MILAN, Italy — Tomorrow, Milanese tradeshow White will open its gates for another season, greeting thousands of buyers — more than 30,000 visitors in total are expected — and exhibiting 562 brands at the last count. This season, White has chosen Fiorucci as the special guest of the tradeshow, while A.F. Vandevorst is its special designer. The couple behind the label, An Vandevorst and Filip Arickx, will celebrate the brand’s 20th anniversary during the event.
Founded in 2002, White swiftly grew from a small event with just a handful of labels to a major player in the international distribution of Italian and international ready-to-wear and accessories labels. “Now, we have four venues in which we provide a large but highly curated selection of brands,” explains White co-founder and chief executive Brenda Bellei, who will host 375 Italian brands and 187 international brands across White’s Tortona district properties.
“Today, White spans across approximately 22,000 square metres, located in Tortona 27 Superstudio Più, Tortona 35 Hotel Nhow, Tortona 54 Ex Ansaldo, and a new location, Tortona 31 Opificio, which is a venue consisting of a number of stand-alone locations, used for the first time by White during fashion week to forge a path unique in its kind,” says Bellei.
“What we want to achieve is specific buyers and specific department stores having the opportunity to visit locations that have been designed and curated with their needs in mind. We go to visit the fashion directors of the department stores, and through talking with them we can understand what kind of brand they are looking for. Then, we work on scouting the best location to host different kinds of brands, in terms of positioning and product. This is the way we create a very deep model of distribution.”
Focusing on the Buyer’s Experience
White views its brand curation and selection as the fundamental foundation of the service it provides its buyers. “We have a special buying department inside our office and they keep in touch with buyers. We propose trends and provide creative inspiration, our brand lists and relevant news. Firstly, we try to inform all the buyers, then we get them to the trade fair, which we work very hard to make as innovative, efficient and exciting as possible, in addition to offering a very high-level of executive services, with food and cars, as well as the exclusive entertainment that is provided.”
Indeed, White’s location in a fashion capital and its links to a major fashion week are an alluring part of its appeal. “We aim to define our tradeshow as an event and a multichannel platform, not just a fair. This is probably the biggest difference between White and other tradeshows — the location. In the Tortona district, there is Moncler, Armani, Fendi and many others. This is a real fashion district and it is a very powerful one, unique in the world. The other tradeshows are generally in trade areas, not in a fashion district and held during a fashion week. We are in a very special location and it is a beautiful environment. It makes White special,” continues Bellei.
Over the years, White has organised many events around the world to promote and support Italian brands internationally. That decision is now paying off, as the tradeshow draws on its experience to increase the experiential elements of the industry event. “Over the years, White has grown a lot. We now have a lot of experience in events,” says Bellei. “In June, for example, during White Street Market, we did a big party with Adidas Originals. It was a huge event. We have a lot of different partners and have experience in hosting a huge number of different kinds of activities,” she explains.
We aim to define our tradeshow as an event and a multichannel platform, not just a fair.
Creating a sense of event around proceedings is at the heart of White's future ambitions, which are inspired by the success of Milan’s Design Week, says Bellei. “Design Week is one of the most powerful events in the world. We believe this kind of event, mixing B2B and B2C, will be an extremely strong proposition in the future.”
Direct-to-Consumer and Ties to Milan Fashion Week
Parallel to the digital disruption of the fashion industry and in response to the rise of social media-savvy consumers with increasingly global outlooks, White has expanded its programming to welcome consumers and evolved the support it offers its brand partners. In June, it opened White Street Market, a merged B2B and B2C space for emerging and established streetwear and sportswear brands, together with a selection of niche fashion labels. White Street Market is a unique format in Italy, with buyers and consumers interacting across fashion, food, art and events.
“For us, B2B remains essential, it is the focus of our business and always our primary concern. But B2C is a real opportunity for the brands. It was amazing to have 9,000 people visit in a day, gaining traction on social networks with direct contact to the consumer — it is so important today. We work with many young influencers to really drive exposure for our partners through the market,” adds Bellei.
In addition to its geographic expansion and foray into consumer facing elements of its programme, White continues to organise and produce on-schedule catwalk shows during Milano Moda Donna, thanks to an agreement with Camera Nazionale della Moda that allows it to support new brands and place them in the official calendar of Milan Fashion Week. Previously, White has supported the Situationist, a brand from Georgia gaining recognition through key points of sales such as Browns, andA.F. Vandevorst which will be showing on Saturday on the official schedule.
“White has always been a booster for new talents, thanks to its capability as a communication platform with a marketing budget and its ability to provide exposure to the prestigious buyers that come to the tradeshow every season,” explains Bellei.