MILAN — Investments in the fashion industry are “on track,” according to Riccardo Monti, president of the Italian Trade Agency.
This story first appeared in the February 26, 2016 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Trade show initiatives in the U.S. continue to be a priority for the government, as is a retail program with a partner such as Nordstrom, and Monti revealed the agency is “negotiating with top retailers” to further bolster business between the two countries.
“This is a consolidated comarketing model that also helps brands that are not as strong outside Italy,” Monti told WWD.
He was careful to underscore that it is the retailers that choose the brands from “a long list” of emerging or young labels and companies provided by ICE, Italy’s Foreign Trade Institute, and not the organization. “Seven hundred companies applied, narrowed down to a selection of 140 and, finally, 55,” said Monti. A new initiative will start in mid-March in Texas with Nordstrom.
While not disclosing the names of the designers, Monti said the list includes around 55 names in women’s and men’s accessories, ready-to-wear and jewelry, all of which are produced in Italy. They range in size from 5 million to 200 million euros, or $5.5 million to $220 million at current exchange, and all have potential in the U.S. “We are looking for The Next One,” said Monti.
To support Made in Italy, an even “wider breadth” of initiatives is being mapped out, including independent stores, strengthening the connection with Millennials and emphasizing digitization, encompassing emerging young designers. “For fall, ideally,” said Monti. The organization is also investing in the agricultural sector in synergy with fashion and “identified the U.S. as having the highest potential.”
The Italian fashion business, including accessories and jewelry, in the U.S. grew 20 percent in 2015. Monti admitted that the stronger dollar contributed to the performance, but said the government is looking at further developing the collaboration between trade shows here and in the U.S.
In 2015, the government, through the Italian Trade Agency, channeled 63 million euros, or $69.3 million, to the U.S. of which 19 million euros, or $21 million, was in fashion.
This year, the plan is to invest 62 million euros, or $68.2 million, of which 21 million euros, or $23.1 million, will go toward fashion. The investment is almost 10 times greater than in the previous two years.
Monti said the government has decided to throw a wider net in the U.S., exploring and investing in the South and the Midwest. “We just reopened an office in Houston and will visit the one in Chicago with [Prime Minister Matteo Renzi] at the end of March.” The focus is also on other regions, such as Mexico, sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and Singapore, he added.
As reported, Renzi inaugurated Milan Fashion Week, becoming Italy’s first sitting head of state to do so, with Carlo Calenda, the former vice minister of economic development who is becoming Italy’s representative to the European Union. Calenda favored the creation of a committee that would coordinate Italian fashion trade shows to achieve more pulling power. He last year revealed government plans to channel 40 million euros, or $44 million, into the nation’s fashion industry. Asked why Renzi has been turning his attention to the fashion industry now, Monti said he “has realized that Italian fashion is anything but frivolous, with gross sales of 80 billion euros [$88 billion]. This is an extraordinarily important figure. And exports total 30 billion euros [$33 billion]. The anomaly was not being attentive before.”
He also touched on the fashion committee, underscoring that this is “the first time that the Italian system is so cohesive on strategies and goals.”
Responding to a question on the timing of show weeks given the see-now-buy-now debate, Monti said that as a government agency, “We don’t enter into the matter. Companies know what is best for them, these are technical themes.”
However, he said that the agency is working on “an intelligent sequence of activities” in textiles, leather and jewelry to create a moment whereby “You cannot not come to Milan. We are thinking of eight days of Italian style in 2017.”