New York Fashion Week has ended with the following for Italian Trade Commission: the participation of 52 Italian companies at the Project men’s trade show, and 60 Italian participants at the Coterie women’s trade show. ITC also hosted a successful networking event at the Italian Consulate introducing Italian brands to the U.S. Press an Influencers. Below, Antonino Laspina, the U.S. trade commissioner and executive director of the ITC, reflects on the past season and looks to the future.
What were you able to accomplish for Italian brands this past season?
The ITA has played a very active role during a season of buoyant activity in the fashion industry. Many important American events in January and February — including Project, Premiere Vision, Coterie, and Collective Chicago — have attracted the interest of exhibitors, traders, and consumers. Across these four events we have registered approximately 200 Italian companies, making Italy the foreign country with the largest participation.
These events have been great opportunities for Italian companies to showcase a wide range of products representative of the country’s leadership in textiles, clothing, accessories, jewelry, bags, and shoes. In some instances, we organized official participation under the aegis of the ITA. In others, we supported fair organizers in recruiting companies, and helped participating Italian brands with ad hoc services to let them understand the complexity of the market and making it easier for them to operate in the US.
What are the ITC’s plan and next steps between May and September?
After this round of events we have been able to define a strategy that will be discussed with relevant organizations in Italy. The strategy is largely based on the following elements:
1. Participation at leading exhibitions with the aim of expanding Italy’s presence. After a careful selection, specific training will be provided in order to make Italian companies more aware of the peculiar aspects of the Us market.
2. Activity developed for coming events from July to September will be aimed at consolidating the image of “Made in Italy” products, in order to strengthen the market perception of Italy as a unique place where creative activity and manufacturing come together. We are going to focus on activities and messages that will allow traders and consumers to enhance their knowledge about Italian offerings, and help them get acquainted with the amazing quality of materials and design.
3. From May to September, we will organize events in different cities across multiple sectors and sub-sectors. In May, we will be in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego for eyewear events. In June we are going to have an Italian Pavilion at JCK jewelry show and at Cosmoprof – Las Vegas for the beauty sector. In July, we will attend MRKet/Project – New York with more than 50 companies. And in August, there will be more than 60 companies to Collective Chicago. Also in August, we will have an Italian area for shoes in Las Vegas and an Italian Pavilion at Indie Beauty in New York. Finally, in September Coterie will be at the center of our activity with a pavilion housing more than 50 companies.
How can Italian brands fit into the shifting US market?
Analyzing the market dynamics, we have noticed, among other emerging trends, a stronger interest among Millennials for quality and better products. Although they remain very much interested in branded products, consumers between the ages of 25 and 40 are now showing an interest discovering quality products that are not necessarily associated with big labels. A growing purchasing power combined with higher sensibility for sustainability and green issues are redirecting a larger number of affluent consumers towards products in which Italian companies are the undisputed leaders.
Additionally, new consumption patterns combined with positive economic trends in many metropolitan areas of the US are creating more business opportunities for Italian companies that, although smaller in size, have been able to develop a positive approach in regards to sustainability issues, operating in compliance with very strict self-imposed rules, or European and Italian laws. Obsession for quality has been and will continue to be a must for Italian companies, since they have to satisfy the most demanding markets, and within these markets, the most demanding consumers. That’s why we think Italian production across different fashion sectors fits perfectly in the desires and the aspirations of millennials in metropolitan areas are interested in better suits, scarves, dresses, shoes, bags, neckties, jewels, underwear, outerwear, and so on. We hope they share the same obsession for quality that Italian manufacturers have.