With trade shows mostly canceled this year, brands have had to come up with inventive ways to show their collections. ITA has come to the rescue for Italian brands who want the eyes of U.S. buyers. They recently launched the platform EXTRAITASTYLE (an acronym for Extraordinary Italian Style), which features the country’s finest brands. Antonino Laspina, the Italian Trade Commissioner in the USA, tells The Daily how buyers and consumers can explore their innovative virtual boutique.
How is ITA helping Italian brands connect with buyers?
The designers that are part of our new digital platform Extraitastyle are able to interact with key U.S. retailers by accessing a members-only area that allows them to connect with top U.S. stores and interact with them. Buyers on the other hand can log in to a reserved business-to- business area where they can browse through the collections, send market notes, and even
compile direct orders.
Was this all created because of the pandemic or was this already in the works?
We started developing the concept with the goal to find an alternative tool to replace the traditional fairs that were canceled due to COVID. At the same time, we never saw Extraitastyle as a permanent surrogate to physical trade shows, but more as a parallel and integrated tool that will keep existing and implementing even when the traditional calendar will resume.
What is the concept behind Extraitastyle?
Put into simple words, Extraitastyle is a virtual journey into Made in Italy Fashion. We are giving exposure to both established and unknown small and medium size businesses by offering them digital boutiques, a dedicated brand page with social media integrations, video streams, and, as I previously mentioned, a business-to-business reserved area.
Tell us a little bit more about the virtual platform. How many designers are featured?
The platform debuted with 80 brands but we are currently adding more. Most likely, we will host over 110 brands by the end of the year, an astonishing result that we are very proud of.
How are you letting buyers know about the virtual boutique?
All the buyers that are part of our network received an invite to browse the platform and join the B2B area. We are also targeting additional buyers with the goal to constantly expand our contact list and produce more and more subscriptions. Our main goal is to drive business to the brands.
Tell us about the decision to feature seasonless collections and why that was important.
The digital platform is helping designers faced with short term needs caused by COVID-19 with an opportunity to present “seasonless” collections. Several companies’ productions have been shut down or delayed due to the pandemic. We did not want to put any further pressure on them, hence we chose to build the platform on a “seasonless” concept. Each brand can present products of their choice, whether they are from an in-stock program, an all year round capsule line or their most recent collection. We accomplished all this by creating a seamless visual language throughout the platform.
What are some of the most popular Italian brands featured?
As I mentioned earlier, the platform was conceived to let small designers amplify their messaging and tell their story to the North-American market. While these understated businesses may not have strong marketing budgets, they have plenty to share in terms of heritage, impeccable craftsmanship, and innovative manufacturing methods. Most of the brands are small artisanal businesses known only to industry connoisseurs. On the other hand we also included historic labels with a longstanding tradition. It’s the mix of different backgrounds that makes the platform a recipe for success.
Can “regular” consumers explore the online boutique? How?
Yes, they can. The site is completely accessible to the consumers except for the business-to-business area. In addition to the online 3D boutiques that are gathered under the section “virtual boutiques,” users can access the “brands” section, where we tell each brand’s story in depth and accompany the viewer in a futuristic digital journey trough compelling animated imagery.
You’ve created a video to demonstrate the virtual tour. Tell us about it!
The video was produced by Buro.London, an innovative creative agency based in the UK. We pitched them our concept and they turned it into an exquisite digital journey. The idea was to walk the viewer through an immersive Italian fashion experience in the USA. We did so by combining Italian and North-American cultural symbols. In the opening scene for example we placed the Venetian lagoon inside a futuristic New York City, while two statues of Liberty dominate the infamous staircase of the Reggia of Caserta, one of our finest architectures. Each element suggests a merge between two cultures where fashion is the leitmotif that pieces all elements together.
What kind of feedback have you received from brands about Extraitayle?
They all loved it.
What is your prediction for when trade shows will be in person again?
It’s hard to say particularly at a time when we need to be extra cautious about our health and take all necessary measures to protect all of us from this virus. My prediction is sometime during 2021, probably around the second or third trimester of the year.
You’re a great supporter of the live trade show experience. Why will they remain important once we are up and running again?
I don’t think it’s possible to dissociate Italian fashion from all our senses. It’s something that you need to see in person—not only through a screen, and feel it, touch it, and try it on. Also nothing will ever replace a good old-fashioned in person meeting. Relationships are at the core of our industry and, while technology changed the rules of how we do business and
needs to be embraced in full, traditional shows will always be a critical component of our lives and ICE’s strategy.