Pier Luigi Loro Piana: "We have been supplying Chinese manufacturers for a long time."
Pier Luigi Loro Piana, the head of the family company and former president of Milano Unica, shares with us his vision for China on the sidelines of the Shanghai Intertextile trade fair, co-organized by Messe Frankfurt and held October 22 to 25. Milano Unica China grouped together 124 Italian exhibitors for the event.
Fashionmag.com: What is your relationship with China?
Pier Luigi: We have been coming to China for a long time as a cashmere buyer, so we know this country well. My father came here in the 1960s to buy cashmere, and I continued coming here for the same purpose. We do not have the raw material in Italy, although everything else is done there — production, weaving and dyeing.
FM: And now you are an exhibitor?
PL: Today, some Chinese brands buy our wool and cashmere fabrics. And every year this premium market grows.
FM: How many years have you been selling in China?
PL: For about ten years now. But in reality, we have been supplying Chinese manufacturers for a long time. The phenomenon started with American labels that purchased Italian fabrics or accessories and sent them on to their Chinese subcontractors. That was in the late 1980s and early 1990s. And the Chinese learned to make the products. In China, millionaires are counted by the thousands. At the upstream end of the industry, they learned to weave and also copy. The question is how can the Italian industry survive? We have opted for quality and research instead of quantity. We operate in a premium sector, which is why we are here at the fair, together with more than 120 neighbors. The diversity of the Italian industry is also its strength.
FM: But what is the goal of Milano Unica China? Are you meeting with subcontractors or brands?
PL: We want to introduce Italian products to Chinese labels. We meet the brands that sub-contract to China in Milan or Paris. At this show, we are interested in China but also in the Asia-Pacific region. For the Chinese companies who buy, it is not so easy for them to come to Milan as a team.
FM: And the potential for you?
PL: About twenty companies. We can perhaps double that number in the future.
FM: Besides China, which other countries are driving growth today?
PL: It is too early for Latin America. Countries strongly protect their textile industries and yet apparel really creates job in these places, making it difficult for us to understand. And the Russians import more finished products than fabrics. As for Europe, I'm not worried but rather surprised that after ten years of a common currency, some people are only now discovering that we still have no system to protect the value of that currency.
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