epicenter from which the economic recovery of the sector must start again. Hence the birth of “MILANOLOVES ITALY,” an invitation to bet on Milan, engaging all the Italian entrepreneurs so they join forces and focus on the Italian fashion capital that has always represented them.
A very difficult situation has given rise to a movement that aims to support Milan and the Italian fashion supply chain, with all its businesses, in order to reassure that the city is set up for September with plenty of strength. It’s an initiative under the banner of inclusion, which sees for the first time, many brands concretely working together for the sake of Milan’s revival.
WWD: How can WHITE address the needs of Italian brands and retailers in crisis?
M.B.: Supporting the physical trade show and our clients through strong institutional communication, social networks and through an advertising investment plan, which can be implemented thanks to the strong support of the Italian Trade Agency on the physical and digital fair and, as previously said, on sustainable projects and on the communication.
WWD: What’s next for WHITE?
M.B.: We are working on many new projects for the future editions of the WHITE Milano Trade Show, as well as on WSM, and we are confident that the market can recover. We will continue to innovate and support these fashion labels through our physical – and now digital – events.
WHITE Special Projects
A trifecta of three WHITE Special Projects will take place at the autumnal event, including an appearance by Yekaterina Ivankova, a Special Designer at WHITE, who founded her eponymously named upcycling brand in 2017. Ivankova was trained at Polimoda in Florence, which she says was a “key experience in the conception of her label.” Ivankova salvages vintage dresses and stock materials and takes aim at “producing nothing from scratch.”
“The idea of my fashion is not limited to the outfits, it is a #fashionforplanet lifestyle. Today it is possible to produce sustainable fashion and gorgeous items. Where there’s a will there’s a way,” Ivankova said.
Show organizers said that the designer’s philosophy can be summed up in three words: sustainability, reworking and upcycling. “Ivankova’s experimental creations are a breath of fresh air and energy. Inspired by her travels in central Asia, her approach to fashion is a synthesis of modern manufacturing techniques and Italian couture with a dash of vintage,” they explained.
Its Special Guest for this edition is Vien, an Italian brand founded by Vincenzo Palazzo that “fashions a patchwork of styles” throughout his collections. Palazzo, a 32-year-old designer from Putignano, creatively pushes the “Made in Puglia” concept forward.
Living between Milan and his hometown, the designer said he chose to keep his brand’s production in Apulia, a location that lends itself well the cultural diversity that Palazzo weaves into his collections. Describing his brand as “multi-cultural” and “multi-ethnic,” Palazzo’s uniquely inspired designs will be showcased within a specially designated area at the show.
And Sabina Musayev, a women’s ready-to-wear fashion brand, will be featured as another Special Project. The brand was founded in 2011 by couple and design duo Meir Moyal and Sabina Moyal Musayev with the vision to create a collection that combines traditional techniques and “poetic, up-to-date and comfortable” fashion.
A graduate of Shenkar College with a degree in design and engineering, Musayev is a third-generation tailor and immigrant from Baku, Azerbaijan, a mountainous seaside city rich in textile heritage. Sabina Musayev is represented by the DMVB showroom, which supports the brand’s international growth.
“Embracing the decorative and ethnic influences of her past, combined with a modern receptiveness, she is creating unique, poetic and feminine pieces for the contemporary women. With every season, a new inspiration creates the choice and selection of fabrics and colors, always bearing in mind the image of the modern woman with her needs and aspirations.” For Musayev, the modern woman is “confident, self-aware, adventurous and has a distinct presence,” show organizers said.
Musayev’s collections – which include elegant evening dresses that can be worn throughout the day via “minor stylistic add-ons” – are designed with functionality and compatibility in mind that convey a contemporary look and feel.