A Lesson Learned from the Italians

I recently had the opportunity to attend Milano Unica, the premiere textile show in Italy. It is an exhibition of European textile manufacturers and is the unification of five previously separate prestigious Italian textile fairs; Idea Como, Idea Biella, Moda In, Prato Expo and Shirt Avenue. Each show is known specifically for a certain textile, for example the region of Como is known for silks, while Prato and Biella are known for wool. The Italian and European textile industry has faced extreme hardship and therefore they combined the five shows to unite and promote the true quality of the finest fabric and accessory collections in Europe. The products shown at Milano Unica are used in designer collections and are the latest fashions.

I am not targeting the designer market but I was travelling to Italy for personal reasons and had the opportunity to attend the show which was a great learning experience. The companies exhibiting represented some of the most virile entrepreneurs in Italy. They have demonstrated the ability to maintain competitiveness in a difficult and constantly changing market. Though it has not been easy, in fact from 2001-2007 the textile sector lost 13,000 production units and over 80,000 jobs. This of course is nothing in comparison to the U.S. where the textile industry has all but disappeared.

Italian textile manufacturers refuse to give up what the slogan “Made in Italy” stands for. It represents centuries of experience, creativity and expertise passed down through generations. However, they realize that while tradition is valuable it must be safeguarded by innovation. It is through the focus on experimentation, product development and marketing to a niche that values their expert craftmanship and commitment to the ethical treatment of the people who participate in the creation of these beautiful, luxurious fabrics that the Italian textile industry will thrive. From this stems the most important lesson I have taken away from attending Milano Unica. Innovation combined with a correct match between price and intrinsic value of the product marketed to a clearly identified consumer niche is your best bet for success.

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