MILAN — Buyers might not think of the classic bridge show MilanoVendeModa as cutting-edge, but it still attracts more U.S. retailers than any other ready-to-wear fair in Milan.
Held at the Milan fairground, the show replaced the long-running ModaMilano show in 2003, following an acrimonious split between the organizing bodies.
This year, the current organizers, Expo CTS, said that despite a slight decrease in the number of American attendees, 226 U.S. representatives still came. Most retailers came to buy knits, tailored shirts and jackets from little-known Italian labels that rival stores back home are unlikely to stock.
“MVM will continue to provide a platform for luxury and classic looks, as well as the more experimental Light and Trend zones,” said fair director Armando Mammina. “This year, we added a lingerie zone, called Un-dress, which was judged successful by exhibitors like VerdeVeronica and Pierre Mantoux, and continued twice-daily runway shows. We believe that the slight drop in U.S. visitors was due to the unfavorable dollar-euro exchange rate, although the number of Canadian visitors rose by 28 percent.”
In all, 11,057 visitors attended the fair, — with 33.8 percent from outside Italy — up from 9,746 last October. Foreign buyers included Star Couture, Chicago, and Itochu, Marubeni and Sun Motoyama from Japan. The number of exhibitors also rose slightly compared with fall, from 300 to 322.
Most exhibitors in the classic luxury zone and somewhat younger Trend area said that although business had fallen off, attending MVM was still commercially worthwhile.
At knitwear company Tricot Chic, general manager Flavio Nava said orders had picked up since last October’s edition.
“Overall, we took orders for around 500,000 euros [$614,000 at current exchange], but we might exhibit at a showroom in the future since we believe the quality of buyers has gone down,” he said. “MVM is experiencing a difficult moment, as is the entire sector. Our turnover has remained stable at around 15 million euros [$18.4 million], although we expect to grow by around 10 percent over 2004.”
Marco Pietrogrande, managing director of two-year-old apparel line Chocolat, agreed that MVM is suffering from the general economic malaise. “I also believe that the division of the Milan fairs has weakened them all.
“However, we worked well at this edition and have found some new clients, especially from Spain.”
The company also has several clients in the U.S., where it sells through agent Unisource Inc. in New York.
T-shirts and smaller pieces in natural fabrics did especially well at MVM, while the romantic look was beginning to fade. A layered, tweed skirt in pastel pink with a raw cotton canvas underskirt, and an aviator jacket with pink-and-white knitted cuffs and sleeves, garnered interest from buyers.
At knitwear company Marsil, sales manager Silvia Noé said the unfavorable dollar-euro exchange rate was affecting sales across the sector, and at MVM. “For U.S. buyers, my clothes now cost 30 percent more, although I have seen some American retailers, including Star Couture in Chicago,” Noé said. “I believe that this is the effect of U.S. political choices that are relaunching the American economy, but prejudicing the rest of the world. I don’t know what else I can do to fight the problem and keep prices down.”
Marsil’s classic looks, aimed at women age 45 and up, included sleek knits with Hell’s Angels-influenced metal elements, chains and zips. “Details are increasingly important on simpler pieces that can go from day to evening,” Noé said. “Women are moving away from romantic styles to more masculine-influenced looks. They want flashes of optimistic fuchsia, turquoise or violet, mixed with black or gray.”
At buzzing leatherwear stand Dibi, owner Delia Benvenuti said she was reasonably satisfied with business at MVM. By the fair’s penultimate day she had seen no American buyers, although retailers from Spain, France, China, Japan and the Middle East, as well as Italy, had all stopped by. However, the U.S. generates around 15 percent of total sales, and she hoped to see clients including Saks Fifth Avenue and Bloomingdale’s after the fair.
Buyers praised the company’s soft shearling piece-dyed jackets in funky pink, yellow and green, but the standout was a yellow, garment-dyed washed napa skirt with a tulle petticoat and raw hems.
Exhibitor numbers increased by 30 percent at the third edition of MVM’s “scouting” zone, Light, raising the trendsetting sub-section’s profile in the eyes of some buyers.
Last October, 38 companies showed at Light. This time, 52 brands took part. They made up a mix of new and established designers including colorful Spanish brand Agatha Ruiz de la Prada, upcoming Milanese label Pierluigi Fucci and Monte Carlo-based accessories companies La Guepe Bleue.
“More trendsetting buyers visited Light this year, including Dantone and Tessabit from Italy, and L’Eclaireur, from France,” said Mammina.
Some exhibitors, though, felt that Light’s profile needs to be raised still higher, saying that a number of leading buyers were missing from the aisles.
At two-year-old Italian apparel and accessories company La Fabrique, owner Marie-France Russeil said she had picked up orders from several companies including Tuberose in Palm Beach, Fla., which had selected an orange boiled wool coat with a frill along the closure. Bizzarro in Los Angeles also asked for samples.
Tuberose also visited eight-year-old shirtmaker Walter Voulaz, where buyers ordered a white stretch cotton poplin shirt with a raised petal detail made from bias-cut ribbons in the same fabric, and a silk taffeta shirt with a layered chimney collar in deep brown.
“We’re looking for an American agent and hope to expand in the U.S. market soon,” said designer Voulaz.
Pierluigi Fucci, a former designer for Roberto Cavalli, Krizia, Ferré and Verri Uomo, said he had decided to show his second collection under his own name at Light partly because of the chance to show part at the MVM runway event. “My collection is a semicouture product that really needs to show on the runway, but to do so, I need sponsorship from the fashion organizations in Milan,” Fucci said. Though orders had been slow, creative director Fabiola Arena had contacted him at Light, expressing interest in acting as his Los Angeles agent.
For fall, Fucci created looks inspired by both Seventies Hell’s Angels, and Paco Rabane’s Sixties designs. Key pieces included a black alpaca sweater with free-swinging, crossover braids at the front and a pleated chiffon skirt in “carbon paper” purple with a raw-edged hem.
Showing for the first time at MVM was Spain’s Ruiz de la Prada, which recently opened its first Milan store. A spokesman said that although they had expected to see more clients, a few top buyers — including Dantone of Milan — had passed by the stand. T-shirts and sweaters bearing the Ruiz de la Prada logo were among the bestsellers.
At Camalgori by Ensemble, marketing director Riccardo Collina said he’d seen American, Greek and Spanish buyers at Light.
Popular looks included a long jacket in fake giraffe, in brown with purple or green. A black stretch wool jacket with details and stretch wool capri pants in green were other key styles.