MILAN — White Milano went back to its roots with a sharper collection, with an eye on diversity and inclusion, at the most recent show in the Tortona district.
Founder Massimiliano Bizzi, who prefers to call the trade show a “concept show,” said: “We had an 8 percent increase of foreign top buyers attendance and over 18,000 total, consistent with February 2022,” he said, “but what makes me happy is quality above quantity.” The show closed Feb. 27.
White Milano kicked off in the presence of the Undersecretary of State at the Ministry of Culture, Lucia Borgonzoni. “Fashion represents one of the most important economic sectors for Italy. To keep it that way, we must involve young people in the creative and production processes,” Borgonzoni stated.
At the core of White Milano are small and medium-sized businesses, which have struggled with soaring energy and transport prices, Ercole Botto Poala, president of Confindustria Moda, has repeatedly stated over the last few months. Confindustria Moda represents Italian textile, fashion and accessories companies and has said that the 98.3 billion-euro global income in 2022 from Italy’s fashion industry, up from 90.2 billion euros in 2019, has been hit by high inflation, and as a result, small businesses are increasingly struggling to reach foreign markets.
The event, sponsored by the City of Milan, supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MAECI) and ICE — Agency for the Promotion Abroad and Internationalization of Italian Companies, in partnership with Confartigianato Imprese, strongly reaffirmed its independent aesthetic vision.
“We went back to our roots,” Bizzi underscored, “we’ve always been an atypical [business to business] environment, and both visitors and exhibitors highly valued the energy inside White Milano. So where else do you see the show doors closing at 6:30 p.m. and people lingering at the bar in the courtyard until 9:30 p.m.? Milano is the place to be, and this is the place to be to feel good. Becoming more and more intertwined with Milan’s cultural scene is our goal for the future. However, we’ll never change our trade identity.”
White Milano offered a selection of more than 300 brands (this season, 13 percent from abroad; last September there were 400 brands in total), evaluated by commercial director Simona Severini and her team, for top buyers from Lane Crawford in Hong Kong, Le Bon Marché in France, Shinsegae in Korea, MatchesFashion in the U.K., Sanki inJapan, Harvey Nichols Kuwait, Antonioli Group Italy, and David Jones Australia.
“I usually go to Paris for my research. This was my first time in White, so I have no comparison,” said Nahar Almarzoug, from Chapter 04 in Saudi Arabia. The CEO of both the online and the brick-and-mortar store in Riyadh added: “Around 70 percent of our customers are below 35, and I carefully select fashion-forward brands with our clients always in mind. At White Milano, I scouted three to four interesting collections and placed orders straightaway. The fair was very well organized; I wish I found more menswear and a wider brand mix, especially referring to Asian or Korean creativity, an absolute hit in the Middle East market.”
Simone Battaglia, women’s buyer at Minetti stores in Casale Monferrato and Alba in Italy and Seville in Spain, said: “It was by far more energetic than the last few seasons. We particularly liked the cocktail they organized for buyers; it was a great chance to discuss the many problems we are facing with market and delivery turbulence, and we all acknowledged the importance of being together and acting as a whole. Regarding brand selection, we couldn’t find much, since our product range is different. We wish we could see more high-end collections and soon-to-be hot names. Still, White Milano is where buyers go in Milano to meet and talk.”
Sales director Michele Lazzari from the accessories brand Ant45 said, “A lot was going on, and we got many orders. We met plenty of Italian buyers, and there was a stronger presence from France, Benelux and Germany. But, on the other hand, more work should be done to attract Asian clients from China, Korea and Japan. I think throwing a big party for buyers and exhibitors as they do in Berlin or Paris might help interactions.”
Michele Carillo, Briglia 1949 founder and creative director, felt differently: “We haven’t seen many buyers, especially from abroad, but we believe it’s important to participate in fairs and, specifically, to be at White Milano. Since sales nowadays start much earlier, the dates might change accordingly. Also, a shortened format of only two days might help. Nevertheless, we managed to take the most out of the fair by meeting old and new clients.”
Among the most attractive names were many upcoming designers: Olubiyi Thomas, born in Nigeria, trained in Scotland and based in London; Romeo Hunte from Brooklyn; Studio Pansters, whose founder, Lieke Pansters, works in Amsterdam; and Dreaming Eli by Sicilian Elisa Trombatore, who opened an atelier in London. Also, Nizhoni, the brand created by the Dutch designer Kitty van Coesant, made an impact with its colorful knitwear made with 50 percent high-quality recycled yarns.
Intercultural connections became a crucial point for White Milano. Five Norwegian talents presented their work during a cocktail party; a talk in collaboration with the international nonprofit organization Fashion Minority Alliance raised questions on diversity and inclusion in the fashion business; and six Indigenous designers from Canada were invited to join and showcase their collections, which were deeply rooted in their cultural background.