MILAN — Claudio Marenzi, newly appointed president of Italy’s fashion and textile consortium, set the agenda for his mandate Tuesday at the SMI-Sistema Moda Italia general assembly at the Milan Bourse.

“The real challenge for Italian small and medium-sized firms is to go from being companies that sell products to being full-fledged brands,” Marenzi said, adding that SMI aims to promote “the growth of Italian companies’ revenues abroad.”

To succeed in this mission, Marenzi highlighted the importance of quality, research and the promotion of national trade shows, which can help Italian businesses to bolster their commercial strategies internationally.

“I agree with Giorgio Armani, though I do not share his isolationist tendency, when he calls for a greater show of pride on the part of Italian brands by presenting their collections in Italy,” Marenzi said.

“We have to leave foosball to go to play at the Maracanã [the stadium in Rio de Janeiro, considered the mecca of international soccer],” said Raffaello Napoleone using a sports metaphor. The chief executive officer of Florence-based trade show organizer Pitti Immagine encouraged the Italian fashion and textile industries to join forces to “fight the battle” against London and Paris, which he said are trying to dislodge Italian fashion from its leadership, especially in the men’s wear business. In particular, Napoleone referred to the fact that in the last two seasons, London Collections: Men’s overlapped with the opening day of international men’s wear trade show Pitti Uomo and that the Chambre Syndicale de la Mode scheduled its men’s fashion week early in January.

“We have to send out the message that our Italian system is trendy,” said Napoleone, highlighting that Italian companies need to stop singing the praises of the country’s manufacturing excellence, “which is a given,” and instead talk about the industry’s “creativity, innovation, glamour and commercial power.”

“We were trendy in the Eighties and in the Nineties, but big brands have crushed small labels and now it’s really hard to let a new creativity prosper,” said Terenzi, who affirmed that SMI will support events such as Pitti Uomo that are focused on scouting new brands and talents.

During the assembly, Italy’s vice minister for economic development Carlo Calenda said that the government has agreed to double the budget for promoting Italian business abroad and that ICE, the agency responsible for the promotion and internationalization of Italian companies abroad, will unveil a five-year industrial plan on July 12.

To support Italian exports, Calenda also said that the government is involved in the negotiations for a free-trade agreement between the European Union and the United States and that, if necessary, the country will have to establish protectionist policies to defend its manufacturing sector.

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