MILAN — Though the economy is still in a recovery phase, organizers of trade expos in Italy expect a solid first half.
The last round of events in September showed improved performance, with the number of buyers up all around and positive indicators in general. However, the lack of new fairs and the suspension of others in early 2011 indicate a trend toward paring down and streamlining.
“We are seeing very positive signs in textiles and the fashion sector is usually not far behind,” said Raffaello Napoleone, chief executive officer of Pitti Immagine, which organizes Pitti Uomo, W, Bimbo, Filati and Fragranze in Florence, as well as ready-to-wear and accessories shows Modaprima, Touch, Neozone and Cloudnine in Milan. “The data from January to July shows a 13 percent increase in exports compared to the same period last year. Orders for spring 2011 were just closed and many brands are registering increases in sales.”
Massimiliano Bizzi, founder and president of White, said, “In September, we had the highest number of buyers in the fair’s history.”
But Mauro Muzzolon, director of leather goods expo Mipel, doesn’t feel the accessories sector is quite out of the woods yet.
“We’ve returned to seeing positive numbers, but the sector is still in a state of waiting,” Muzzolon said. “We saw a good first half, with [leather goods] exports up 14 percent, but it’s a…situation where it takes very little to go in either direction.”
Starting this year, accessories fairs Mipel, Micam, Mifur and Mido (the latter occurring only in the spring) will run concurrently. Muzzolon said this move “was made to solidify Milan’s presence as a point of reference among global trade shows.” He is reaching out to government entities such as the Municipality of Milan and the Chamber of Commerce to help achieve this goal.
There was a general resurgence in European buyers, tentative overtures from Asia and varying results from America, partially due to the fluctuating exchange rates.
“We will probably still see a continual increase in U.S. attendance, though perhaps to a lesser degree than when the dollar was so strong,” said Napoleone.
No new fairs showed up on the radar in Italy. Vicenzaoro First will occur as planned in Vicenza from Jan. 15 to 20, along with Oroarezzo from April 9 to 12 and Vicenzaoro Charm from May 21 to 25.
“The recovery is fragile,” said Roberto Ditri, president of jewelry show producer Fiera di Vicenza SpA. “These first positive signs are weak and fragmented, but they represent a new challenge.”
Ditri said they plan to redefine the layout of the fairs “to allow buyers to optimize their time” and emphasized the importance of T-Gold, a section of Vicenzaoro First that focuses on new technology in jewelry machinery. Ditri also noted the introduction of an initiative called Vicenzaoro Italian Club, which will serve to promote and highlight Made in Italy products at the expos.
“American buyers represent a consolidated presence at our fairs,” said Ditri. “The fluctuations of the dollar-euro exchange rate don’t have much effect on attendance from the U.S.”
In addition, Bizzi has decided to suspend White Kids “to focus efforts on the women’s and men’s areas.” However, he said children’s wear will be incorporated into a larger project that has yet to be revealed.
Special guests at White Homme include Turin-based trouser company PT01 and French designer Franck Boclet, formerly of Emanuel Ungaro and Kenzo, who will host a fashion show.
In January, Trussardi and Gareth Pugh will headline the Pitti expos, alongside a slew of events both within and outside the walls of the Fortezza da Basso in Florence.
“Companies are realizing that through such events, they can get the most out of their investments in these fairs,” said Napoleone.
Trussardi and Italian formal men’s wear manufacturer Lubiam will each host centennial celebrations, Hugo Boss Selection is returning to the expo after four years and Phillips-Van Heusen Corp.-owned brand Arrow will participate for the first time.
In addition, at the Uomo and Bimbo fairs, Pitti, in collaboration with Fiera Digitale, will test-drive a new online portal called e-Pitti that is meant to facilitate interaction between buyers and exhibitors. The plan is to involve 100 companies in January and jump to 1,000 next June.
Textiles expo Milano Unica will take place in its usual slot from Feb. 15 to 17, followed by MI Milano rtw and N.O.W Feb. 25 to 28, all at Fieramilanocity.