Italy is home to many of the world’s most famous luxury brands, and its products have become synonymous with a nearly unmatched level of beauty and craftsmanship. As the official organizer of Milan Fashion Week, Italy’s national chamber of fashion, the Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana (CNMI), has been working hard to uphold these cultural values and promote Italian fashion across global markets.
CNMI has more than 110 enterprise members, which include all the best Italian brands in haute couture, accessories, shoes and more: Bulgari, Fendi, Prada, Salvatore Ferragamo, Giorgio Armani, and Gucci. From creating the Fashion Hub and nurturing young designers to encouraging sustainability with their forward-thinking Green Carpet awards, the head of the CNMI, Carlo Capasa, has dedicated himself to furthering the already prestigious meaning behind the phrase ‘Made in Italy.’ Calling himself “a dreamer, an aesthetician, and a pragmatist,” Capasa recently spoke with Jing Daily, where he shared his insights and initiatives for marketing luxury Italian fashion in China.
“We give space to Chinese talents in our fashion calendar and bring Italian designers to the Chinese runways,” says Capasa. An example of the latter was CNMI’s selection of Vivetta Ponti, the CEO and head designer of Vivetta, to present her collection at the 2017 Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in Beijing. Different from the usual sexy Italian styles, Vivetta brought sweet and playful designs that reference the memories of girlhood and immediately won the hearts of well-known Chinese actresses like Liu Shishi and Zhou Dongyu. But CNMI doesn’t just work within the largest Chinese cities — their strategy runs much deeper than that.
“This February, at our Fashion Hub, we hosted seven emerging designers from Xi’an Fashion Town,” adds Capasa. And there is, in fact, a special historical connection between Italy and Xi’an, a large city in central China: They lay on opposite ends of the ancient trade route the Silk Road. The Fashion Town project helps create an ecosystem where talents, brands, and fashion-tech companies can grow and enhance themselves. It’s under heavy Italian influence since Xi’an signed an agreement with their Italian partners to bring in a fashion institute, a designer hotel, and even a culinary park to their city. It’s an ambitious plan for promoting Italy’s fashion and lifestyle outside of the usual 1st tier cities in China.
Meanwhile, a partnership with Shanghai Fashion Week has also been key for CNMI. “We have organized various exchange programs with the Shanghai Fashion Week that offer real opportunities for Italian designers to present themselves in the Chinese market,” notes Capasa. “It is our goal to strengthen relationships with such significant partners in China and make it easier for aspiring Italian brands to increase visibility. Our internationalization projects are going precisely in this direction.”
In addition to the big players, CNMI has welcomed many small designer brands into their family. “I suggest to them to have a reliable local partner who knows the rules of the Chinese market, especially from a distribution point of view,” Capasa says. But it is still difficult for these “small and beautiful” brands to enter China independently. So, last September, CNMI launched a dedicated platform on the retail site Yoox, where Chinese consumers could discover over 100 “hidden Italian gems.” “Launching over 100 brands together will make a collective impact and attract curious Chinese customers,” says Claire Chung, the China general manager of Yoox. To further this initiative, CNMI has also scheduled offline events where customers can experience the ‘Made in Italy’ experience while enjoying free espressos. “We work synergistically with companies and institutions so such initiatives can grow and develop,” adds Capasa.
September holds Milan’s Fashion Week, but it’s also close to China’s Golden Week: the lunar new year holiday that runs from October 1 – 7. Carlo offered some tips for Chinese travelers to enrich their experiences in the northern Italian city. “Milan is a vibrant city full of opportunities,” says Capasa. “In September, there will be many cultural events. For example, the Fondazione Prada and Armani Silos museums often host important exhibitions during the Fashion Week period.”
Yet in order to truly lead the luxury fashion industry into the future, CNMI has made sustainability one of its strategy pillars. “We recently launched new research with McKinsey [consulting firm] showing how Italy is perceived as one of the most sustainable countries in the world,” he says. “Italian fashion is the most sustainable thanks to a commitment from all our fashion leaders. It is no longer possible to think of fashion without considering both aesthetic and ethical sides.” Through their Green Carpet Competition, CNMI urges talents to innovate with sustainability in mind during every process, including harvesting “sea silk,” a very fine and valuable fabric made from the silky filaments secreted from the foot of pen shells, and creating a leather alternative from apple skins.
Despite their good intentions, CNMI is also very aware that Italian luxury brands must sell their goods at the best outlets in China in order for them to be successful there. While the multinational giant of the luxury world LVMH has invested deeply in the China International Import Expo, which takes place from November 5-10 at the Shanghai National Exhibition and Convention Center, other Italian brands are also bringing their best to this world-renowned convention. 2,000 square meters of exhibition areas were booked to showcase the best fashion and lifestyle products made in Italy. “We are very good at making things,” says Capasa about his Italian brethren, “but sometimes we’re not always able to tell the tales behind what we do.” Fortunately, those artisans have CNMI to help them spread the word.