As the fashion industry continues to change dramatically amid continued disruptions of the coronavirus pandemic, focus on digital strategies have become essential for brands to reach both the consumer and the fashion industry itself. However, while many companies have strengthened future strategies by investing heavily in immediate and long-term technology, not all brands have had the resources to do so.
That’s about to change this fall when the Italian Trade Agency will launch a new digital platform to help a prodigious set of Italian fashion designers showcase collections beyond Italy. The platform, called EXTRAITSTYLE – abbreviated from Extraordinary Italian Style – is funded in part by a grant from the Italian government and will focus primarily on helping companies grow business in the United States.
The promotional platform will serve as a place for brands to showcase products to U.S. retailers and consumers but will also be a place for them to share their creative inspirations, passions, stories and brand narratives. For many emerging brands, this will be the first time these stories and passions will be told and showcased. For retailers, the platform will give them the opportunity to browse, discover new brands, and connect with brands directly in a meaningful way.
The launch of the platform could not be more timely. According to the Italian Trade Agency, the United States is the first non-EU destination market for Italian exports. In 2019 Italy recorded an export value to the U.S. of approximately $9 billion, reflecting an increase of 4.2 percent from 2018.
“Not all Italian companies have the resources to create or join a digital platform,” said Antonino Laspina, U.S. trade commissioner and executive director. “Most of them don’t have their own e-commerce and are not on online shopping sites either. These tools are essential to engage with the consumers and business partners as well. With EXTRAITSTYLE we are providing these brands with a well-round platform empowered by a digital marketing strategy, that connects Italian brands with the American market.”
While digital showrooms could be seen as a temporary fix in place of traditional shows, EXTRAITSTYLE has been created with longevity in mind and will work in partnership with physical showcases once the regular calendar becomes clear once more. In this way, EXTRAITSTYLE will act as a “fashion connector” to facilitate a network between Italian brands and U.S. retailers.
“While B2B and B2C have been a growing trend over the last two decades, today they become even more relevant in the context of a global economy, like the one we are living in today,” said Laspina. “Italian companies have to change the way they approach international markets. Our primary goal is to assist and accompany them, by offering new tools, our digital platform being one of them.”
Each designer on the EXTRAITSTYLE platform will have a unique, dedicated page featuring a virtual boutique, social media integrations, video streams, and a reserved business area. The reserved area allows brands to interact with key U.S. retailers directly, giving buyers the ability to view line sheets and collections digitally. Buyers are able to create orders or send market notes to a brand.
“Generally speaking, we believe Italian fashion labels are excellent at designing and manufacturing their products,” said Laspina. “They are not always the best at promoting themselves through the various marketing channels available. EXTRAITSTYLE was founded on this premise. It will not only showcase the brands’ top products and connect them with U.S. buyers but also support them through a joint social media and digital marketing strategy conceived to generate ongoing awareness.”
At the same time, the platform will feature a public section where consumers can visit virtual boutiques and learn about Italian brands in an interactive way. Notably, the Italian Trade Agency gives voice to both heritage and rising fashion labels. Concurrently, most of the collections featured on EXTRAITSTYLE will be seasonless.
“Like most businesses, Italian fashion labels are navigating through challenging times,” said Laspina. “Due to Covid-19 manufacturing has been either delayed or interrupted. We did not want to burden companies with producing in-season items. We left it up to the brands to join the platform with either in stock, in season or seasonless pieces.”
The evolving experience
Boutiques featured on designer’s dedicated pages will include the designer’s original storytelling and branding as well as brand imagery and animated 3D designs. The original 3D designs featured on the platform have been created with original 3D technology for EXTRAITSTYLE and will serve to highlight the craftsmanship and further tell the story of each piece in the collection.
The original, integrated 3D technology is only one aspect of the innovative platform which Laspina says will be ever-evolving as the industry continues to grow. “We are going to invest in online advertising, social media campaigns, influencer outreach, and digital marketing,” said Laspina. “Our primary goal from a promotional standpoint is to generate brand awareness. While we will hopefully resume a somewhat traditional showcase calendar, our platform will be an all year round one-stop-shop destination for consumers, press, retailers, and influencers to explore and engage with historic and up-and-coming labels. The American market is of strategic importance for Made in Italy fashion.”
The Italian Trade Agency launched EXTRAITSTYLE on September 24, 2020.