TheOne Milano and the fur sector according to Elena SalvaneschiHow did you become CEO of TheOne? Tell us about your professional career… It is difficult to condense into one […]
How did you become CEO of TheOne? Tell us about your professional career…
It is difficult to condense into one answer a professional path started in 1980… This is a story very tied to the fur sector, but not only. It all started by chance, responding to an announcement by a PR agency looking for extra-staff for the period of the fashion shows. It was EPR and represented Swakara in Italy, skins with the karakul mark coming from Namibia. I have been working at EPR for 2 years: then the publishing industry had a strong appeal on me and I was chosen to enter the editorial board of Esquire & Derby magazine, widening the horizon on fashion. The experience lasted 2 years: EPR called me back because it wanted to create a specialised fur magazine, “Ultimissime”. It was a beautiful adventure, which lasted until 1986: unfortunately in that year the still very young owner of the agency passed away. “Ultimissime” was also my creature: I did not want it to end, thus I took it over, opening a communication agency to complete the work. One of the first customers was the Italian Fur Association. Once “Ultimissime” was closed in 1996 (the year of the first big crisis in the fur sector) I continued working as an editor, both for the Association’s newspaper and for important magazines such as Arpel Fur. The agency acquired customers in the fashion sector, in particular companies from the first supply chain ring (yarns and fabrics) and emerging young designers.
In Italy there was a fur fair, known as Comispel. It was a “private” fair, not attached to the trade association. In 1996 the owner decided to leave Italy to carry out his fair project in Switzerland. Never choice was more wrong: the exchange rate of Swiss franc/Italian lira was disastrous, in Switzerland were based animalist associations… exhibitors did not want to go. But exhibitors were at the same time members of the Italian Fur Association: it was easy for them to contact their trade association and ask to create a new fur fair in Italy. In 1996 was thus born Mifur; AIP asked me to take care of it. The first year was exciting but difficult: nobody knew how to organise a fair, actually: neither me, although having a similar but not 100% matching professionalism, nor people that Fiera Milano assigned us for support, specifically hired for our project but who were at their first fair experience.
We put in commitment and great willpower. We were joined by professionals who believed in us and who committed themselves for the collective good. Norberto Albertalli, who was the chairman of AIP and who took the responsibility of becoming also president of the new born fair, Maria Teresa Sancini, Lele Carminati, Augusto Valsecchi, Alfonso Paoletti… People who have been there for years, taking a personal risk.
Finally, the last chapter: in 2017 TheOne Milano was born, a synergy operation between Mifur and Mipap, Fiera Milano’s prêt-à-porter fair. Why this new step? Because the distribution of furs had changed: it was no longer just tied to the circuits of specialised shops, but also to those of fashion boutiques. Mifur was to become a fashion fair: we could have invented a new clothing fair, but there was already Fiera Milano, our very important partner. Better to work in synergy. And so here we are. I was Secretary General of Mifur. Recently I became CEO of TheOneMilano: the role has actually only changed on the label. Mifur was an institution that today has become an LTD because regulations relating to fairs require so.
TheOne February 2017/February 2018: a little analysis – what are the strengths compared to the first editions? How has – in general – changed the concept of fashion shows in recent years in your opinion?
The concept of fashion show has changed and evolved. Although the commercial side is always important – it is essential for companies to write orders – today a trade fair is a hub, the hub to sort out the interests of a sector. Interests that are in fact business but also knowledge, exchange, transversal relationships. Buyers come to buy collections, but also to look for producers for their private labels. Exhibiting companies create networks between companies to go to international markets and make more critical mass. This is the real strong point compared to the first editions, even if we are only at edition number 5. We see this type of relationship increase and this is very important. This is the real difference of our fair compared to other players on the market, even if they are very good: they are private operators, we are the issuing of a trade association, we work together with other fairs that are part of the world of Confindustria Moda associations. We are the voice of companies and we never forget this in our daily actions.
Are there any new projects planned at the moment? The platform of the “AlwaysOn Show” virtual fair, designed to transform the days of the physical fair into 365 working days, seems very interesting to me…
The “AlwaysOn Show” platform is certainly an innovative and interesting project. Its real interest, however, does not lie in the visible part, in the beautiful showcase in which it presents exhibitors’ collections. The winning part is the collection of data that can be done through the internet, and that goes certainly in favour of the fair, but also in favour of companies. Internet records buyers’ movements on the platform (anonymously but geolocated). This means that – for general trends but also specific related to the individual exhibiting company – you can build the appreciation line of different products, know that in some areas of the world a colour or a model work better than in others, know what you do not like. For example, after the September edition of the show we saw that American buyers were looking for evening dresses, cocktail dresses or demi-couture. We will make these available to exhibitors, through reports delivered to those who have chosen to participate in the platform (it is a – non mandatory – service of the fair). We will use them to build specific business missions (if we go to the United States, companies that make formal dresses will be the first ones to be invited). We also use the photos we specifically create to compose the “AlwaysOn Show” showcase for our social media campaigns, which come out not only with our name, but also with that of the exhibitors: for companies it is a matter of taking free advantage from a campaign with a specific target. We also have a project starting with influencers, which is currently being finalised. We do all this because we believe that a fair, as an aggregator of companies, since always a point of reference for “the business”, today should no longer be just a physical place to meet, sell and buy but, as an expert connoisseur of its exhibitors and buyers, it must act in terms of incubator of ideas but above all as a reference point for the creation of a system to support exhibitors no longer only during the days of the fair, but throughout the whole year.
From your privileged observation point towards TheOne, what are the winning trends with buyers in your opinion? I guess the kind of items that a Russian buyer is looking for are different from those of a Japanese…
Certainly every country has its rules and tastes. Russians are still looking for opulence, Japanese a more minimal look and design. But from my privileged observation point there is one thing in absolute terms that I can say: those who win are companies that do not only focus on the very important style. Mind you: intercepting the right product is fundamental, creativity, quality of production and raw materials are indispensable prerequisites. But style alone can not be the solution for the new market rules, which is going towards faster production cycles, tied to a better response to what happens commercially. In order to win on international markets today, stylistic ability must be matched with active, concrete and effective marketing; with modern commercial networks; with managers prepared and able to set up a strategy able to use what the modern world offers in terms of opportunities, starting from digital and ending with innovative solutions in terms of product.
How do you see the evolution of the concept of fur today? In your opinion, what kind of luxury will we see in the future?
Today, fur is what it has always been: a precious product which is not serial. It can be simple, combined with the fabric, mixed with different materials and coloured… but it remains a special thing. To wear even every day, but special. Luxury today is the time, the ability (and the possibility) to slow down, the desire to spend time with friends. Dressing the house with things we like and that we also wear. For these roles fur is a perfect product.
Natural fur garments for their intrinsic properties are made to last and remain beautiful over time: basically, the exact opposite of fast fashion. What do you think of the recent hard line taken by some fashion brands with regard to fur that instead show the synthetic one?
Fashion is fickle and must mark the difference on itself year after year. Years in favour of the product are thus followed by years of rejection, a refusal also due to economic reasons: it is easy to say no to something that does not substantially contribute to the company’s turnover and that is an easy message to send out without specific investments! Unfortunately, today we often speak out catchphrases and words are not given the meaning they should get. At this moment one of the most abused words is “sustainability”. It is an important message, sustainability is a decisive factor for our existence on this planet. Synthetic furs are certainly not sustainable, because their disposal is long and complex. But people do not stop and consider. They only see the easiest part, the one that links sustainability to the concept of a non-use of animal resources. The desire of “going after the wave” rather than the position itself scares me the most about the hard line taken by stylists. A stylist should be a creator who builds something new, not someone who plays on the known effect. I understand that negative positions of big brands are bad, because they create audiences, they have a redundancy effect. But they do not affect at market level in particular, because furs of international brands are a truly niche product, due to the cost incurred for new collections, due to the multipliers used by the fashion industry.