A still life image by Cariaggi on Pitti Connect.

MILAN — Just like fashion and textile companies, Italian spinners learned to present their collections digitally throughout 2020. Although there’s nothing that can replace the touch-and-feel experience when it comes to choosing fibers and textiles, yarn-makers continued to bank on Pitti Filati’s digital counterpart, hosted on the Pitti Connect online platform, to unveil their latest offerings.

But in its second edition, the digital trade show — which launched last week and will run through April 5 — proved to be better at giving brands visibility than in generating the same level of sales as physical shows, providing an excellent yet static window that has become a vital tool for promotion in times when events and IRL meetings are suspended.

Based on these criteria, it was clear that local spinners have made major strides in improving their communication, putting extra effort into developing engaging visual assets and investing in improving their online and social media presence. Pitti Connect helped this process, enabling mills to showcase their new collections in layouts that combined images, general information and contacts to directly reach out to each company.

But while enabling each company to reach out directly to their clients via the platform, what was missing in the digital format was the editorial work the organizers do in physical shows with customized sections and content to help guide attendees. For instance, the Spazio Ricerca trend research area, one of the most interesting sections of the physical trade show, wasn’t efficiently translated in the digital world.

Moreover, the digital format, which has no physical boundaries or rent expenses, allows more space for competition. Many of the 37 companies exhibiting on Pitti Connect also showed on the Feel the Yarn platform, promoted by CPF, the Prato, Italy-based consortium for the promotion of yarns. While for many spinners, such as Filpucci, Lanificio dell’Olivo and Tollegno 1900, this offered the opportunity to further boost their visibility, other mills — including Botto Giuseppe — showed only on this platform, which is lesser known but features a wider product assortment and more technical details. It also houses a trend section linked to the “FTY’S Choice” area where yarns are grouped according to different categories or most-searched key words.

Regardless of which platform, the sector faces a long road back to growth due to the impact of the pandemic. According to preliminary data from Confindustria Moda’s research center for Sistema Moda Italia, last year total sales of the sector were down 22.7 percent to 2.1 billion euros compared to 2019. Exports decreased 19.4 percent to 652 million euros, while imports dropped 29 percent to 594 million euros compared with the previous year. The negative performance impacted wool production, which accounts for more than 80 percent of total sales, as well as sales of cotton and linen.

Here, WWD catches up virtually with exhibitors at Pitti Filati to discuss their thoughts on the digital format, what they learned last year and the business challenges ahead.

Cristiana Cariaggi, managing director of Cariaggi

Thoughts on Pitti Connect: I believe that the digital counterpart must undoubtedly be continued in the future, when we will be able to host the physical fair again. For this reason we decided to join also this edition of Pitti Connect, which seems to be more dynamic than the previous one.

Key offering: The Number 8/88 worsted yarn, made from a special selection of cashmere fibers, exceptionally long and very fine. This is an eight-ply twist thread, the result of a sophisticated combination of doubling and twisting [techniques] that has a three-dimensional and modern effect….The number eight is also a symbol of equilibrium, hope and good fortune.

Assessing 2020: We are coming out from a difficult year that denied us normality, but we have never stopped committing our energy to research and innovation and, most of all, we have found new digital ways to stay connected with our customers.

Business challenges ahead: We’re kicking off this year with sentiments of prudence but also hoping to return soon to an everyday life that has been taken away from us. What we certainly plan is to further strengthen our efforts and investments in sustainability. [This is] a path that we started many years ago and that we carry on with pride every year.

Number 8/88 by Cariaggi.

Number 8/88 by Cariaggi.  Courtesy of Cariaggi

Fabio Campana, chief executive officer of Lanificio dell’Olivo

Thoughts on Pitti Connect: Our company has always been one of the most important ones exhibiting at Pitti since its inception. It was even among the ones that promoted the idea of this trade show in the first place. For us, Pitti Filati is an important asset, and therefore we enthusiastically support it in every initiative. Since it was not possible to host the physical fair, we assumed that we would have taken part in Pitti Connect because we have invested a lot in digitalization, starting from our website that today is really one of the most advanced consultation tools on the market. We therefore have a whole series of synergies we can bank on across different platforms. To wit, we are also present on the Feel the Yarn platform by CPF. This edition, Pitti Connect has certainly improved and we hope this will also bring greater interest from visitors.

Key offering: GRS-certified recycled polyester, eco-responsible viscose EcoVero and viscose certified by the Forest Stewardship Council filled the sustainable offering of the company, which included the Rave EcoVero yarn and the Zephyr sustainable viscose with a matte finish and resulting in a chalky surface. Side bonus: different threads in the new collection can be customized with antibacterial treatments upon request.

Assessing 2020: It was a complicated year, for everyone. And especially for a company like ours that is very focused on fancy yarns, particularly penalized as they are more linked to and used for social occasions. We have lost an important part of our turnover, but luckily we are a very solid company with precise development plans….We learned the potential of digital communication, which in any case must complement and not replace physical meetings. This is particularly true for fancy yarns [manufacturers] as colors and effects are not easily appreciated via video. Today, with greater ease compared to the past, we have frequent contacts with customers and agents around the world through the screen, so it’s possible to be extremely efficient. But also for this season we offer the Olivo Dream Box, which contains all the swatches of the collection flanked by information and a QR code redirecting to our website that we deliver to our international customers before hosting a virtual meeting.

Business challenges ahead: It is the year of the relaunch, which after the pandemic is even more decidedly oriented toward sustainability, naturalness, quality and customer service. The world wants to restart, and people will increasingly desire to go out, meet and therefore dress well.

Zephyr by Lanificio dell'Olivo.

Zephyr by Lanificio dell’Olivo.  Courtesy of Lanificio dell'Olivo

Federico Gualtieri, president of Filpucci

Thoughts on Pitti Connect: The digital presentation of the samples represents a new way of collaborating with our customers, as the pandemic has also made us discover this way of getting in touch. We found it natural to choose to participate in Pitti Connect, to seize the opportunities that can also be offered by the online fair. The strength of such a format lies in the ability of the organization to redirect potential customers on the platform: It is too early to evaluate the results, but certainly today this has become one of the ways to connect [with others]. Precisely to adapt to the new work habits created by the pandemic, we also have launched the Smart Work Edition: a box of limited dimensions but containing our entire collection thanks to a clever interlocking concept. We have thought of all those designers who have to work from home and we have tried to give an answer to this new need they have.

Key offering: The theme of the “Everywear” responds to the need for freedom, for a lifestyle without constraints. We have chosen to use soft materials, which adapt to the shape of the body, comfortable. Hence the choice of cottons, which have a soft consistency and which are accompanied by fibers with thermal insulating properties such as wool or super kid mohair.

Assessing 2020: It was a difficult year, which forced us to risk as we are facing an unprecedented situation, but we continued to collaborate with our customers, we developed new proposals. We ended the year with sales down 20 percent compared to 2019, but we also had some satisfaction: for instance, our Tricot collection had record sales. Along with the pleasure of staying at home, many have also rediscovered the beauty of handmade [garments] and we were able to immediately intercept this trend. In some ways we feel stronger: When a company, a team, manages to face a moment like this, a great energy is created, which we have also managed to channel to foster new ideas. We have created a new website and digitalized our collection to make it available to customers. Processes that would have taken months to develop, took shape quickly: this year has tested us, but we also feel proud of what we have done.

Business challenges ahead: This was announced as the year of rebirth and we expect the market to react enthusiastically to the recovery as soon as the restrictions are over. We will continue to work alongside our customers, to offer them an ever better service, always paying great attention to our creative proposal. It’s the time when the market is ready to recognize quality and give it the right value: we have always been seriously committed to the issue of sustainability, we believe that this represents the future of our company.

Filpucci.

Filpucci.  Courtesy of Filpucci

Lincoln Germanetti, CEO of Tollegno 1900

Thoughts on Pitti Connect: Taking part in a digital fair in 2020 represented a challenge both for the organizers and for us as we decided to experiment with a new way of presenting the collection but, above all, to approach clients. Our sentiment on the fair is positive because it has allowed us to guarantee product visibility and to maintain active contacts even at a distance, without betraying our style. A new way of doing business not to be underestimated that we have decided to bank on again this year.

Key offering: Woolcot Bio combining RWS (Responsible Wool Standard) certified extra-fine merino wool and organic cotton and New Royal 4.0, which is 100 percent made of extra-fine merino wool gone through four treatments, including the Compact process making the yarn more resistant, the High Twist treatment intensifying the wringing to prevent fibers from pilling and the Eco Idro one makes the yarn waterproof.

Assessing 2020: Last year was marked by resilience and the importance of developing new paradigms functional to set a relaunch that is increasingly linked to innovation offered with a sustainable key.

Business challenges ahead: Focusing on increasingly performing customer services that integrate digitalization and sustainability with maximum flexibility.

Woolcot Bio by Tollegno 1900.

Woolcot Bio by Tollegno 1900.  Courtesy of Tollegno 1900

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