Two reasons why Italians rule in the style stakes

Does the Italian fashion industry walk the talk when it comes to delivering on that promise?

By Steve Colquhoun 16/03/2017

“Italian made” – two words guaranteed to grab the attention of any discerning fashionista. In a world where so many consumable goods originate from mega-factories in China or sweat-shops in the third world, the implied promise of real craftsmanship and discerning style is a powerful purchasing lure.

Does the Italian fashion industry walk the talk when it comes to delivering on that promise? Tommaso Cancellara may be biased, but he’s sure of it. He is the General Manager of Assocalzaturifici, the Italian Footwear Manufacturers’ Association representing over 600 footwear manufacturers, and Managing Director of theMICAM, the international fashion footwear exhibition which is held twice-yearly in Milan. He knows fashion – and, especially, shoes – and is visiting Australia to participate in a series of trade shows designed to promote Italian exports.

“There is a secret ingredient that Italy can exploit when it comes to selling our wares to the world, and that is passion,” he said this week.

“We are passionate about beauty and lifestyle, and we live and work amid a creative culture that inspires us.

“We are so flexible in our production that we can even produce small quantities – this is no problem.

“The other secret we have is heritage. There is no process to create beauty, this is something that is passed from hand to hand through the generations. Italians know and understand this.

“It is these two attributes – heritage and passion – that sets the Italian product apart from the rest of the world.”

Cancellara (above) points to export figures to prove his point. In 2015, Italy ranked 12th in the world for shoe exports, with 191 million pairs sent abroad, a share of less than 1 per cent of global shoe exports. China, conversely, accounted for a massive 59 per cent, followed by India (9.6 per cent).

By value, though, Italy jumps to third, with an average export price per pair of $US46.21 ($A60), compared to China’s $US5.18 ($A6.75). Narrow the field down to leather footwear, and Italy is the world’s second-largest exporter behind China.
The message, says Cancellara, is clear. If you want quality leather footwear, buy Italian and not Chinese. “We may be a niche, but it is not a small one,” he says. “All the big French luxury brands who care about quality have their leathergoods made in Italy. We are continuing to invest in research and development to continue to lift our quality.”

What can Australians do get their hands on more quality Italian goods? “Australian retailers need to invest in telling stories about the Italian industry, we need the public to invest in this belief so that more goods can flow here.

“You are in a perfect storm with incredible growth in tourism from Asia, plus many immigrants arriving to set up a new life. The demanding for luxury is growing, the market is crying out for increased sophistication. We are happy to give it to them.”

Images: Elleni Toumpas

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