Milano Unica's opening ceremony on Tuesday.

MILAN — “Risk” is the word that echoed most in the Auditorium of Rho Fiera Milano fairgrounds, where Milano Unica’s opening ceremony took place on Tuesday. The 25th edition of the textile trade show — running until July 13 — is marked by the jump in its schedule, moving from its prior calendar in September.

“The anticipation to July was a need and a duty of all the entrepreneurs to try to do something,” said Milano Unica’s president Ercole Botto Poala, explaining that the strategic change in the schedule was introduced to adapt the Italian textile industry to the evolving demands of international markets. “To be an entrepreneur means to risk, with the possibility of making a mistake. But if in times of big changes like these we don’t have the courage to change and try to do something, we would drift for sure,” he added. In particular, Botto Poala addressed the evolving habits of consumers, especially Millennials, the increase of online purchases and the transformations of the distribution.

“As your client, I thank you for such anticipation,” said Sistema Moda Italia SMI’s president Claudio Marenzi to the entrepreneurs in the audience. Marenzi underscored the importance of the shift in the schedule for those who manufacture ready-to-wear collections, also highlighting how “leaving September and the duality with Première Vision was not an easy choice but it will be a winning one, for sure.”

So far, Milano Unica’s experiment paid off, as the exhibitors registered to this edition are 456, up 20 percent compared to September 2016. In particular, significant increases came by companies offering women’s wear textiles and accessories, which were up 29 percent and 19 percent, respectively.

The total number of exhibitors climbs to 601 thanks to the special corners dedicated to Japanese and South Korean companies and the contribution of 80 high-end Italian manufacturers showcased in the Origin Passion and Beliefs area, the trade show organized by Italian Exhibition Group, concurrent to Milano Unica for the third time.

During the ceremony, Milan’s mayor Giuseppe Sala gave his blessing to the new timing, underscoring how this completes the city’s summer offer. Sala drew an analogy with the show and the proactive strategy the municipality is taking to enhance Milan’s attractiveness. In particular, the mayor underscored how the population has increased by 90,000 people in the last four years, and how tourism climbed over 30 percent compared with the prior Expo in 2015. Sala said the city will register over 8 million tourists, coming for leisure or business, by the end of 2017.

Among those in town for Milano Unica, 106 buyers and media representatives coming from Russia, Asia and the U.S. mostly, were brought by the Italian trade agency ICE. “We decided to show our support even more in this edition, which had an element of discontinuity,” said ICE’s president Michele Scannavini during the ceremony.

Scannavini also reiterated the agency’s support for the textile-fashion industry in general, which registered exports for 30 billion euros in 2016, up 1.5 percent on the previous year. “The government has decided to strengthen its support and investments for this sector in 2017,” he said, explaining that 34 million euros will be supplied to promote the Italian textile and fashion industry worldwide. That amount is up more than 45 percent compared with the 23 million euros of last year. Part of the investment — 14 million euros — will be channeled exclusively to enhance Italian trade shows, including Milano Unica.

“Since 2005, the government has supported Milano Unica with investments of 14 million euros, but 10 million euros were invested in the last four years,” said Italian deputy minister of economic development Ivan Scalfarotto, stressing how the current administration, and former prime minister Matteo Renzi’s government before it, accelerated its support of the whole fashion industry.

Scalfarotto also praised the courage of Milano Unica’s entrepreneurs in anticipating the schedule. “You’ve been the best [representation] of this country, a country that isn’t afraid [to risk] and believes in its skills,” he concluded.

In general, the textile industry is experiencing positive momentum, inverting the trend registered at the end of 2016. In the first quarter of 2017, Italian textile production increased 2 percent while exports grew 3.5 percent, totaling 830 million euros in sales. In particular, exports towards extra-EU countries climbed 8.5 percent, while European demand slow downed 0.9 percent.

The best performances were registered in South Korea, China and the U.S., which climbed 68 percent, 22.1 percent and 6.2 percent, respectively. Sales in China totaled 45 million euros which, when added to the 33 million euros coming from Hong Kong, almost reaches the 81 million euros in sales in Germany, the top export destination for Italian textiles.

In 2016, Italian textile production totaled sales for 7.84 billion euros decreasing 0.9 percent compared to the previous year. Wool production led the way, representing 41 percent of total sales. Cotton, knit and silk and linen followed, representing 20 percent, 18 percent, 17 percent and 4 percent, respectively. Exports slowed down by 1 percent, totaling 4.3 billion euros.

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