Despite cloudy skies and a mediocre performance from Italy against New Zealand in the World Cup, the bumper-to-bumper traffic crawling away from Moncler’s Gamme Bleu show at Milan’s Velodromo Vigorelli last night was testament to the fact that Italy’s fashion capital is as buoyant as ever.
Last year was among the worst ever for the country’s fashion industry. Gianfranco Ferré went into administration last February and in October Versace was forced to cut its workforce by a quarter. The turnover in Italy’s men’s market alone shrunk 11.3 per cent to €8bn. But 2010 is seeing a market recovery.
Last week, the Sistema Moda Italiana (Italy’s textile and clothing industry organisation) released a report outlining the reasons for optimism. In addition to sectors such as outerwear and shirting once again growing steadily, two of Italy’s biggest export markets have picked up. Men’s retail in the US has bounced back considerably, with sales 8 per cent up this March compared with 12 months earlier, while France’s ready-to-wear menswear market expanded by 1.8 per cent.
Indeed, as men’s fashion week in Milan goes into its final day tomorrow, and the crowd moves to Paris for the city’s equivalent round of shows, it seems that the state of the industry is better here than across the border. Mario Boselli from the Italian Chamber of Fashion highlighted in Il Sole this week that 2009 ended with an Italian trade surplus of €11bn to €12bn compared to France’s €5bn to €10bn deficit.
Reasons for such confidence are apparent throughout Milan, even for smaller brands. The White Homme trade show has grown noticeably this year. With young companies such as Ten C showing, and older menswear labels including Raffaello Bettini expanding into women’s clothing.
However, it will take some time for a real turnaround to bed in. “There is definitely a big difference in the psychological climate and retail did a lot better this spring,” says Diego Rossetti, Fratelli Rossetti’s managing director. “But, it’s difficult to say how long it will take to recover from last year’s loss. The wholesale orders that we are taking now will only impact the balance sheet in the first half of 2011 and retail is only 40 per cent of our income.”
Nevertheless, Milan’s reputation for quality seems to be serving it well. With greater demand for value over trends in a recovering consumer market, buyers from around the world are relying on the established Italian brands to carry them through.
And this week has shown that the men’s market is no different. Net-a-Porter’s Natalie Massenet is in town ahead of the 2011 launch of Mr Porter – her menswear e-commerce site – and brands from Bottega Veneta to Kiton are excited about growth for the coming year. The buzzword on everyone’s lips? South Korea. Foreign fashion brands saw growth between 20 and 30 per cent there last year, and with the falling power of the won, Japanese consumers are shopping in Seoul. With many Seoul-based buyers in town, this burgeoning Asian luxury goods market is providing many reasons for confidence, even here in rainy Milan.