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Exports of Italian men's fashion at record levels in 2016

by Silvia Pieraccini

Welcome to the future of men's fashion fairs. A future in which demand and supply – and therefore retail buyers on one side and manufacturing companies on the other - are hunting around for new ways to present brands and new formulas that are able to highlight their value.

They are looking for hybrid solutions, less clearly defined compared to traditional fairs or fashion weeks, less monotonous and more involving. They follow original ideas and try out unusual locations to bring out the value of fashion collections or installations that take the place of classic runway shows.

In this scenario, which is already taking shape at the international level, the trailblazer is Pitti Uomo , the Florence-based trade fair organized by Pitti Immagine that has become a global leader in men's fashion thanks to its alchemy between the fair and events outside it; innovation that is contagious for brands, ways of presenting collections and the ability to mix things up.

This is an alchemy that will be strengthened further in its 91st edition (10-13 January at the Fortezza da Basso in Florence) which has dance as its guiding theme and is presenting the autumn-winter collections of 1,220 brands, 44% of which are foreign. Almost 25,000 buyers are expected from 104 countries around the world.

How is the Pitti alchemy getting stronger?

Pitti Immagine Marketing Director Agostino Poletto said the key is “increasing the number of international experimental brands, which in this year represent more than 40% of the 1,220 brands present and 20% of turnover”.

He said those brands are “fruit of the scouting carried out year after year.”

Experimental and affirmed brands, in Pitti Immagine's idea, contaminate each other in turn, a contamination which on paper is dangerous, but in reality aims to strengthen both and to give the event a global dimension. The global dimension is imprinted by the widening of the concept of lifestyle. To clothing and accessories one can now add fragrances, an area in which the experience of the Pitti Fragrances show in September is highlighted in the range of brands of cosmetics and masculine perfumes at Pitti Uomo.

The result is “a container that continues to be a challenger for contemporary retailers that offer total shopping experiences,” said Poletto.

This is a stimulus that is needed more than ever, in a market that is still seeing signs of uncertainty. According to estimates from fashion industry association SMI, the Italian men's fashion industry has closed 2016 with a light increase in turnover (+0.9% to €8.982 billion), driven by exports (+1.9% to €5.768 billion) which are nevertheless losing steam due to competition from countries outside the European Union.

Purchases are declining in particular from the United States, the main end-market of Italian men's fashion. In the January-September 2016 period, exports towards the US fell by 10%.

On the contrary, all of the Far East is showing a dynamic trend (in the first nine months of 2016 exports were up 14.6% to Hong Kong, +11.3% to Japan, +5.6% to China, +1.8% to South Korea; Russia is still negative (-0.9%); Europe is on the move (+3.9%), led by Germany (+7.1%), Britain (+7.7%) and Spain (+13.5%).

The domestic market is still shrinking (-1.6% in consumption) though the rate of decline is easing. Positive signs are seen in the growth of the value of “Made in Italy” production (+1.2% to €4.725 billion) and the improvement in the trade balance of the sector (up to +€1.778 billion) due partly to a decline in imports (-0.5%).

The export share of total turnover in the Italian men's fashion industry has risen further, reaching the record level of 64.2%.