MILAN — White Milano has always prided itself on being a bridge between the numerous Italian small and medium-sized fashion enterprises and international markets and buyers.
In the aftermath of the pandemic, the trade show operator is aiming to grow bigger and stronger, with a five-year business plan that stretches until 2026 and is aimed at strengthening its rapport with small fashion players and global markets.
White Milano is gearing up for its June and September editions. While the former — dedicated to sustainability under the WSM moniker — is scheduled for June 19 to 21 in a “phy-gital” format, blending a digital marketplace with a range of physical initiatives spread across Milan, the latter, planned for Sept. 23 to 26, will mark a full return to the IRL show.
“We really wanted September’s edition to be physical because White Milano represents the most important platform for SMEs, that are the present and future of the fashion sector. We’re an incubator for the industry,” Stefania Vismara, the newly appointed White Milano’s general manager, told WWD.
Brenda Bellei, White Milano’s chief executive officer, added that “the companies we represent take center stage in everything we do, in addition to the quality of our offer. We’re not just selling exhibition spaces, we are creating a system with them to support their needs.”
“The expansion plans for our [trade show] formats were conceived with the aim of supporting networking and increase the pivotal role that Milan plays in the global fashion landscape,” echoed Vismara, noting that Milan attracts roughly 10,000 brands each season, showcased across fashion shows, presentations, trade shows and showrooms.
Massimiliano Bizzi, the trade show founder, has always been vocal about the need for all fashion-related entities and institutions to create a system and collaborate in order to increase the city’s appeal.
To this end, White Milano — which boasts the support of Milan’s municipality, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, as well Italy’s trade agency ICE, in addition to a partnership with Confartigianato Imprese — is plotting additional tie-ups.
While for the WSM showcase in June it has linked with key retailers including Biffi, Daad Dantone and Modes, among others, that will display sustainable brands selected with the support of White Milano, for the September show, it will provide dedicated corners at the fairgrounds to key Milan showrooms, which will display a selection of their brands.
In September, the Superstudio and Base Milano, Ex Ansaldo venues in the Tortona District, which have traditionally housed the trade show, will showcase around 250 brands, at full capacity. Going forward, White Milano lists the expansion of its exhibition surface among the key objectives. Vismara said it will add additional venues to the current ones starting likely with the February 2022 edition.
Vismara also underscored the importance of further attracting international buyers starting from September, especially from Europe, Russia and the Middle East, the latter particularly appealing given the small penetration of Italian women’s wear brands in the region.
“Attracting foreign buyers requires organization and planning…we want to be ready and well equipped when the sanitary situation improves,” said Vismara, noting that the September edition of White is expected to draw around 10,000 visitors.
At the same time, the five-year business plan also entails the fair’s expansion abroad, with its formats to be potentially replicated on international stages. “This is the most ambitious and important project we have, because our exhibitors’ exports are only sustainable if international exposure is guaranteed,” Vismara said.
This will go hand-in-hand with a further boost on the existing business-to-business online marketplace. Set up during the pandemic to make up for the forgone physical fairs, Bellei explained that it “has helped our exhibitors keep their business relationships alive in anticipation of the September physical show,” accumulating 8,250 buyers throughout 2020.
Dubbing it as “synergistic,” Vismara also touted the services the trade show could provide, which spanned from content creation to education, with the goal of supporting exhibitors throughout the year and beyond the physical shows.