The annual convention organized by Italian specialised fashion consulting company Pambianco, involving some of the top players of the fashion industry, has just ended its 2010 edition. This year’s event, with the title ‘Fashion: nothing like before anymore’, brought together various chiefs of the industry, such as Renzo Rosso (Diesel), Robert Polet (Gucci Group), Diego Della Valle (Tod’s), Saverio Moschillo (John Richmond), Stefano Beraldo (Coin Group), Michele Norsa (Salvatore Ferragamo), Enzo Fusco (FGF Industry), Massimo Berloni (Dondup), as well as managers working for designer brands including Versace and Roberto Cavalli.

All speakers agreed on the fact that in the past years (2007 to 2010), the consumer has grown more mature and buys less things following his impulse. Consumers also have become more of an expert in judging quality and products, got familiar using technology tools such as the internet, social networks and blogs. Another conclusion was that ‘made in Italy’ is a must for companies offering luxury products, while those focused on more affordable products, have to find the partners that better fit their target and aims, though always offering value for money. In general, companies that offered informal/casual looks suffered less than manufacturers of formalwear.

Regarding consumption figures, Asian markets registered a growth of 21% between 2007 and 2009, while USA registered a minus of 18% and Europe a minus of 5%. Despite this, Italy registered a +7% growth in the last eight months of 2010, especially due to a recovery of foreign markets such as the US (back to buying again) and Asia (Hong Kong and China represent about 30%).

According to David Pambianco's research, product categories that reached better results among Italian companies, there were fast fashion brands with a +8.6% growth in turnover, and sportswear companies. Formal apparel companies registered a minus of 18.2%, while sportswear companies only registerd a 1.2% minus.

During the convention, Renzo Rosso commented on his recent ‘Be stupid’ marketing campaign: “Be stupid is a movement. That’s how I often felt like. When I did things others didn't understand, yet I always felt stupid. Now, many appreciate our intuition. You notice it in social networks or when they invite us to teach lessons at universities.” He also spoke about the crisis and commented that his company registered a small minus of 3.5% only in 2009 compared to 2008. “Despite the difficulties, I will never cut costs in two indispensable sections: marketing and communication.” He also strongly believes in the importance of technology and web communication. “My next idea could be creating a 3-D online store.”

Diego Della Valle, owner of Tod's Group, commented: "Being special and specialists is fundamental. For this, one has to focus on his job with more passion than ever. Though always keeping an eye on future growth. Nowadays, entering the Chinese market is easy: labor costs are low as is opening stores there. But one has to consider how that market will change in about five years from now."

Stefano Beraldo, CEO Coin Group, recognizes how the Italian panorama of distribution is fragmented though full of potential when compared to other countries. His group forecasts to close 2010 with a turnover of about €1.65 billion (in 2009 it was almost €1.2 billion). “We can grow more in Italy.We make up 3.7% of Italy’s distribution and we are the first group. Consider that H&M makes up 20% in Sweden. We grew in Italy thanks to the young market and believing in UPIM, a chain that before was mostly focused on an older age group. We signed an agreement with a Biella knitwear manufacturer and can offer cashmere tops at €149 thanks to a special agreement. You have to find the right agreements in order not to lose sales quota. You might be losing margins sometimes, but you cannot lose sales.”

Other speakers included FGF Industry’s Enzo Fusco and Dondup’s Massimo Berloni. Both belong to the sportswear market area – one of the most successful product categories for years to come – and have carried out several initiatives that led them to grow in the market and internationally. “We started working with ten showrooms throughout Italy - before there were only two - and signed agreements with a prestigious Japanese partner in order to also further grow internationally. Moreover, in Italy we are cutting about 20-30 stores per season in order to raise the quality of our distribution.”

Berloni, expert jeanswear manufacturer, founded his premium jeans line ten years ago and in 2009 signed an agreement to sell 40% to LVMH. “Niches are a great base to start from. We started to look for a luxury segment though a more democratic one. After we reached success in Italy, we started exporting. Though everything must be done gradually. If you only accelerate the whole time, you risk losing everything.”