The vibrant autumn 18 edition of Italian womenswear trade show White Milan was a celebration of all things Italian for brands and buyers alike.
Italian craftsmanship, emerging brands and domestic buyers dominated at the flourishing autumn 18 edition of White Milan, the womenswear trade show that took place on the Via Tortona in Milan on 23-26 February.
Across all four days of the show a steady stream of visitors wound their way from the nearby Porta Genova Metro station to Via Tortona, home to White Milan. Coinciding with Milan Fashion Week and contemporary womenswear and accessories trade show Pitti Super, Milan fizzed with fashion-focused energy as locations across the city were given over to all things fashion.
Spread across four buildings on the same street, the show buzzed as crowds of visitors made their way through the numerous maze-like hidden areas and rooms. The contemporary-focused Tortona 27 building and mainstream Tortona 35 were particularly busy, as attendees clamoured over the brands on offer.
This season, the show increased its exhibitor space by almost 10%, allowing for an 8% increase in the number of brands on display compared with the February 2017 show. A total of 551 exhibitors were on show. White Milan also expected an uptick in visitor numbers to around 30,000 across the four days, compared with 27,000 at the spring 18 edition last September. Final figures were not released at the time of print.
The busiest days were the opening Friday and Saturday, and Sunday was dominated by Italian independents. Footfall on the final day, Monday, was far lower. Halls were much emptier than previous days and several brands noted that they had seen more students than buyers.
White Milan is an overwhelmingly Italian show, and most brands seek to tap into the local Italian market. There was nevertheless a strong international showing, particularly from Korea and Japan. Buyers from New York’s Opening Ceremony and Parisian Printemps were also spotted. Alongside Pitti Uomo for menswear, White Milan is seen as the key show to tap into the Italian marketplace.
The turnout from UK buyers was more muted. Those who did attend, however, praised the show for its strong mix of artisan Italian brands and used the show to cherry-pick one-off items and Italian-made goods.
Italian brands dominated – they made up two-thirds of the roster – and there was a focus on “Made in Italy”. Leather accessories brands showed strong collections, and many drew the largest crowds in the halls. There was a relative scarcity of big-name non-Italian brands that also exhibit at events such as Pure London, CIFF in Copenhagen and Who’s Next in Paris, although international labels including Essentiel Antwerp, Intropia, Country of Origin and Happy Socks were in Milan.
The new locations for the season generally proved a hit: the “Archiproducts” building at Tortona 31 was a highlight thanks to its focus on emerging designers. Strong, directional and trend-led brands including Rouge Margaux, Babukhadia and Synesthesiac shone, set up in a spacious renaissance-style building with a serene atmosphere – unusual to find in a trade show.
Other new locations were less successful. Some brands in the new “White Basement” section, next to the main Tortona 27, complained that the space was tricky for visitors to find and not clearly sign-posted, while others criticised a lack of clarity in the brand mix. At least one exhibitor from this section packed up early, leaving on Sunday, citing a lack of visitors.
Additions of a pop-up shop with brands including Y/Project, Saskia Dies and George Keburia, a showroom presentation from guest designer Rouge Margaux, a hall dedicated to designers from southern Italy, locations showcasing designer talent from Kazakhstan and Portugal, and a “see now, buy now” capsule from designer Federica Tosi – set to be delivered to stores 10 days after buyers ordered at White – mixed up the typical trade show format and made the show an engaging and interesting visit.
While the halls were consistently full, some brands felt a lot of visitors were browsing rather than buying. Brands reported high numbers of students and press visiting the show, and some speculated buyers were holding off doing business until Paris. The complex layout meant some exhibitors felt left out. Despite this, the consensus was generally positive – particularly from those seeking Italian brands or Italian buyers – and the show succeeded in capturing and fuelling the fashion buzz already filling the city.
The mood of the show
Bobby Farboudi, owner, London independent Boudi Boutique
There are two Italian trade shows I go to – Pitti Uomo and White Milan. There’s a nice selection of up-and- coming designers and a lot of good ‘Made in Italy’ brands. I come here looking for those Italian brands. I’ve found some good one-off artisan designers this season – I don’t like mass-produced brands, and White is very good for handmade, artisan pieces.
Stephanie Mendes, brand manager, knitwear brand Duffy
It’s the first time we’ve showed here and it’s been great. We picked up a nice account on day one and we saw a lot of Asian buyers on the morning of day two. We’re here to target more European customers – we do the shows in Berlin, Paris and Copenhagen, but this allows us to reach out a little further. We like the layout [in Tortona 27], because it’s very clean and it’s nice to have some natural light.
Laura Theiss, designer, contemporary womenswear brand Laura Theiss
We find that Italian buyers tend to be more interested in craftsmanship and technique than other markets – they really like artisan techniques and manufacturing. Here, people seem to be on the look-out for individual special pieces, which is different to other trade shows. The show has been busy so far – we tend to find that London is good to see press, but it’s in Italy and Paris that you meet the buyers.
Anna Uuttu, wholesale co-ordinator, footwear brand Minna Parikka
This is our second time at White. We used to show at Micam but moved here, because we felt Micam became too quiet. We’ve seen a lot of Italian buyers and some from the US, but no one from the UK, which is unusual. This show is a mix of taking orders and networking, and it’s been positive so far – we’ve had a really great response.
Rosario Pomario, sales agent, outerwear brand Traditional Weatherwear
It’s been busy so far, but we’re hoping it will get even busier. In terms of international buyers, we’ve mainly seen Japanese buyers so far, which is always the case with this show, but other than that a lot of Europeans. It’s been a mix of stores, but mainly independents, and we’re happy with the mix we’ve seen so far.
Barbara Finassi, sales manager, womenswear designer Federica Tosi
We’re selling a “see-now-buy-now” collection exclusively at White, which will be delivered to stores within 10 days of the show. The response has been good and we’ve been very busy. The interest is coming a lot from Italy, as well as Shanghai, Korea and Germany. Sunday is the busiest day for us here, because a lot of the Italian shops are closed so the buyers come here.
Jo Blaz, wholesale manager, footwear agency Six London, showing six brands including Leandra Medine, Toga Pulla and Dorateymur
The first day was busy, but Saturday was much quieter. We’re mainly here for the Italian clients, who dominate here. The men’s edition of White tends to be much more international. We’ve also seen buyers from Korea and Japan. It’s been a mix of stores, big and small, and we’ve had several appointments. This show is mainly about marketing for us, and Paris is the main event. That’s where we write our orders.
Lisa Anderlini, designer, womenswear brand Lau
It’s been very good so far. The first day was extremely busy and we had a lot of interest. We’ve seen people from across the world. Europe, yes, but also from Japan, Canada and the USA. We also show at Capsule in New York so it’s good to see some of those buyers here as well.
Casilda Diaz De Bustamante Huidobro, brand manager, scarf brand Stone
The first two days have been quiet, but we’re hoping that today will be busier. On day two people were just looking at products, but on day three we’re hoping there will be more business done. This is our first time at White and we’re missing the international buyers, it’s mainly Italians. We thought, with the timing alongside fashion week, this would be the place to be, but that hasn’t been the case. We also don’t like being in the “New Brands” section; we’re new to White but we are not a new brand. We already have good stockists in department stores in Europe, so it feels a little misleading.
Elena Servalli, director at Five 0 Five agency, showing knitwear brand Country of Origin
We’re overwhelmingly here for the Italian market, and this is a very domestic show so we have seen 90% Italians. We tend to see the international market in Paris or sometimes London. We’ve not seen many UK buyers, as this show is very late in the season for them. But it’s a fantastic show for the Italian market and there’s a good atmosphere. I find it similar to Pitti Uomo in Florence – it’s quite relaxed.
Andrea De Polis, footwear brand Alexander Smith London
It’s been busy so far, we’ve seen a 50:50 split between Italian and elsewhere. The other buyers have mainly been from Europe – Belgium, Germany and Austria. We’ve been here for the past six years and it’s been a good show, we’re both writing orders and networking with a good mix of independents and larger stores.