by MR Magazine Staff


Italian Trade Commissioner, Antonino Laspina, looks back on his past four years in the U.S.

MR:  What has your role with ITA in NY been for the past four years?
Antonino Laspina: My teams and I have defined innovative marketing strategies to support Italian brands in the U.S. as they bounced back from the pandemic. As a coordinator of the Italian Trade Agency (ITA) offices in the US (New York, Chicago, LA, Miami, and Houston) I focused on expanding reach into new regional areas and speeding up programs benefiting the Italian economy.

MR: What has your experience with ITA been prior to NY?
AL: Having started in 1981, this year marks my 42nd year of service to ITA. I have been posted in several offices abroad in South Korea, Malaysia, Taiwan, and the People’s Republic of China. My service in China as Italian Trade Commissioner lasted for an exceptional 12 years, and I contributed to the impressive infiltration of ‘Made in Italy’ products there. I was also posted in the Rome headquarters as Director of the Promotion Division from 2000 to 2003 and Director of Marketing from 2015 to 2019.

MR: How did the unprecedented global pandemic during your NY tenure affect your work?
Though one of the hardest hit countries, Italy registered a tremendous, expectation-exceeding economic bounce back in exports. ITA, under the guidance of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, dedicated great attention to digital B2B solutions
designed to keep the communication channel between Italian and U.S. companies open during Covid and beyond – considering the export results over the last two years, we can say we were successful.

MR:  How have you seen trade between Italy and the U.S. evolve in the past four years?
AL: Thanks to the resilience of the Italian entrepreneurs — and the Italian government — we have seen growth in Italian exports to the U.S. across many sectors, with fashion as a top performer. At the end of 2022, we estimate 15% growth, while 2021 ended with approximately 54% growth. Combined, the total export from Italy to the U.S. has shown continual growth and we estimate an all-time record of export of around $70 billion to end 2022.

MR: How has the meaning of ‘MadeinItaly’ changed within the last four years?
AL: For millions of global consumers, ‘Made in Italy’ means high-end product recognized for design, innovation, and quality. The Covid slowdown allowed many Italian companies to accelerate digitization, focus on sustainability and preservation, invest in more energy-efficient equipment, and improve digital communication – better structuring themselves for the future. Already popular from boomers to millennials, today we are engaged in helping Italian companies win the hearts of sustainability-minded Gen Z.

MR: How is ITA supporting ‘Made in Italy’ menswear at this month’s Chicago Collective?
AL: Chicago Collective is a pillar of ITA’s promotion of menswear. Our presence has grown to 62+ Italian companies who will exhibit at February’s show combining sartorial tradition with the most sophisticated manufacturing techniques.

MR: What initiatives are you most proud of from your last four years supporting Italian fashion?
AL: Chicago Collective is a successful ‘best practice.’ ITA’s presence at Coterie is equally important for the promotion of womenswear. EXTRAITASTYLE.com, our forward-thinking, free, proprietary digital platform, makes it easier for U.S. retailers to discover Italian brands online. Our NYC shopping festival ‘Italy on Madison,’ showcased collaborations with 80+ Italian commercial activities. We also launched two promotional campaigns across multiple doors of Saks Fifth Avenue, introducing emerging Italian designers.

MR: What is to come for Italian fashion later this year?
AL: Within the fashion sector specifically, we will kick off a nationwide roadshow that allows us to organize events in cities including LA, Dallas, Miami, and Atlanta. ITA will be back in Chicago in August for Chicago Collective, and we’ll be launching a series of additional events promoting Italian footwear.

MR: What is to come for you in the future, personally?
AL: Right now, I’m dedicated to finalizing projects with the U.S. teams. Afterward, I hope I can share my experience with new, young talent. I look forward to more time for my hobbies and enjoying life back in Sicily.