NEW YORK — As global competition in textiles increases, Italy’s historic industry is working to hold on to its market share.

Italy is reenergizing the “Made in Italy” brand image with a three-pronged approach: uniting its textile trade shows, launching a $2 million global public relations campaign and using technology to improve the quality of its fabrics.

“The past year for textiles was very complicated, because we did not know what direction the future would be, but then we had the idea of coming together and putting together all-Italian ingenuity,” said Alberto Jelmini, president of Moda In and co-president of Milano Unica, the Italian trade show that has brought together five Italian textile events. “Now, we can compete with the world and bring Italian textiles back.”

He spoke during a presentation on trends in Italian textiles last week at the Rainbow Room in Rockefeller Center that was sponsored by the Italian Trade Commission.

The third Milano Unica show is set for Milan on Sept. 12-15. Before 2005, each of the five major Italian textile shows, including Moda In, took place at its own date and location.

“We try to involve the whole city, and for this show, we are coming back to the heart of Milano,” Jelmini said. “People who come in town for the show like to see Milano as well. We hope to build a synergy between the city and [the] show itself.”

Since the shows came together, their sales have increased 8 percent, Jelmini said.

“It’s not a big increase, but considering the increases in competition, we’re happy about it,” he said. “We want to not only keep our size, but also increase.”

This year will likely have about 700 exhibitors, the same as last year, but there will be a “larger presence, because a lot of exhibitors are taking more space,” Jelmini said. He wants to attract more visitors, particularly from Asia and the U.S.

Italy, the fourth-ranking textile supplier to the U.S., exported $145 million in textiles to the U.S. in the first four months in 2006. As top-ranked China gains a bigger market share, the Italian government has decided to invest $2 million in a communications campaign extolling the virtues of Italian textiles.

This story first appeared in the July 21, 2006 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

“We are very concerned with brand image of ‘Made in Italy’ and have been working on promotional activities,” said Aniello Musella, executive director of the ITC in the U.S. “American designers like Donna Karan, Ralph Lauren and Marc Jacobs…use Italian fabrics, and our challenge is to let people know that.”

The ITC is funded by the Italian government and industry.

One part of the campaign targets what to expect from Italian textiles for fall 2007. The presentation spotlighted three trends: simplicity, wildness and the future. Technology was a big focus, with overdyeing, intricate weaves and surprising fabrics, such as linens for winter.

“We do not need to grow in volume, but instead grow in value,” Jelmini said. “That is our direction.”

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