BoF: How do you intend to present the brands during Shanghai Fashion Week?
BB: We are arriving with a format that is not the typical trade fair format. It will be more like a mix between the floor of a department store and an entertaining space with lounges and areas to relax, where people can meet and enjoy Italian food. It’s a very social format. We want to do something completely out of the box and immersive, similar to when you step into an exhibition. We also have a PR strategy, with numerous activations while we are there, including roundtable talks on Italian culture, fabrics and design, which will be posted live on social media.
We have invested significantly in the how we can make this tradeshow different. When we started in Milan we wanted to offer brands an unusual setting, one that was contemporary and not like the tradeshows that existed before. We introduced art, music and a much higher quality of set design. We have also set ourselves the same challenge in Shanghai.
BoF: What do you believe will be the most challenging aspect of the initiative for the brands taking part?
BB: Our goal is for the 56 brands to develop potential commercial partnerships and network with the Chinese industry. Doing business in China is very different to the way we do business here in the West. The buyer is a very different kind of buyer in China. An example is the Bailian Group, a company that manages 6,000 stores and is one of the largest property developers in the country, which operates with a single buying team. We will all have to adapt to a new business model. Our brands will use their time in China to understand how they can do business in this new market, reflect and adapt, and then return with their tailored proposition. We have a long-standing tradition of boutiques and multi-brand stores in China. The culture of multi-brand is growing season after season and our brands should be well positioned to take advantage of that.
BoF: What metrics will you use to measure the success of the project?
BB: We very much hope that the Chinese market will engage with the project fully and that it will be discussed by the press, the fashion industry and by consumers. However, through experience, we know that at the beginning, the commercial results are unlikely to be immediate. We have discussed with the brands that the project is different to a normal tradeshow. Yes, they are there to sell, but they are really there to sell Italian heritage and the Italian know-how related to their brand.
They will certainly meet some buyers, but they will also go to showrooms and meet distributors, influencers, opinion leaders and more. The attendees will be a different kind of people. When these brands exhibit in Milan they write orders all day, but in China it will be different. Everyone involved, from Madame Lu, the vice secretary general of Shanghai Fashion Week, to the political bodies here in Italy and the brands themselves, believes in the future of the project. Ultimately, we hope that these brands will open up the Chinese market while building awareness of Italian luxury and craftsmanship.
WHITE is the Associate Partner of the BoF China Summit 2017, with additional support from the Italian Trade Agency (ITA), and Confartigianato Imprese.