Emilia-Romagna, situated in the northern part of Italy and one of the most advanced regions in Europe known for some of the most famous labels in the world, is introducing 14 fashion brands in the ‘Italian fashion towards Dubai,’ a platform dedicated to SMEs allowing them to showcase their famed craftsmanship in the UAE.
The initiative - promoted by Unioncamere Emilia-Romagna, the regional association of eight Chambers of Commerce of Emilia-Romagna and co-financed by Regione Emilia-Romagna - explores the global supply chain mechanism and aims to present the Italian SMEs to operators and seek potential business partners in the Middle East.
L'Officiel Arabia speaks with Claudio Pasini, Director of Unioncamere Emilia-Romagna.
L'O: Could you tell us more about the strategic idea behind ‘Italian fashion towards Dubai’ initiative?
CP: “Italian Fashion towards Dubai” is promoted by Unioncamere Emilia-Romagna, the regional association of eight Chambers of Commerce of Emilia-Romagna and co-financed by Regione Emilia-Romagna. The project aims to present and support the Italian fashion SMEs in the Middle East, a constantly growing region that shows great interest to Made in Italy products. With this initiative, our goal is to highlight the high quality of the Emilia-Romagna fashion system, maintaining the identity, the territorial peculiarities and the skills of the global supply chain. Given the great contribution that this sector accounted for the regional entrepreneurial system, the second roll-out of the project aims to ensure the continuity of the work carried out in 2019, keeping the same path and boosting the promotion and communication activity in the Emirates with a focus on digital.
L'O: What makes Emilia-Romagna region unique?
CP: The strong presence of SMEs whose craftsmanship is unique in one of the key sectors of the region - fashion. Elements such as exclusivity, uniqueness and high quality of SME’s products hold an important interest to big and international fashion players. These entrepreneurs who look for new market opportunities are supported by the local government (region and Chambers of Commerce), in terms of business development and promotions locally and abroad.
L'O: What is the importance of this initiative?
CP: The initiative allows business continuity for the fashion supply chain, from Italy to the Middle East. The project aims to find opportunities in a market, which is now more than ever under the spotlight for the Expo 2020, that presents exquisite fashion products in different ways. In the last few years, the Middle Eastern consumers have given more attention to e-commerce, a sector which is expected to grow by 40% per year in the region, in the next five years, reaching a penetration of 9%. In Saudi Arabia alone, e-commerce accounted for 20% by some fashion categories. Hence, the project assumes a perspective of “remote consulting and distance working.” Through Infolab, a technological system that we use for online promotions and image consulting, we start to establish a market place in the Middle East. Through the use of digital technology, some B2B meetings will occur in the second phase, while the physical event in Dubai will be postponed to a “safer” time.
L'O: What are your expectations of the UAE?
CP: The UAE offers great opportunities for our companies, being an economic, geostrategic hub and a re-export platform. The population is young, with high income, and gives attention to the trends of global fashion and marketing. The quality and authenticity values, connected to the manufacturing and lifestyle of the Italian country, have been highly recognized by the local stakeholders and have been associated to Europe. Clearly, the Dubai Expo 2020 continues to be a key element of attraction for promoting the Emilia-Romagna companies in a global context; not by chance the project’s activities began in 2019.
L'O: What can this period of turbulence likely to mean for the future of the regional fashion industry?
CP: The world of fashion has always been one of the sectors that qualify the regional economy and the value of Made in Italy products in the world; and COVID-19 emergency was a further proof. The fear of compromising reputation and economic value was legitimate and common to most companies. Considering that, at the outbreak of the emergency, the fashion industry was preparing to launch the Spring collection, with a lot of campaigns already planned and budgets already invested. Some brands have not only managed to withstand the global crisis - health wise but also economic wise – while others have been able to manage the moment. Wanting to find an element of trust, the crisis has given the opportunity to regain a more human dimension allowing values to flourish such as courage, solidarity and the spirit of sacrifice; and to have a bit of a slowdown.
L'O: How do the Italian fashion and textile business owners support their brands and employees at this time?
CP: Uniqueness, quality, tradition and creativity remain the cornerstones of the sector and will be the main basis to recover. The products, which showcase craftsmanship and manufacturing tradition, are mostly designed to meet specific needs of each market. Utilising innovative platforms can be beneficial. We believe e-commerce and social media tools can contribute significantly to a positive commercial exchange.
A significant use of social safety nets were made such as allocating funds to support employees’ income - to withstand the crisis and recover.
L'O: What are your thoughts about how the industry will have to rebuild and reinvent itself post crisis?
CP: It’s clearly important for the companies to invest in digitalization; in order to make it a strategic tool, adequate infrastructures, data security and training are necessary. The Italian Chambers of Commerce have always supported the companies during this process and are committed to do even more. Other priorities to overcome this phase of economic emergency are the globalization activities to support exports and activation of supply chain projects in manufacturing sector involving the regions.
L'O: More broadly, can you tell us a little bit about the key plans for Unioncamere Emilia-Romagna in post pandemic period? What’s your strategy for business post-crisis?
CP: At the height of pandemic, the Chambers of Commerce of Emilia-Romagna increased support to businesses and introduced a different organizational method, thanks to the digitalization of processes and enhancement of remote consulting and smart working. Help desk services have been activated for companies for export and internationalization activities. To cope with the crisis, recovery initiatives worth € 25 million were implemented to support the restart of businesses, for a gradual recovery of economic activities and to guarantee the competitiveness of Emilia-Romagna’s production system. To put us back on track with our leading role in the global scene, the chamber system expects concrete and interventions from the national government to support businesses and territories, while guaranteeing services, resources, and support with even greater commitment to face the extraordinarily difficult times that lie ahead.
L'O: On a personal note, how are you trying to stay positive during this difficult time?
CP: The consolidated and strong social cohesion system in Emilia-Romagna region, its territorial identity, and resilience, is made up of extraordinary workers and ingenious entrepreneurs. These talents, with the support of institutions, are capable of doing great work together. Today, Emilia-Romagna attracts big foreign investors because of its favorable ecosystem, and this is surely a reason to feel optimistic about the future.
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