MILAN — Italian show organizers and participants are bullish about the outlook for the fall fair lineup, encouraged by both signs of recovery on foreign markets and a new political climate at home.
With the exchange rate still favoring exports, both to countries whose currencies are tied to the dollar and those tied to the German mark, industry experts here are confident that they will be able to consolidate inroads into foreign markets made over the past year.
In particular, they say, it’s just a matter of time before the positive effects of the U.S. recovery make themselves felt in Europe.
“We have good reason to hope so, because it usually takes eight months to one year for us to feel the benefits of an improvement in the U.S.,” said Raffaello Napoleone, general director of Pitti Immagine, the Florence-based organizer of men’s wear, yarns, children’s wear and home textiles fairs.
“The outlook is also positive given the better-than-expected results we had with Pitti Uomo [a twice-yearly men’s wear fair] in January,” said Napoleone.”We are expecting our summer season to be strong as well, both for primary materials and finished products.”
He noted turnout for the January edition of the Pitti Filati yarns fair was up 21 percent for foreign visitors and 22 percent for Italians, against a year ago.
Several fair organizers noted other bright trends this year: More and more, buyers are placing orders at the fairs, rather than using them as opportunities for public relations or simply viewing new product lines.
“I hope buyers will continue to place orders at the fair, making it an indispensable appointment,” said Sonia Fasolo, chief organizer for Lineapelle, a Bologna show of leathers and components for footwear. “In past seasons, buyers came merely to check out the news.”
Another bright note is that the Milan fairgrounds, where many of the designer ready-to-wear shows are held, will have some new trappings come October. The facility has earmarked $1 million for renovations.
Meanwhile, the formation of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s new government earlier this month has injected a new optimism into the market, even as it has generated an outcry abroad.
Industry executives here were concerned the victory of the Berlusconi-led coalition, which includes members of the neo-Fascist Italian Social Movement (MSI), has been misinterpreted abroad as a dangerous swing towards fascism. Instead, they say, the changes here offer hope to the entrepreneurial class for a more competitive, free-market economy than had effectively been in place under the coalitions that had governed Italy for the past 40 years.
“The spirit of the right wing in Italy is to move to a free economy, ” said Gildo Zegna, vice president of fabrics and men’s wear maker Ermenegildo Zegna. “When people say Italy risks a return to fascism, I disagree completely.”
“We’re seeing much more vivacity, people’s expectations are high, and that’s good for our business,” agreed Pietro Thiella, director of the apparel division at Marzotto SpA.