MILAN — Milan women’s wear and accessories trade fairs White and Super underwent deep change as organizers aimed for worldly, upscale, “researched” events to cultivate Milan’s position as a global hub.
White founder and president Massimiliano Bizzi called this “a watershed year,” thanks to unprecedented change in the Italian fashion sector and unusual collaboration among private and public institutions, including city and state government, to attract international fashion operators of all kinds to Milan.
International ties are important in Italy, not only to ride the wave of globalization, but also for its intensified dependence on exports. Total turnover for the Italian women’s wear and textiles grew 2.5 percent in 2015 to 12.8 billion euros, or $14.4 billion at current exchange, according to figures from Italian textile and clothing federation Sistema Moda Italia. Exports last year rose 5 percent, compensating again for a squeeze on domestic consumption — a dynamic that has lasted at least five consecutive years. Exports in 2015 accounted for 60.4 percent of Italy’s total sector turnover, compared to 51.2 percent in 2010.
Some 22,000 visitors — 10 percent more than last September — came to see White’s 500 exhibitors in a renewed, expanded offering in contemporary fashion at and near the Tortona 27 Superstudio.
“This year, there are some good ideas,” said Patrizia Roma, a buyer for a northern Italian store in the G&B Negozio group, a chain that has 10 stores and a highly successful e-commerce site. Roma said she was searching White for appetizing novelty items that mix well with the mainstream luxury designers she carries, such as Fendi, Valentino and Marco de Vincenzo. She cited Opéra Swimwear, which offers a collection of hybrid lingerie swimsuits with a romantic, vintage feel. Roma explained that her store’s e-commerce site, which opened about seven years ago and largely sells outside of Italy, now represents the majority of the 30-year-old group’s sales. “We are still fighting in Italy,” she said of business here, “but we work well abroad.”
White launched a dedicated floor for its new entrants called the “Red Area — Only New Brands @ White.” There, Carlotta Canepa showed the first season of her namesake line of women’s wear.
Based on vibrant, intricately patterned textiles sewn into vintage silhouettes, her spring collection showed button-down shirt dresses, light coats, and full, pleated skirts with oversized front pockets. “I designed the fabrics myself,” said Canepa. “They come from men’s neckwear.”
Canepa is an expert in necktie fabrics, as she worked in that department for her family’s renowned luxury textile manufacturer Canepa, an early adopter of the Greenpeace Detox protocol. She is the architect of the textures, weaves, and patterns of her fabrics, which are made at the family factory using sustainable practices. Her clothing wholesales for 60 to 180 euros, or $67 to $202.
“We’ve exceeded our expectations by more than double,” Canepa said, referring to orders. A spokesperson for her Milanese showroom, Cashmere Srl, said 30 to 40 clients had signed on.
Also showing in the Red Area was Francesca Castagnacci, winner of the fledgling Ramponi Prize for women’s accessories. She showed highly structured, candy-colored purses and bags made of soft leather, lizard, transparent plastic and colored stones. Geometric hard shells opened to release soft, pleated clutches in contrasting hues made by a Tuscan manufacturer that also produces bags for major luxury labels like Bulgari and Chanel.
“It’s an exaltation of pop-culture,” said Castagnacci of her spring collection. Pieces wholesale for 220 to 450 euros, or $247 to $505.
A new pavilion called White East showcased 15 edgy, high-end Chinese designers, recognizing China’s growing profile as a font of creative fashion, and provided live editorial shooting by Italian multibrand boutique and e-commerce player Luisaviaroma.
Special guest Jinnnn, a Shanghai-based brand designed by Jin Chong Yu, made its European debut with couture pieces that mixed technology and intense craftsmanship, like a lacy transparent evening gown made of black silicon, and a denim jacket whose dense beading required three-months of needlework by artisans in a rural village. While the couture pieces wholesale for 2,000 to 8,000 euros, or $2,245 to $8,980, Jinnnn also showed spring ready-to-wear inspired by the traditional Chinese qipao dress, developed in the 1920s. The high-necked, form-fitting silk classic in its time represented modernity and the introduction of fashion to Chinese culture, but was suppressed during the Cultural Revolution. Jinnnn’s edgy pieces related to the qipao about as literally as a Cubist portrait.
“Jin Chong Yu is trying to reconstruct the contemporary Chinese girl exploring traditional dress,” spokeswoman Sasha Krymova explained. The rtw collection wholesale at 150 to 500 euros, or $168 to $561. Krymova said Jinnnn is popular with Chinese celebrities, has 12 showrooms in China, and is carried by Lane Crawford and Opening Ceremony, and noted that a pair of its best-selling eyewear frames was recently requested by Lady Gaga.
White also introduced opportunities for designers from unexpected geographical regions, like Georgia, Belgium, Portugal and Argentina.
“In the last two years, there has been a big jump in fashion. The Georgian government helps a lot to promote the country through fashion and art,” said Sofia Tchkonia, curator of the Georgia area, featuring seven Georgian designers, and founder of Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Tbilisi.
“We are up to 40 designers at Fashion Week and they keep getting better and better,” she reported, pointing out that Georgian designers Demna Gvasalia and David Koma, creative directors at Balenciaga and Thierry Mugler, respectively, have burnished the fashion credentials of the former Soviet region.
Meanwhile, White’s Break Time offered selected designers from emerging countries a chance to be featured in an atelier-like room for a day. Aika Alemi, from Kazakhstan, showed a minimalist, architectural spring collection that drew on traditional Kazak garment construction for black or white monochrome pieces in linen, silk and wool.
“I am [inspired] by Japanese and Dutch constructionism,” said Alemi, who explained she speaks six languages, holds an MBA from Duke University, and worked in finance at multinational corporations before embarking on a creative career. Dresses and coats in her three-year old line retail from 400 euros, or $448, to 2,000 euros, or $2,242. They are currently sold at shops in London, Paris, Zurich and Moscow.
White also revamped its beauty area dominated by boutique scents, created a new White Studio zone for contemporary artisanal collections, and revealed its international roadshow, promoting White and Italian fashion at the Fashion Weeks of Shanghai, Seoul, Dubai and Berlin this fall.
Asked the thrust of White’s latest evolution, Bizzi replied, “Internationality.”
This season, the scouting fair Super and women’s ready-to-wear fair MIPAP opted for radical change. Severing their alliance as adjoining fairs at Fiera Milano City, Super plucked its stakes, and overhauled its exhibitors and look, while MIPAP suspended activity for a season to join forces with fur trade fair MIFUR. The two will launch a new unified “haute-a-porter” fair in February called TheOneMilano, mixing fur, high-end ready-to-wear, knitwear and fashion jewelry.
“The eighth edition of Super marks a new direction,” said Raffaello Napoleone, chief executive officer of organizing body Pitti Immagine. “Our goal is to upgrade the positioning of the fair.”
“Super’s new format bets everything on research without compromise,” said Agostino Poletto, deputy general manager of Pitti Immagine, who promised “more researched, less commercial products; pieces of design; and great attention to internationality. We created a fashion proposal dedicated to the most demanding international buyers.”
Super moved to a sleek, recently built downtown exhibition space called The Mall in Porta Nuova Varesina, thanks to a collaboration with the Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana. Repeat exhibitors were slashed to 50, and organizers vigorously scouted the world for new offerings, bringing total brands shown to 142. Half of the brands were from outside Italy — largely from emerging or unexpected countries. Formerly dominated by accessories, Super gave equal weight to ready-to-wear. Layout was revamped as an “essence board,” and sprucing up the space were 600 plants, flowers and small trees, placed throughout airy, minimalist, highly visible stands.
Rossella Jardini, who worked as creative director at Moschino for 20 years and as Franco Moschino’s assistant before his death, was a special guest. Red and purple full-skirted dresses bloomed like flowers over a whimsical white “greenhouse” frame designed by renowned fashion installation designer JoAnn Tan to display selected pieces from Jardini’s namesake brand, launched just a year ago.
“I know Raffaello Napoleone well, and he explained to me that they were transforming the fair,” said Jardini at her own collection presentation at a luxury hotel in the central fashion district. She praised JoAnn Tan’s display at Super, and appreciated Kartell’s collaborations with No. 21 and Paula Cademartori. She did not expect to make any sales at the the fair, however. Rosella Jardini is aligned with brands like Giambattista Valli and Stella McCartney, according to global sales director Paolo Rivi, who added that her dresses retail from 450 to 1,000 euros, or $500 to $1,115.
Buyer Alessandra Dainelli, who consults for eight stores in Italy as well as clients in China and the Ukraine, liked the revamped fair, where she sought high-quality pieces that mixed well with top collections, but also offered lower prices.
“This has certainly been a beautiful growth [for Super], in terms of the space and in terms of a good selection that is different from what one would expect in a fair. It is a more selective, better mix,” said Dainelli.
Dainelli was particularly impressed by the heavy presence of Eastern European designers. Under the aegis of sales and public relations company More Dash, the heads of Mercedes-Benz Kiev Fashion Days, Daria Shapovalova and Natalia Modenova, curated a block of 10 designers from the Ukraine, Georgia, Lithuania and Armenia.
“For us, it was a goal to show Ukraine to the international market,” said Modenova. “We have a showroom in Paris for promising designers. Across Eastern Europe, we find extraordinary potential.”
Anna Sokol, founder of Ukrainian label WeAnnaBe, said her casual, contemporary collection of mainly linen dresses and separates responded to a fashion trend for traditional Ukrainian embroidery called vyshyvanka.
“We didn’t want to do that. We tried to do Slovenian,” said Sokol. “It is a little bit country in the American sense. It is a play on traditional festival wear,” she said of roomy, flounced pants with ribbon trim and a matching short wrap top with oversized sleeves.
The Super Talents area, curated by Sara Maino of Vogue Talents, focused on “new countries to watch” with exhibitors from Egypt, the Philippines, Cyprus, India, Mexico, Thailand, United Arab Emirates and Holland.
Daki Marouf and Ahmed Sabry, a pair of Cairo natives who have settled in London, showed sculptural, minimalist, rigid leather handbags inspired by iconic shapes of ancient Egypt, like the scarab and King Tutankhamun’s death mask. The collection paid homage to a period in which creativity and new ideas flourished under pharaoh Akhenaten, Neferiti and their royal sculptor Thutmose.
“We wanted to go for something that represents heritage in an innovative, international way,” Sabry said.
They showed a preview of a collection to be launched in London in February with pieces that wholesale from 250 to 1,445 pounds, or $319 to $1,844.
Manuela Ricchiuti, who works for the Turin-based buyer and retail collections consultant Catchwork, said the trends she saw for spring were “ethnic, geometric lines, a lot of white, and masculine fabrics combined in new shapes and contexts.”
• Rossella Jardini’s spring collection blossomed with glamorous hints of peasant and folk traditions in vividly colored, fluid pieces, accented with flounces, femininity and lively prints.
• WeAnnaBe tapped Slovenian festival wear to create an Eastern European cosmo-country vibe.
• Rotsaniyom White Label from Bangkok refashioned traditional Thai embroideries on ultramodern, monochrome white pieces verging on wearable art.
• Dyvooo by Alena Klepko splashed lively, traditional Ukrainian mythical creatures — or “wonder beasts” — across artful T-shirts, iPhone covers, wallets, Italian sneakers and even quilted snowboots.
• Aigul’Kassymova embroidered sleek, collarless silk coats with Kazak arabesque patterns, and employed Kazak metalworking artisans on bold, arabesque jewelry.
Men’s wear influence
• Balossa revamped the white, button-down shirt into surreal, dramatic, romantic, unexpected constructions, sewing two shirts together for a versatile four-sleeved top, or using collars as hems to end a garment, taking the oversized boyfriend shirt to outsized proportions.
• Carlotta Canepa showed vibrantly patterned shirt-dresses, full skirts and coats designed from men’s necktie fabrics.
• Gentucca Bini presented “The Charm of the Uniform,” a fashion homage to the uniforms of factory workers and mechanics with a collection of unisex overalls, smocks and coats.
• Anthena showed baggy shirtdresses in office blue and white and a double-breasted jacket dress.
• Ken Samudio mixed pop art with traditional woven bamboo textiles on handcrafted clutches that cartoon exclamations “Kapow!” and “Zap!”
• Francesca Castagnacci’s rainbow candy-colored purses with hard shells, transparent plastic tops, and geometric shapes channeled the Jet Set of Orbit City.
• Cissy Chi, Jinnnn’s collaborator on accessories, introduced a pop art charm chain with cartoon exclamations.