More than 180 showrooms are featured on the National Chamber of Italian Fashion’s website—all of them based in Milan—and those are just the main ones.
These organizations work behind the scenes in the fashion world, but they’ve turned Milan into a vital commercial center for the industry on a global scale.
“In terms of turnover, Milan is the world’s main hub for fashion showrooms. We have to continue internationalizing,” explains Massimo Bonini, owner of the showroom which bears his name, which has six offices: four in Milan, one in New York, and one in Hong Kong.
With 40 employees and sales for the Fall-Winter 2017-18 season increasing by 14%—a boost provided by e-retail orders—Bonini is one of the sector’s most distinguished names: Bonini manages accessories and footwear collections for high-end brands, a well-balanced mix of proven successes (Versace, Roberto Cavalli,) growing brands (N°21, Fausto Puglisi,) and emerging talents (Giannico.)
These brands are mostly Italian, and all of them have high commercial potential: “In a market that’s massively changing,” he explains, “products that visibly stand out are successful, since their first contact with the clients happens more and more online—and then they demonstrate their quality in real life.”
The Massimo Bonini Showroom’s main clients are “Europe and the USA, the latter of which grew by double digits from season to season, followed by Asia. The Arab countries are doing well, and Russia is recovering.”
The Showroom doesn’t just serve a commercial purpose: “We do all kinds of work with the brands, we also help them choose the right manufacturers,” Bonini continues.
Riccardo Grassi, owner of his namesake showroom in Milan and two temporary ones in Paris and New York, has also confirmed Milan’s status as the commercial leaders in global fashion. Six years ago, he wanted to create an innovative space—4,000 square meters on via Piranesi—to host clothing/accessories collections for Puglisi, MSGM, Paula Cademartori, and many others.
“I wanted to open a landmark spot for international buyers in Milan, back when the crisis was going on, by selecting ‘indispensable’ brands for researchers to take a look at,” claims Grassi.
The formula, which was more strategic than traditional showrooms, worked: “We received 13,000 orders, from 2,000 buyers in 70 countries, for our Spring-Summer’ 17 and Fall-Winter’ 17-18 collections,” he stated.
And as Bonini experienced, the biggest growth (25-30%) came from the large-scale e-retailers.
According to Grassi, in order to sell goods online “the products must have a recognizable and iconic look, in terms of shapes and colors.” Another fundamental issue is the prices: “Nowadays, the quality-to-price relationship is crucial: consumers are no longer buying products just for the brand names.”
From this perspective, Italy’s reputation for quality creates even more added value: “Yes, it counts. But not for the name—for the product itself.”