Italy is taking its home-grown fashion brands on the road for a US tour that had its first stop in Los Angeles.
Under a very rainy sky, 29 small and medium-sized Italian brands showed their collections in two fairs that took place from March 13 to 15 during Market Week in Los Angeles.
In the past, most Italian brands focused their marketing on the East Coast and attended large trade shows such as Coterie in New York. But there is a vast world beyond that where small and medium-sized Italian brands can sell their collections.
Many consumers are “attached to the names of the big Italian brands. You know, the famous ones,” said Paola Guida, head of the fashion and beauty division at the government-backed Italian Trade Agency in New York, which arranged the trip. “And then we started thinking that the U.S. weren’t just a market. The East Coast is different from the West Coast, South Florida and Chicago.”
Outside of Europe, the United States is the first market for Italian fashion brands. Last year, Italy exported $2.8 billion of fashion and textiles to the United States, an increase of nearly 25% over the previous year.
Analyzing the market, the Italian government has decided to present Inspri Italia, Innovations in Style, a show that includes clothing, footwear and accessories brands for buyers in the United States, starting in Los Angeles and then moving to Miami, Dallas and Atlanta .
For LA, the roadshow organizers chose to attend Designers & Agents, a biannual show hosted at The New Mart showroom building in the city’s downtown Fashion District, and Brand Assembly, a four-year event since across the street at the Cooper Design Building Space.
At Designers & Agents, the Italian contingent filled their section with 15 brands showcasing a range of products from clothing to handbags.
One such brand was Etici, a sustainable natural fiber clothing label built since 2015 in Carpi, a city of about 71,000 in northern Italy. It was the first time that the owner of the company, Andrea Vignoli, took part in a fair in Los Angeles. “We’ve done three shows in New York, but we’re new to Los Angeles,” he said.
The company is dedicated to producing more climate-friendly goods. “We’re trying to reduce the carbon footprint of everything we do,” said Vignoli, who noted that even his hang tags are made from recycled paper. “We only do natural washes and natural dyes. We are trying our best to reduce our water consumption and have no allergy causing fabrics.
This sustainable approach was paying off. Vignoli said he saw about 20 buyers during the three-day show. They came from places like Jackson, Wyoming and cities in California including Manhattan Beach, Sherman Oaks, San Marino and San Francisco. “It was a good show,” Vignoli said, adding that several U.S. agents have asked to represent his company.
Another new brand on the show was Alessandro Aste, a line of Italian-designed cotton, wool, silk and cashmere sweaters and felted cashmere scarves made in Nepal.
Owner Alessandro Aste said he showed his line at Designers & Agents in New York but wanted to expand his sales to the US, which now accounts for about 10% of revenues. He had seven buyers placing orders: half for scarves and half for sweaters that retailed for more than $300.
Although he thought the show was a bit slow compared to D&A in New York, he said it introduced him to the California market. “I want to understand the people and the fashion here because everyone says it’s a little bit different,” she explained.
Some of the Italian brands included in the roadshow have already been to Los Angeles, including Whyci Milano, a contemporary line of sweaters, blouses and trousers in silk, wool, cashmere, linen and cotton that has been run by the same family for three generations. Everything is made in Italy, and 75 percent of the company’s suppliers are located within a 30-mile radius.
Elena Ghisolfi, one of the owners, said that the company has participated several times at Designers & Agents in Los Angeles. But after seeing orders pick up following the pandemic, the company is working to expand its business in California.
“We have placed orders at this show with our old customers, but we have seen some new orders here,” Ghisolfi said. She and her husband will then travel to San Francisco to check their existing accounts.
At the Brand Assembly trade show, 14 Italian designers mainly selling footwear, jewelery and leather goods had booths located on a different floor than the main Brand Assembly trade show. This created a fickle business situation.
Fracap, a high-end collection of handmade leather boots, shoes and sandals now in its third generation of the Cappello family, had seen no customers during the show, Martina Cappello said.
But Milano’s Laboratorio Mariucci has placed enough orders for its fine leather handbags, including shoulder bags that retail for between $70 and $120, to sell out its current collection.
Despite mixed results from this first show, Paola Guida of the Foreign Trade Agency said the organization will bring more Italian companies back to the Los Angeles shows next October. “This is something like a trial,” Guida said. “But I think there is potential for our companies.”