Milan has recently hosted two events focused on streetwear and sneaker business - Plug-Mi and Sneakerness. Plug-Mi debuted in Milan as the first consumer-focused event dedicated to urban culture experience and street style fans (also read here). Sneakerness returned to Milan for the second time and recalled sneaker aficionados and resellers ready to buy and sell rare and special edition shoe models.
We have asked different insiders and experts from the streetwear and sneaker scene about their opinion on the following topics:
- Milan is hosting two streetwear-minded events – Plug-Mi and Sneakerness. Do you think Milan is receptive and lively enough in order to make such events become successful? What do you think of these two initiatives?
- What do you think about the reseller phenomenon? In a way it gives prestige to brands, though it creates a parallel market that takes away business from brands. On the one side brands feed it by launching always new limited editions, but on the other they may damage them. What is your opinion?
Although we have asked many insiders about their point of view, many have refused.
Luca Benini, founder, Slam Jam, Ferrara, Italy:
"Milan has developed enormously for many reasons. The city has changed, it is huge, but safe, and also the youth has changed. There is a scene here and a lot of interest in streetwear - much more than, for example, seven or eight years ago. There is also room for such events, because what happens here can be transversal and doesn't necessarily have to be aimed at rich foreign tourists who are only willing to buy designer brands. The reseller phenomenon is difficult to assess. It is true that if, for example, special cooperations are put on the market and sold for 150 €, the day after the sale on Ebay for 1,000 €. Unfortunately, brands like Nike and Adidas cannot change their positioning and pricing strategy as this would completely change their brand identity. These are phenomena that are much more related to collectors and investments than to fashion itself. Since such phenomena create a hype around a brand, brands in most cases cannot do much to change that, nor can they increase their production numbers to offer more pairs - because the sold out aspect is also essential when offering exclusive capsule collections. No one can say how this phenomenon will develop. It was born 20 years ago in Japan and the USA with the intention of drawing attention to some exclusive products and seeing what has become of them."
Renzo Cognini, marketing and sales consultant, Ancona, Italy:
"I'm definitely going to visit Sneakerness. Although I think that Milan offers many different events - including streetwear-oriented - all of which are worth a visit. The reseller phenomenon is a marketing initiative because it affects some insiders who sell and buy products among themselves. It is a positive movement that generates attention around streetwear. It also suggests that there is a market for this segment, because for example if a customer is willing to pay 500 Euros for a pair of sneakers, he will also be willing to buy two quality sweatshirts. If you pay €600 for a pair of sneakers, you don't buy them to wear them every day, but to look cool: You only wear them on special occasions or in places where you know others can appreciate their value. Although I think that the actual streetwear business doesn't come from products that need to be kept under a glass display. The essence of streetwear is still useful products."
Fabrizio Efrate, fashion consultant, Rome:
"This market offers so much. When I was a kid, I liked reading newspapers about what happened at Milan Fashion Week. At that time Versace, Ferrè, Prada and Armani were on display. Milan offered great fashion ideas. Personalities like Ronnie Fieg are now successful through strong social media communication, but not through their creativity. When he makes an exclusive capsule collection, he can add some cool details to a sneaker, but what he does is usually not very new and sometimes inspired by what Valentino did 20 years ago, for example. I used to work for the store I Love Tokyo Sneaker Store in Rome and since 2017 I have organized a new project called Kickit Market, a show and a market that regularly takes place in Rome, at Atlantico Live. This project serves as an accelerator for new brands, but also for resellers. Our next edition, to be held in Rome on October 27, 2019, will include 30 new brands and 20 resellers. I think that a B2C initiative like Plug-Mi wants to become a competitor of Pitti Uomo, although an event like Plug-Mi concerns only influencers and gamers. In other words, B2B events like Sneakerness and Kickit Market have a clearer identity and purpose. When talking about resellers, there is an internal contradiction, since a Special Edition Sneaker is produced in Asian countries for 12 €, then it is sold for 120 € in a shop, although a reseller offers it for 500 €. Many of these resold shoes - more than in Europe and the US- are mainly sold in China, the Philippines and Malaysia, as sneaker brands sell very few there and eventually return to where they were originally produced. As very few copies are distributed in these markets, there is a great thirst for these products and people are willing to pay huge sums of money - even debt - as these consumers are strongly influenced by the internet and make a hype out of these "rare" models. I think that fashion - as it is now being treated - has become a disease."
Matteo Pecchioli, owner, Flow Run, Florence, Italy:
“Milan in Italy is certainly the ideal city for these of kind of events–both for its fame as fashion city, and, especially for its size, as a draw for a very high number of people. Resellers, are now part of the game, a game that has grown exaggeratedly. Though, at the same time, it brings a significant return of image for companies.”
Domenico Romano, head of marketing and communication, AW Lab, Switzerland:
“Milan is one of most important cities for us insiders of this industry, as it is the soul of street culture evolution in Europe. Speaking about Plug-Mi and Sneakerness, I think that every event that can help promote this new culture and spread its values is welcome–each one with its own peculiar characteristic and language. As a partner of Plug-Mi, this show was born with the aim to support those who keep alive and spread street culture every day. And, more than being an event focused on exhibiting products, it brings on the scene a ‘healthy way to live on the street,’ to spread this culture and spread the feminine side of this movement, too. Speaking about resellers, I think that man does not live by sneakers alone.”
Michele Zambonin, country manager, Fila, Italy:
“Comparing the latest editions of events like Sneakerness with the first ones, the most recent ones seem to have lost their identity as ‘apparently’ spontaneous meetings among sneaker freaks–the so-called ‘sneakerheads.’ During the last years these events are surely drawing a wide public but are moved by different interests from their original mission. Resellers? It's business time...with resellers everyone is earning–companies included.”
Ester Sala, brand manager, Maxi Sport, chain of sneaker, sports and streetwear stores, Italy
“Milan is living a new architectural and cultural rebirth. Two events from the same background, happen at the same time though mix content differently–Plug-Mi offers music entertainment and e-sport, while Sneakerness aims to make resellers and clients meet. We chose to participate in both events. We participated in Plug-Mi with our brand Space23, our chain of stores opened in Milan, Rome, Turin, Bologna and Perugia aimed at urban street-style consumers who love to play basketball. We participated in Sneakerness with SSC, our Special Sneaker Club, a club and special store aimed at sneaker fans. Despite their difference the two events are positive as they amplify attention on the sneaker and street culture. We believe that special edition products–as we offer–are meant to reward our clients who physically buy in store. We opened our Special Sneaker Club store last spring with the aim to help true sneaker culture grow and connect true sneaker freaks.”
Stefano Pomogranato, co-founder, Special Sneaker Club, Milano:
“Milan is a very receptive city, therefore both events–even if aimed at different users–can be successful. What only makes me doubtful is the idea to hold both events during the same weekend. Resellers are a necessary ‘evil’ and have always existed, even when they resold concert tickets or rare Swatch models in the ’90s at higher prices. Today, obviously, social networks and high-speed information and events make this phenomenon appear as a huge bubble that will soon explode. The only difference is that today nonprofessional resellers are mushrooming as it is enough accessing the Web–without much expertise in this market–and participating in the innumerable raffles done by stores when releasing the special models. Companies are generally fine with all this not for the revenues they could get from that, but for marketing and communication reasons. Even if they don’t directly fuel such happenings, they prop dynamics that help them grow.”