MILAN — More exhibitors and a bigger location, as well as new materials and sustainability were priorities for contemporary ready-to-wear and accessories trade show White Milano organizers to boost attendance. Running Sept. 21-24, the trade show closing figures showed a 5 percent increase in the number of visitors, for a total of more than 27,000. And even if the number of Italian buyers decreased by 2 percent, that of foreign ones rose 13 percent, compared with the September edition a year ago. White hosted a record 562 brands, compared with 532 last September, of which 187 we from outside Italy. “We are not only pleased to have created a new area with Opificio 31, but also to have been more attentive to details” in order to allow designers to show at their best, said White organizer Massimiliano Bizzi.
The new layout was studied to attract more international buyers: “We are aiming at expanding the European market, as I believe countries like Germany are now ready to flourish again, while Russia is waking up again,” Bizzi underscored. “But I am also looking at how China and [South] Korea will react.” The increase in international buyers is what White exhibitors have been aiming for, together with “more support in marketing and communication” from organizers, Bizzi added.
To achieve this, the ultimate goal of the fair is to showcase both innovative and high-quality products and to be part of the relaunch or of the celebration of iconic brands. This was the context for Fiorucci, the iconic label created in the late Sixties by Milanese designer Elio Fiorucci, which three years ago was acquired by Janie and Stephen Schaffer.
The new creative direction banks on the brand’s core values, such as irony and Italian heritage, and developed them in a more modern way, to speak to a younger customer: the Millennials. “This spring collection is very fun and fresh and develops a concept that’s based on an ongoing journey theme” said Fiorucci’s designer Etiènne Deroeux. “We always have a girl and a boy who are from Capri but are coming back from a trip to Japan, wearing sporty or mixed looks in an avant-garde way.”
Lemon prints and the iconic Fiorucci cherubs and stripes, Italian frescos and pictures from Italy taken by Italian-French photographer Claude Nori lit up this joyful and colorful collection, which included the late designer’s bomber. “The brand has so much positive energy and we want to give people that good feeling, together with good products, so that we can speak to the generation that already knows it, but also to the generation that doesn’t know it,” Deroeux said. The materials used were mainly cotton and denim with a deep research on recycled plastic, used for trousers and jackets.
Belgian brand A.F. Vandevorst chose White to celebrate a milestone, two decades in business. An Vandevorst and Filip Arickx showcased their collection within a special area at Tortona 27/Superstudio Più and a pop-up store at Tortona 31/Archiproducts. “When we started talks with White’s organizers we were trying to discover new markets, so we found it was a good idea to show us in a different way, as it’s in our DNA to explore and create new experiences that then flow in our collections,” said general manager Tina Debo.
A.F. Vandevorst focused on shoes and bags at the trade show and the inspiration came from the duo’s wedding anniversary: embroidered white shoes were flanked by prints of bouquets and wedding rings. Recycled wedding dresses were also used to create some of the models. More classical shoes included black, red and cognac shades used for boots, sneakers and stilettos. The designers also held a runway show on Sept. 22, coinciding with Milan Fashion Week.
New materials for innovative products and sustainability were the biggest trends at the fairgrounds. Claudio Cutuli is a central Italy-based company specialized in scarves, harking back to the 19th century. Maria Grazia Cutuli, one of the company’s owners, underlined the importance of sustainability as a key factor to stand out from the rest: “Our scarves are all made by using sustainable processes and handmade embroidery, and we also have a capsule collection of long, handmade leather dresses embellished with gold, silver or bronze details,” she said.
Animalier prints on a gold or black background stood out at Federica Tosi’s booth. The Roman designer started her career in the jewel industry and launched her first women’s collection in 2015. She now sells mainly in Italy and just started in the U.S. and in the Far East: “I think buyers are paying more and more attention to sustainability of materials, using only 100 percent silk and 100 percent Italian cotton.”
Visual arts were an essential part of Stefano Mortari’s collection, which was inspired by American painter John Singer Sargent. The Italian brand focused on black and white dresses, elegant and innovative at the same time: the Statue of Liberty and the Brooklyn bridge were the most interesting prints used in the collection.
Tuscany-based Grevi is known for its hats made of straw, hemp and paper. “We have implemented our paper and hemp offer because they give more lightness to our hats,” said Giuseppe Grevi, the company’s owner. “These two materials allow the hat to be more versatile: it can be closed and put in a bag without being damaged at all, which is a main feature for our customers.” Grevi’s exports represents 70 percent of the company’s turnover and the main markets are the Far East, mainly South Korea and China, and resorts such as Zanzibar and the Maldives.
Unusual bags stood out at Zilla, created by Italian designer Sylvia Pichler. In a Venetian laboratory, she produces items made of iridescent foils and aluminum or leather and canvas, resulting in moldable bags which can change shapes. The latest collection featured a range of bags shaped like the Loacker cookies packages.
Tech travel gadgets and accessories were found at Iphoria, the brand created by the young German designer Milena Jäckel, who was inspired by the Pop Art movement. Stars and lips printed over bags, glittering cellular covers and fashionable beauty cases were among the most interesting items.
Another young designer, Sicily-born Lorenza Fidelio, is the founder of Scostumata [licentious in Italian], a “multiway” bikini collection. Not only are the swimsuits double-faced, but they can also be worn in 30 different ways, from a triangle bra to a trikini. Strong colors and floral prints are all designed by Fidelio and made in Italy.
The White Showroom Connection put together brands, showroom and buyers. A partnership with Vogue #Shareable gave life to a special art direction and photo shoots with the labels and the communication campaign went viral through Instagram. Liviana Conti was one of the brands involved: “We decided to join this project to give buyers the chance to look at the collection we are showcasing here as well as in our showroom,” said Patrizia Bartolucci, general manager of Abraham Industries — the company which owns the brand. “If buyers are interested we provide a car and bring them to our Milan showroom,” she said. Liviana Conti’s distribution has always been focused on Italy, “but we are now trying new markets starting from Japan,” Bartolucci explained.
“The Belgian focus,” in a partnership with the Flanders District of Creativity, brought seven brands to the trade show. Among these, Helder stood out for its biological and up-cycled fabrics; Nunu Activewear for an ath-leisure collection made of sustainable re-cycled fabrics, and Lies Mertens for handbags produced with biodegradable leather.