The atmosphere at White Milano.

MILAN — Contemporary ready-to-wear and accessories trade show White Milano keeps banking on the city of Milan, the country’s small and medium-sized fashion companies, as well as the growth of new projects.

The upcoming edition taking place Sept. 21 to Sept. 24, coinciding with the city’s run of trade shows and with Milan Fashion Week, will be housed in four locations in the city’s Tortona district, covering a 236,806-square-foot space.

A new hub called Tortona 31|Opificio will be unveiled during this edition and will be home to a series of mixed projects including pop-up shops open to the public, the Ilaria Nistri, Forte_Forte and Fila temporary showrooms and curated areas.

“Fashion has long been about exclusivity but we’ve understood that this industry needs to open up…there are so many small and medium-sized enterprises [SMEs] for which White Milano represents the trade show of choice, and which still need our support,” noted Massimiliano Bizzi, the fair’s founder and president.

“These companies don’t post great figures, as they cannot rely upon the same structures big luxury players can and they suffer competition from fast fashion,” he added, noting that 80 percent of the country’s apparel firms fall under the SME umbrella.

Mario Boselli, honorary president of Italy’s Fashion Chamber and president of the Milan-based Italy-China Institute, was also attending the press conference held at the Palazzo Reale venue on Thursday here and he argued that “the slogan from a few years ago [which stated] ‘small is good’ is no longer convincing. Small Italian companies struggle when it come to sales.” Bizzi’s hope is for small and medium-sized companies to join forces to be more competitive.

The trade show will exhibit the spring 2019 collections of 562 brands, up 5 percent compared to last year’s September edition. Around half of them are showing at the fair for the first time, while 187 of the total are foreign companies. Among the latter category, White Milano has invited now-London-based label Fiorucci and A.F. Vandevorst, which has most recently shown in Paris, as special guest and special project, respectively. Both brands will also install their pop-up stores open to consumers at the fair’s Opificio space.

“[White Milano] is one of the exhibition platforms which is most open to the world, to research,” noted Cristina Tajani, the city’s fashion and design councilor. “It’s important to open [it] to a broader audience, not only to industry’s players, and to show how much the Italian fashion system can be economically, culturally and socially lively,” she added.

Supporting small apparel companies and fashion brands, providing them with the right platform to promote themselves on an international scale, is key to White Milano executives. Brenda Bellei, the fair chief executive officer, underscored her “goal is both to bring our brands on the international markets, as well as enhancing the incoming of foreign buyers.” Bellei added she expects the next edition to register a 30 percent uptick in the number of buyers from abroad thanks in part to the deals signed with, among others, the American trade show organizer UBM, Amsterdam-based Modefabriek and Shanghai Fashion Week. The partnership with Italy’s trade agency ICE — which has been expended through 2019 — will also play a key role in upscaling the appeal of the fair.

To this end, the Showroom Connection project will be renovated for the September edition with brands including Fila, Fiorucci and Liviana Conti protagonists of a dedicated installation curated by Vogue Italia. The main goal of the project is to offer fashion brands the chance to link with international showrooms.

A spotlight on international brands will be offered through the “Belgian Focus” special project. Developed in partnership with nonprofit organization Flanders District of Creativity, which is funded by the Belgian ministry of economics, the project will bring seven Belgian brands to White Milano. They include sustainable innerwear firm Ophelia Lingerie, handbag brand Lies Mertens, jewelry atelier Studio Collect and ethical apparel label Mooiloop, among others.

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