MILAN — Improved economic conditions and a spacious showcase let buyers breathe easy as they perused creative new offerings by budding makers at White, the contemporary fair that took place last month here.
Sales for Italian fashion and clothing rose five percent in the third quarter of 2014 compared to the same period a year prior, according to Italian fashion and textile consortium Sistema Moda Italia. Exports rose 5.5 in the first half to 11 billion euros, or $12.4 billion at current exchange rates.
Coinciding with men’s fall 2015 collections — but also showing glasses, women’s fashion and unconventional products — White featured 180 brands, ranging from startups to somewhat larger companies, featuring innovative and often handcrafted collections.
“This season I visited White to go see my son Andrea’s MYAR collection. I had only seen one presentation of the collection and wanted to see the entire range, which he was displaying and selling at White,” said Renzo Rosso, founder of Diesel Clothing and president of its parent company, Only The Brave, which holds the reins of a stable of contemporary high-end brands, including Maison Martin Margiela, Marni and Viktor & Rolf.
Andrea Rosso was appointed creative director for Diesel licenses last year, after heading the Diesel spin-off brand 55DSL for two decades but was halted last year. MYAR is his independent project — a collection based on repurposing and updating vintage military wear.
“I had already heard a lot about White and I found it a fresh, modern, warm and inspirational environment for budding designers and brands to present themselves,” said Renzo Rosso. “There were some collections that were not exactly commercial, but they had many interesting ideas. I wish there were a White for different product categories and not just for fashion. It would be a great launch pad for start-ups, and to give visibility to all the new creativity there is around the world.”
Ecological outdoorwear brand Patagonia showed as a special guest.
“It is absolutely the first time that we have participated in a fashion fair,” said Fabio Zardini, sales manager for Patagonia Italia.
Patagonia took advantage of the fair not to display a clothing collection, but to exhibit — and try to spread — its environmentally friendly practices within the clothing sector, with oversize panels showing 100 percent organic cotton jeans, 100 percent traceable down jackets, merino wool from sustainably grazed sheep in Patagonian grasslands, and wet suits made from bio-rubber.
Fledgling French brand Intru showed minimalist bags, clutches, belts and other accessories made from linoleum, wood, zinc and foam. It was founded in the summer of 2014 by a former engineering student, Charlie Gay, who makes his pieces by hand in Paris. They retail for 100 to 200 euros, or $112 to $225.
The men’s accessories brand FeFe was founded four years ago by Neapolitan lawyer Francesco Fossari, now chief executive officer. Its whimsical pocket handkerchiefs, socks, bow ties and ties appear to be classic silk choices in cheerful colors, but on closer inspection sport amusing patterns, like ping-pong paddles, dinosaurs or paper clips.
“The idea was born as a game,” said Fossari. “I was a big wearer of pocket handkerchiefs and couldn’t find what I wanted. Stores only had basic, classic options.”
Bologna start-up b.ciclo displayed fashion bicycles, which come in a collection of seasonal colors and are sold in clothing stores. Owner Alessandro Orlich still has a day job in sales at the eye-care company Alcon.
Buyer Federico Minciarelli, who owns an upscale men’s clothing boutique in Todi, said the collections that stood out at White were Roberto Collina for sweaters, Alberto Fasciani for shoes and Camplin for peacoats.
Camplin was founded in 1893 and made wool peacoats for the British navy until the Sixties, said owner Matteo Bressan, who bought the label and resurrected the coats under its name four years ago. They retail for 400 to 600 euros, or $450 to $675. Camplin’s signature color is blue, but Bressan said the biggest seller of the season is “definitely” Harris Tweed. He pointed to a palette of tan, stone and other classic tweed color mixes as the dominant trend for autumn.
Meanwhile, down in the White basement, sister brands Peter Non and Lucio Vanotti, showed collections side-by-side of men’s shoes and clothing based on elegance, minimalism and comfort.
Peter Non shoe designer Silvia Lo Giudice described her brand’s oxfords, slip-ons and ankle boots as “non shoes” because they have the sole of an anatomical sandal with aesthetically pleasing cover that looks sculpted or essential, reminiscent of primitive footwear.
Designer Lucio Vanotti said his collection was inspired by interiors, and featured kimono sleeves or bathrobelike cuts for oversize, draped tops and elasticized pants that look like tailored trousers, but fit like pajamas. Cashmere, wool and other precious materials dominate the collection,which is entirely made in Italy.
Both three-year-old brands reported 2014 sales of roughly half a million euros — Vanotti a little more at 600,000 euros, or $675,000. And both brands reported 80 to 100 percent sales growth in 2014.
“With White Gennaio, we want to represent not only the coolest trends of the moment, but also the new generation products that we have reached thanks to intensive scouting, driven by careful analysis of market needs and changes,” said White founder Massimiliano Bizzi.