A brand on show at the upcoming White Milano digital-only trade show running Feb. 25 to 28.

MILAN — A collaborative mind-set is key for Italian trade show White Milano, which is gearing up to host its second digital-only edition Feb. 25 to 28, in conjunction with Milan Fashion Week.

The digital affair will combine talks, webinars, a business-to-business platform and consumer-facing initiatives in hopes of supporting and preserving the country’s small and medium-sized fashion enterprises.

Massimiliano Bizzi, the founder of the White Milano, is not only optimistic about the fair, but he is also looking long term to the renaissance of Milan and has the ambition to make it a reference point for the international fashion community in the post-pandemic future.

“Milan and fashion are one, we definitely need to rethink the way the sector is presented during fashion weeks,” he said during a Zoom call Thursday unveiling the program for the upcoming digital fair. “The industry has basically lost three seasons, from fall 2020 to fall 2021 and we need to change the status quo and leverage digital capabilities to involve final consumers,” he added.

White Milano has always been rooted in showcasing up-and-coming brands, often in the contemporary arena, and operated by SMEs which represent 90 percent of the fashion sector’s sales in the country. Bizzi noted that they often lack the financial and operational strength for marketing and communication activities, which the trade show aims to compensate.

In order to support the system, Bizzi stressed the importance a joint effort by all involved entities. To this end, the number of partners the fair has amassed over the years include Confartigianato Imprese, Italy’s trade agency ICE and even a roster of showroom operators and buyers.

Among the last category, Beppe Angiolini, the marquee buyer from Arezzo, Italy-based shop Sugar praised the trade show for supporting smaller labels, an important role that has increased since digital buying has taken over physical appointments. “Making orders online is a tough process and it does not reward small companies, as retailers tend to favor established names, that are safer,” he said.

The upcoming White Milano event will feature more than 200 brands on its marketplace, including two special project areas dedicated to “advanced artisans” and to sustainability.

The former project will spotlight around 20 brands with an innovative bent, including denimwear specialist PeppinoPeppino and Brazil-based jeweler Nart Studio and along the same lines, White Milano has forged ties with Galleria&Friends a Milan-based association gathering the city’s artisanal boutiques.

A key topic for White Milano, sustainability is increasingly viewed as competitive advantage rather than compliance with regulations, as ICE president Carlo Maria Ferro put it. To this end, the second project, called  “A Good Job,” will be dedicated to eco-friendly labels including vegan bag maker Roberto di Stefano, footwear brand Yatay and Tiziano Guardini.

As reported, the trade show is linking with Altaroma, giving brands that showcased at the Rome event an opportunity to digitally catch up with buyers.

While enthusiastic about February, Bizzi is looking forward to September’s fashion week for a full rebound supported by physical events, which will give a boost of confidence to the country and its fashion industry. He and Angiolini share the dream of hosting a number of consumer-facing events throughout the city, in line with what Milan Design Week has been able to do over the past years.

Meanwhile, to support a rebound throughout 2021, ICE has unveiled 14 new initiatives to boost e-commerce operations via b-to-c deals with 26 international online shops, including Germany’s Mytheresa, as reported, and a b-to-b partnership with Alibaba through which Italian SMEs can reach around 140 countries worldwide. Ferro noted that despite an overall drop in exports, reduced from 16.9 percent in May to 9.4 percent at the end of last year, the fashion sector was among the most severely impacted.

Joining the press conference, Mario Boselli, the honorary president of the national fashion chamber, provided an optimistic forecast. “The COVID-19 pandemic is often described as a ‘war,’ however we did not lose our assets, the industrial complexes,” he said. “It’s as if a lamp was turned off but we can definitely turn it back on as soon as the situation improves,” he said, citing the recovery China has already experienced as one good example.

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