MILAN — Despite domestic visitor and exhibitor downticks, the 108th edition of Mipel closed here with positive forecasts riding on strong exports and fair renovations, including a campaign to draw a younger customer.
The four-day handbags and fashion accessories trade show, which took place from this month at the Fiera Milano fairgrounds, reported no change in foreign exhibitors at 64, while domestic exhibitors slipped 20 percent from the February edition to 176.
Italian visitors dropped 19 percent from the last edition, while foreign visitors swung .5 percent, with the top five countries as Japan (down 1.3 percent); Russia (up 17.8 percent); Spain (up 14.6 percent); Switzerland (down 2 percent), and France (up 40 percent).
The Italian trade organization for domestic local leather tanners, wholesalers, suppliers, artisans and goods manufacturers, Aimpes, reported healthy signs in the leather goods sector for the 2015 first quarter. Due to sagging domestic leather goods consumption for the fifth straight year, the market relied on exports, which were up 10.2 percent with sales of 1.6 billion euros ($1.8 billion at current exchange). In the first quarter of 2015, leather and synthetic handbags dominated with 65 percent.
“In the world of leathers and luggage, the Italians must put their trust into export,” said Mipel president Roberto Briccola, who’s also the president of the Bric’s luggage and travel accessories brand. “America’s always been strong for exports, but as for the Asian countries, there’s no longer just a reliance on China, Japan and Korea. Now we’re seeing Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines creating an important presence.”
Last year, exports exceeded 6 billion euros, or $8 billion at average exchange for the period. That included 4.8 billion euros, or $6.4 billion, for leather goods and 1.3 billion euros, or $1.7 billion, for synthetic leather. Fifty-one percent of the exports were destined for other European countries, up 9.8 percent with sales of 3.1 billion euros, or $4.1 billion.
Aimpes, under the new presidency of Braccialini since April, is aggressively renovating the fair, including a relocation to the ground floor to abut the concurrent Micam footwear trade show for optimized visitor traffic.
To make the fair accessible to younger audiences, “The Glamorous” campaign drafted 10 emerging Italian designers to reinterpret the shopper, which was beamed across social media by five Italian fashion bloggers in a short film. Bags were chipped with smartphone tags, readable from a new Mipel app designed by Idoo.
“We’ve got a unique industry,” said Braccialini, who is also the chief executive officer of family-owned women’s accessories brand Braccialini, about the Italian leather business. “We don’t have laborers — we have artisans, an excellence that’s been there for their entire lives.” As part of his “quality over quantity” philosophy that decreased Italian exhibitor presence, new brands were invited to the fair including Castamusa luxury leather handbags. Founder and designer Cesare Mercuri highlighted the “seasonless” Gala bag in calf smooth grain leather with gold electroplated hooks, lined in a retro cotton print based on the concept of triangularity.
On luggage and travel items, which currently account for 6 percent of Bric’s foreign exports, ceo Attilio Briccola noted that spring palettes include “colors that aren’t masculine or feminine,” such as the cream and olive bestsellers of its Bellagio collection of trolleys in polycarbonate Makrolon shell with natural Tuscan leather detailing.
The genderless trend also dominated styles like shoppers, envelope clutches and backpacks.
At Picard, a fourth-generation German accessories brand, Georg Picard, managing director and head designer, said backpack collections had been expanded in colors and styles to meet demand. “For a long time, we’d tried to attract the fashion world with designer-styled backpacks, and finally fashion backpacks have returned to the market,” he said, highlighting the Luis backpack in chili.
At the opposite extreme was the ultrafeminine minibag, like the Rosa Fragola clutch from Tosca Blu. Creative director Raffaella Condursi noted that the minibag’s popularity had created a “double bagging” trend. For daytime use, minibags are doubled up with macrobags such as shoppers and satchels, and then detached for evening. “Right now, it’s a big trend to have a mix of bags,” she said.
At Braccialini, designer Massimo Braccialini also noted the popularity of the minibag as “a fashion phase of the moment.” Minibags in its Themes collection were shaped as a lion, a leaf and a steamboat. In other groups, Braccialini used constructed, simplified forms intended for everyday use such as the Cacao collection with gold hardware in bright, strong, luminous palettes and the Paprika collection inspired by colorblocking. “The design key was about faraway countries with strong, artisan identities,” he said.