MILAN Haute-à-porter in a garden set. TheOneMilano, which ran Feb. 22 to 25, presented a new image peppering the location with plants, a small artificial pond and green billboards aiming at engaging companies in more sustainable ways to produce and communicate, responding to the needs of the younger generations. This is increasingly important given that fur production has fallen 6.7 percent in 2018, according to Italian association Confindustria Moda.

However, the slight increase both in the number of visitors and exhibitors suggests that the new image of the trade show may reap rewards. TheOneMilano featured 393 companies, compared with 342 in February last year and attracted 11,165 visitors. Of these, 64 percent came from outside Italy. Visitors increased by 1.6 percent compared with February 2018. In particular, the number of visitors from South Korea grew 22 percent and that of the U.S. was up 21 percent. A dramatic slowdown was registered by China, as the number of visitors from that market decreased 30 percent. Buyers from France were also down 16 percent.

Two reasons may be responsible for the Chinese buyers’ data. “On the one hand, China has implemented its fur industry,” explained TheOneMilano general manager Elena Salvaneschi. “They have increased the number of farms and improved the animal welfare, so that the internal production has increased, too.” On the other hand, there is a more general trend led by the government whereby “China is trying to refocus international attention on its own territory and this means also hosting foreign companies that want to export to China,” explained Salvaneschi. “This policy aims at generating other economic opportunities, which sectors like catering and airlines may benefit from.”

Fabrizio Ferrario, founder of his namesake fur company, believes sustainability is a crucial topic for the Italian fur industry. “We suffer from a global economic crisis but also from issues such as the climate change: winter is less cold than before and this problem does not help our sector,” Ferrario underscored. The answer “cannot be more versatile products only, we have to gather together as an industry and work in an integrated way to support small firms as well as the bigger ones.”

Fabrizio Ferrario’s exports represent 99 percent of the company’s turnover: Asia, Russia and Europe are its most important markets. “Our first European destination is the Côte d’Azur: we opened a showroom in Cannes, just on the Croisette, in 1992” Ferrario said. “London was our second market destination, but since the wind of Brexit, we have started to lose market shares.” Chinchilla and sable coats are the company’s core business, while the Fabrizio Ferrario House brand is focused on fur blankets lined with Loro Piana or Colombo cashmere, pillows and bean bags. Ferrario’s daughter Paola has launched another brand, dedicated to a younger target, Why Not?!: mink coats with studs inserts and double colors are the main features of her collection.

The Greek Sarigianni, founded in 1969 by Lazarus Sarigianni, works with the Italian designer Gianni Agosto has banked on sustainability by certifying the welfare of the animals on the farms and the traceability of products. “Every year we try to create collections marked by innovative design, using top quality materials only,” information manager Susie Sarigianni explained. At TheOneMilano, the company showcased colorful furs with floral patterns or lettering, all printed in the North of Italy. “Our customers are asking for a product which is a combination of tradition and innovation: the key is to give them original things,” Sarigianni said. The Greek firm has seen a good increase of its sales especially in the Middle East (Dubai most of all), Russia but also Europe, and is planning to open a new store in via Montenapoleone in Milan next April.

Another Greek company stood out: Ego, founded in the Eighties by George Salagiannis in New York, who then moved to Greece to seize the opportunity of the Eastern European market. Ego’s production is based on the precious blackglama, a ranch-raised black mink produced in North America. In addition to more classic designs, the firm presented younger looks embellished with colorful prints, zippers and fringes. and lined with black and white or colorful heart prints.

High-quality is key for Giulio Savegnago, sales representative for the Veneto, Italy-based fur company Anpel. Wool coats combined with fur are Anpel’s core business: “We only use fabrics such as Loro Piana cashmere and our price range starts at 4, 000 euros upwards,” Savegnago said. The company’s main markets are Europe and Russia, where customers also appreciate handmade embroidered details.

Leather jackets and fur vests stood out at AD Milano’s booth. Founded by Matteo D’Arienzo in 1991, in a few years the company has built an international business spanning from Europe to the U.S. and Asia. Starting in 2014, AD Milano has seen a boost in its customers base around the world, thanks to the launch of its online store. At TheOneMilano the firm showcased a collection of colorful mink coats — from green to light blue, red and pink — as well as its classic women’s and men’s leather jackets.

The trade show dedicated an area to Chinese companies, too: the Xinji Pavilion China hosted fur companies which showcased their more innovative creations: from the colorful yet precious fur by Hebei Zhaoxin and Hangzhou Bouton Clothing, to the joyful and printed fur and coats by Diana Winter.

The American company’s Sofiacashmere stood out with its capes and coats collections made in New York and founded 14 years ago by Alexander Shlomm. Capes are all made of cashmere and alpaca or baby alpaca wool combined with fur details. Capes made of cashmere and silk showed sequins sewn inside the yarns to avoid them falling off. “We believe the only way to stand out in our sector is to provide always new designs,” Shlomm explained. “This is how we have reached not only the American market, but also Italy, France, South Korea and Japan above all.” The company also sells online.

Margherita Ranza, Margot Milano’s founder, who first started with a bag and accessories production, has recently also designed a collection of leather coats that features leather laid on tulle. Ranza’s latest bags collection has become more versatile, so that a bag can be worn as a backpack or a handbag, depending on the situation.

Giovine Donato, a family company run by Nicolò and Donatello Giovine, showcased fur accessories like key chains and pins inspired by nature and animals. “The high fashion accessories collection was a natural evolution for our company, founded by our grandfather Pasqualino and specialized in buttons, belts and lining for the fur industry,” Nicolò Giovine said. He also underscored the importance of renewing the trade show in order to seize global opportunities, which not only means attracting new buyers but also increasing the number of business-oriented meetings between firms, buyers and the final consumer. “We suffer from both high taxes and cheap competition, and I don’t think online sales and communication can solve the problem, as our products need to be seen and touched.”

One way to evolve, is AlwaysOn Show, launched in September — a digital support for trade show exhibitors. Its slogan is “Fashion, always, everywhere.” “During the last edition, this platform was mainly used as a shop window, but this time we have introduced the monitoring of online movements, which are anonymous but can be geo-tagged,” said Salvaneschi. “For example, this is how we found out that the American market is interested in demi-couture and high quality cocktail and evening dresses: to our exhibitors that means having one more tool that helps understand international trends and be responsive.”

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