Italian fairs are showing gains in exhibitors and buyers — a sign that business is recovering.

Italian fairs are showing gains in exhibitors and buyers — a sign that business is recovering.

ANDRÉS LOZANO

Maybe it’s not exactly a recovery yet, but Italian trade-show organizers anticipate a positive second half of 2016.

This story first appeared in the May 11, 2016 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

While exhibitors were hopeful about business outside Italy, the domestic market is still rebounding slowly.

“The market is in a strong evolution, demonstrated by the choices of some major fashion houses to change the production rates and the terms and timing of presentations,” said Milano Unica president Ercole Botto Poala.

He said the textile fair’s most recent edition in February recorded fewer Chinese visitors because it coincided with Chinese New Year, but the number of exhibitors was up 10 percent compared to March 2015. European firms’ presence grew, led by Portugal (up 33 percent), the Netherlands (up 30 percent) and the U.K. (up 27 percent).

Botto Poala hinted that the 23rd edition of Milano Unica, slated for Sept. 6 to 8, would not be comparable to previous editions because for the first time, it would overlap with biannual footwear show Micam for one day and will gain traffic.

Leather-goods fair Mipel will also run concurrently with Milano Unica and Micam.

Organizers of leather fair Lineapelle shifted the show to Sept. 20 to 22 to avoid risking low attendance of American buyers, since the previous dates coincided with New York Fashion Week.

“This way, Lineapelle can meet the exhibitors’ needs as efficiently as possible,” said Fulvia Bacchi, ceo of Lineapelle SpA. The fair returns to the Fiera Milano Rho fairgrounds and coincides with women’s Milan Fashion Week, Sept. 21 to 27.

Annarita Pilotti, president of Micam, also noted a surprising 13 percent jump in attendance from Russia at the February edition, as well as a strong turnout of buyers from Spain, Germany and France.

“Finally, we also saw a return of Italian customers, which had suffered a major decline in recent years,” she said. “The satisfaction of the companies that took part in the exhibition was tangible and we like to think that the vitality we have seen is the first confirmation of a 2016 that we hope will mark a recovery.”

Massimiliano Bizzi, president of White, said, “We have a continuous demand for access by international brands and a consistent increase in the number of buyers and visitors from around the world.”

The fair’s latest edition in February registered 500 exhibitors, 21,150 visitors and an increase of 15 percent in international buyers. White’s next women’s edition is Sept. 24 to 26.

Simona Greco, exhibition manager of biannual prêt-à-porter show Mipap and annual bridal show SI Sposaitalia, said the gradual recovery of the production sectors would be a strong starting point for trade shows this year. The upcoming edition of Sposaitalia, May 20 to 23, will feature a new layout and buyers’ meeting area “Town in Flowers” in the exhibition center.

The fair has also teamed up with the Italian Trade Agency to reinforce the show’s presence in global markets and draw more international buyers.

Cirillo Marcolin, president of eyewear fair Mido, said the solid recovery of exports seemed to be supported by euro zone markets. “The first available data for 2016 signals a slight slowdown for the sector domestically and a confirmed growth of exports,” he said. Mido saw record attendance of more than 52,000 visitors at its February edition, up 7 percent over 2015, and 106 new exhibitors.

“Despite the market, this edition has recorded a nice growth,” noted Matteo Marzotto, president of Vicenzaoro organizer Fiera di Vicenza. He added, however, it’s too early to speak of a recovery. “Honestly, I don’t see it, as many problems, like oil prices, terrorism and the Central European immigrant crisis won’t be fixed in the next few months.”

Marzotto said China is still one of the most important markets, but that Iran became interesting after the end of international economic sanctions. He said show organizers were fine-tuning details, like the layout and Wi-Fi connection for the next edition, Sept. 3 to 7.

Pitti Uomo’s next show at the Fortezza da Basso in Florence, June 14 to 17, is banking on a lineup of international designers.

“We expect probably the strongest edition ever, because the men’s wear sector is performing well, and we have many events lined up,” said Raffaello Napoleone, ceo of organizing body Pitti Immagine.

Raf Simons will unveil his namesake men’s spring collection as part of “Florence Calling: Raf Simons,” while Gosha Rubchinskiy is men’s wear guest designer. Fausto Puglisi will make his men’s wear debut with a capsule collection; Japanese label Visvim will host a performance to showcase its new men’s line, and Lucio Vanotti, who made his runway debut in Milan in January, will show his collection.

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