By Lee Leonard, DLS Outfitters
Back in October of 2013 the Italian Trade Commission in New York City had an open dialogue on the various aspects and challenges for new Italian companies to enter the USA market. As Pier Paolo Celeste, the Italian Trade Commissioner so eloquently put it, “Our strategy is to support the internationalization of Italian companies that has long been founded on the synergy created by the quality of the Italian product and the dynamism of American networking.”
Over two days last October, about 350 Italian companies met with more than 120 American buyers and importers in Milan. The concept was so successful that we (I’m very proud to say the retailers were all in the DLS Apparel Group) traveled to Prato, Italy last month to expand upon the same mission to bring Italian women’s wear, menswear, knitwear and accessories brands to the U.S. market.
Above, from Left to right: Riley Deal from Malouf’s, Gigliola Szczesny from the Italian Trade Agency, David Boone from Hornor & Harrison, Pamela Rhoda from Red Barn, Chas. Schaldenbrand from Heinz Healey, Pasquale Calabro from David’s Ltd., Lynn Kochanek from Rare Essentials and Mike Zack from Circa 2000.
Upon our arrival at the Art Hotel Museo in Prato that evening was a briefing from the event’s organizer, Confederazione Nazionale dell’ Artigianato (CNA). Its mission is to enhance crafts and small and medium enterprises, acting as their partner for development and promoting economic and social development.
The following day “B2B Discover Italian Excellence” began at the Prato Chamber of Commerce. We all had our separate areas to meet with Italian vendors in a huge loft setting. I had 31 appointments over the two-day period. As it turned out, most of us saw the same vendors each with our own translators. There were many highlights not just in menswear also in women’s wear and men’s and women’s accessories.
Let’s start off with very unique belts by Brunocenere, which has all styles from casual vintage in aged leather, washed and treated by hand, to sartorial in various types of leather and exotics. The hand finish work was superior and the buckles outstanding.
The prices at Dalle Piane Cashmere by Maglificio Angorelle blew my Bresciani socks right off. Established in 1988 in the production of 100% cashmere and cashmere blends, this company also makes for other brands. The yarn that really hit home was a cashmere blend that can be made in any style and lots of colors from 7-gauge to 12-gauge sweaters at incredible price points. In women’s cashmere, all the styles were 16-gauge made on a tubular machine, so no side seams. There were also some great travel items, like eye masks, small zip cases and travel pillows. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Landi Firenze, a jacket and outerwear company established 1958, has launched a new contemporary label called Giancarlo Rossi. They showed quilted poly-filled vests, subtle plaid quilted poly-filled jackets and double-breasted rain-resistant outerwear with a zip-out bib in a knee-length style. They also have a new process of bonding leather to wool in a bomber and a blazer style. lrlandi.it.
“I Dante” Pellettieri Artigiani di Alessando Danti, makes small leather goods — or actually small goods made out of cork — in the Puglia region. The collection includes pen cases, money clips, flasks, all types of wallets and credit card holders all made out of cork. And if you want to combine leather with cork, that is available as well. All items are packaged in cork boxes. The prices are great and you can use your American Express upon delivery. Contact: email@example.com
Mon Art Internazionale Firenze, established 1972, makes cufflinks, studs, bracelets and lapel pins. Design, quality and taste are well known features of Florentine craftsmanship and the same goes for Mon Art. In cufflinks specializing in glass, crystals, enamels and marble a lot of in stock items. Contact: monart.it
Bellwood, established in 1988, makes knitwear and sweaters in the Carpe region. Key stocked yarns are in 90% cotton/10% cashmere, silk & cashmere and cashmere from Loro Piana and Cariaggi, which is big difference in price. Also 100% merino and merino blends. Styles are from novelty vests, garment-dyed V- necks, mix yarns in full zips, blazer sweater ( picture shown from website) and fancy pattern cardigans in 12 gg to 14 gg. Contact: Giulia Carretti bellwood.it
Poggianti camice dal 1958, one of my favorite shirt lines, is now doing unconstructed jackets. In the beginning their core business was producing under private label for the major Italian designers. In the early ’90s the brand Poggianti 1958 was established. Design and production of Poggianti 1958 has always been in Tuscany using the best Italian mills, so the shirt collections has an exclusive style, best known for its unique colors, embroideries and prints. poggianti1958.com
Denny dal 1962, located in Prato, has made women’s cashmere, merinos, viscose and silk knitwear for more than 30 years. I was very impressed with the styling and sophistication of the Denny Collection. And even though we met in Italy, it turns out that you can see the line here in NYC with Eleonora Pavoni: 212-397-0108. denny.it
Cinzia Galeotti, a women’s scarf brand, digitally prints beautifully designed colorful graphics on 90% modal and 10% cashmere. cinziagaleotti.com
H.A.N.D women’s wear knitwear out of Perugia, Umbria was a hit for all stores in luxury knitwear with contemporary styling. From 3-gauge sweaters to 18-gauge in cashmere and Silk and cardigans in 70% wool 30% cashmere. Even the H.A.N.D jackets are knitted. Contact: Milena Bachella globallinesrl.com
I will finish up with Alberto Pisani, specializing in high end knitwear in cashmere from Loro Piana and Cariaggi. Made in Italy, located in Cilavegna in the Provence of Pavia since 1973. Pisani knitwear started out making for other brands because of their state of the art machinery, technology, attention to detail and a large capacity to produce units each year. Now with their own label, Alberto Pisani, they produce cashmere men’s sweaters like V-necks with hounds tooth elbow patches in 12gg and outer sweaters with hoods and full zips in 7gg. In women’s cashmere, every style is tubular in one- and two-ply; these items were a hit at an exceptional price. Accessories in Loro Piana cashmere include scarves, knitted caps, gloves and blankets in mixed textures. Those were great but the items I wanted were in luxury travel, eye covers, socks, pillows and a blanket that all items fold into it. Contact: maglificiopisani.it
I could go on and on, the Prato B2B experience was a fantastic Italian adventure. With this format you can review so much product in a limited amount of time and walk away with fashionable Italian made apparel and accessories that would be a highlight for your store and talk about impressing your customer with your Italian knowledge.
In all my excitement about Italian excellence, I didn’t mention that wonderful camaraderie among our traveling companions, the great food and the wine — how good it was. The hospitality of CNA was over the top, with a party, dancing, drinking and eating to fantastic music…but the pictures will not be shown as I was told what happens in Prato stays in Prato.
If any retailer would like to know more about the B2B Italian Experience and wants to build a stronger Italian presentation in men’s, women’s and accessories in their store contact Gil at the Italian Trade Commission: 212-848-0350 or firstname.lastname@example.org.