Meet Paola Guida, the New York–based mastermind behind the well-oiled machine that is the fashion and beauty division at the Italian Trade Commission. It’s safe to say Guida has had her hands full, overseeing and facilitating promotion of the perennially elegant Italian brands in the industry. With some 50 stellar labels about to show their wares at COTERIE this September, The Daily caught up with her to hear what’s been keeping her busy (spoiler alert: a lot!).
How have you been since we last spoke in February?
We’ve been working a lot, and we’ve had a lot on our plate.
What has this summer looked like for you?
We just finished Chicago Collective with almost 30 Italian companies. We’ve been exhibiting at trade shows, supporting events, mingling, and networking with companies and buyers. We’re still organizing U.S. buyers going to Italy for events, like the EDS [Expo] trade show for evening dresses in Salerno in September. There’s a lot of willingness in coming back to physical events, and buyers are ready to buy. They want to scout new companies and re-meet former suppliers in person and not just over Zoom.
What’s been your No. 1 focus ahead of September?
We’re exhibiting 50 companies at COTERIE. Considering the travel ban and the pandemic, and so many uncertainties about physical events, we have an outstanding participation of Italian companies. It’s an exciting experience, and participation exceeded our expectations! It’s a sign that things are moving forward and business is back. We’re also working on a refresh of the EXTRAITASTYLE.com platform, so U.S. buyers and retailers can discover designers and brands that are new to the market.
With the return to COTERIE, what is everyone most excited for?
We have more ways of supporting Italian companies because of the combination of digital and physical together—we can do more promotion and make them visible in more ways than ever before. Our goal is to help Italian companies get more opportunities for business. We’ve been doing video calls every day with the companies on how to approach the U.S. market in the best way and teaching them how to promote the Italian lifestyle. I think that Italian fashion is so much more than a piece of clothing.
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How did you measure the success of the Italy Pavilion on COTERIE’s digital trade show?
For almost two years, we were forced to use digital tools. Of course, digital cannot be a substitute in full; it’s something that will stay, and it will help build relationships and introduce new brands. Our experience is that Italian companies were not as used to digital and social media. It was never their primary means of business, but they learned fast. We got much more used to doing everything that way, and that’s why we created EXTRAITASTYLE.com. It was a great challenge and a way to show buyers that there are other ways of doing business.
So EXTRAITASTYLE.com will remain online year-round?
We’re redoing it so we can continue to support the companies. We want to strengthen relationships that already existed. Buyers already have their own ideas, but they can check online, see who is exhibiting, and what they’re exhibiting. They’re usually looking for specific products, but this can help them scout before the show. I think the digital and physical will exist together. We want this to go on 365 days a year. The EXTRAITASTYLE.com platform is still online; we’ve just been doing
improvements and uploading new content, new companies, and pictures. Officially, we will open the website for the new season on September 20, but if you go on the website, it’s working. It will change twice a year in line with the seasonal collections.
What changes have you made to the platform?
A lot of video content! There’ll be new functions, so that buyers and companies can interact better. We’re also expanding the use of social media, creating content and IGTVs with influencers who will try on clothes and talk about Italian fashion.
What’s in the works in terms of sustainability efforts?
We’re planning to organize a new event for leather at the beginning of 2022 in L.A. We believe that sustainability is the key asset for every industry. Because Italy has strict regulations about environmental protection, recycling, and managing waste—not only for leather but for textiles, too—we’re working with associations to create events where sustainability and the Italian attention to the environment will be highlighted. Even on EXTRAITASTYLE.com, different companies that have sustainability as a key focus will be highlighted.
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What message does the ITA hope to spread about Italian fashion?
Italian companies are very flexible. Even during the pandemic, they had a great capacity to recover, to reorganize the production, the supplies, and get ready for the new times. It’s important to let the consumer understand that the new designers and old designers alike are innovative. We suffered a lot, like the industry did all over the world, but the market is still wanting Italian products. The clothing sector grew 40 percent in the U.S. in the first six months of this year. We’re still here; we’re doing better than ever, actually!
What other projects are you and the team working on right now?
From here to the end of year, we just had a big event at Cosmoprof North America; we have more than 20 companies exhibiting in Las Vegas; the launch of EXTRAITASTYLE.com in September; 20 companies exhibiting at Functional Fabric Fair in Oregon in October; we’re planning a trunk show for eyewear in November in various cities across the U.S.; and implementing advertising campaigns for the lingerie and underwear sector.
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You’ll be very busy!
It’s exciting! After two years of working a lot, but in a quiet way, I’m happy to be involved in so many activities and in-person events.
When will you get a vacation?
I had 15 days in Italy this summer. It already feels like a dream, but it’s great to be here in the U.S. and have so many things to do. I appreciate everything that’s happening.