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Experience is everything in fashion – and that sentiment rings particularly true for Expo Riva Schuh & Gardabags, a marketplace event dedicated to footwear and accessories held in the mountainous and resplendent resort town of Riva del Garda, Italy.

The event is held in partnership with the Italian Trade Agency (ITA), and the Italian Foreign and International Co-operation Ministry (MAECI).

Described as a destination with a “double identity” of business and leisure, the 96th edition of its bi-annual event will take place from January 15 to 18 — an in-person winter edition that features 300 Italian companies alongside a wide international selection and tens of thousands of brands, with 60 percent of goods debuting at the show hailing from Germany, Spain, France, Portugal, and Turkey.

And while Gardabags is a “young” exhibition – specializing in handbags and accessories –  Expo Riva Schuh boasts a longstanding history with roots dating back to the 1970s. Its first edition took place in January 1974, and ever since, the event has only experienced exponential growth, beginning with 12 exhibitors to almost 1,400 and counting.

GEMINI ITALIA Photo by Angelo Lanza
GEMINI ITALIA Photo by Angelo Lanza
CREDIT: PASQUALE CUORVO

Its January 2020 show saw 38 countries represented in the production sector, with 1,086 international exhibitors and 102 countries of origin for buyers, with internationality being one of the strongest selling points of the event.

Alessandra Albarelli, general manager of Riva del Garda Fierecongressi (the company that organizes the exhibition, said that “Emerging markets, new production dynamics, new prospects for the retail sector: the new edition of  Expo Riva Schuh & Gardabags accurately reflects the ability of the footwear and leather goods sector, hit hard by the pandemic crisis, to react with new tools and work together constructively for growth.”

“In particular, innovation – in production processes, in products, distribution and retail – is the key word in this edition, which will be preceded by a program of online events called  Expo Riva Show – The Shoe Connection,” she added.

Show organizers said that innovation, sustainability, and consumer experience are the primary themes baked into its programming, which will include seminars such as The Future of Sustainability; Communicating Anti-Greenwashing; Shopping Shifts & Effective Strategies; and Redefining Off-Price.

Supporting ‘Made in Italy’

Paola Guida, Head of Fashion and Beauty Division at the Italian Trade Commission, North America, told Fairchild Studio that its partnership to promote  Expo Riva Schuh & Gardabags is just one of the many initiatives the Italian Trade Commission carries out to support Italian companies and encourage the internationalization and promotion of ‘Made in Italy’ products.

“In addition to communication activities dedicated to the fashion industry, including the development of the extraitastyle.com platform, there are also participations in trade fairs such as Coterie and Chicago Collective. Moreover, there are traveling roadshows in the U.S. dedicated to Italian fashion and footwear, but also delegations to major events in Italy such as Pitti Uomo, Micam and White to help Italian companies expand distribution channels in the U.S. and international markets.”

“Last but not least, the Italian Trade Commission assists companies with a series of consulting and promotional services and activities specific to the needs of the Italian companies to promote brand awareness and the presence of Made in Italy in the world and in the U.S.,” she added.

CREDIT: PASQUALE CUORVO

Fashioning Footwear

The main pillars for winter 22/23 collections are centered on a “light exploration of creative boundaries influenced by new technologies and an attention to nature,” which is guided by four themes: Preserving heritage through innovation; Combining authenticity with artificial choices; Discovering fun through the unexpected and play; and Warmth, taking form in wools and leathers in earthy nuances.

For handbags, a “folk characterization” that speaks to a nature-inspired aesthetic and a more minimalist, yet multifunctional look will prevail throughout. And for footwear, which is highly regarded in Italy for its quality of materials, techniques, traditional craftsmanship and creative solutions for the sector, soft and voluminous uppers are expected to be repeated for the winter season, as well as a strong focus on boots, moccasins, sneakers, and a vague “après-ski” inspiration.

Show organizers told Fairchild Studio, “Quality is not an abstract concept. It is pure tangible concreteness that can be found in the precision of the cuts of the leather, in knowing how to measure every millimeter when making a model on paper, in the accuracy of the stitching, in the choice of the right lines that give life to a shape. Details that decide whether a shoe is beautiful or not, is comfortable or not, etc.”

“These, and many other skills, cannot be improvised. It takes centuries to refine knowledge and craftsmanship, and the Italians have been making shoes for centuries with passion that amazes not only the eyes, but also the feet.”

CREDIT: PASQUALE CUORVO

“What distinguishes Italy within the footwear segment is the fact that the pluses of its offer are not isolated elements or attributable only to certain companies (as it is in other countries of the world), but are characteristics present across the board throughout the production chain,” they added.

And after digitizing the event during COVID-19, those characteristics are once again magnified for attendees in an in-person format that allows for a fully immersive experience with the products, and industry-at-large.

Francesco Palandrani, President Consorzio ATEA, said that  Expo Riva Schuh & Gardabags is “an unmissable opportunity to know and relaunch ‘Made in Italy.’ In a difficult historical period like the one we are living in the greatest risk is to surrender to adversity.”

“Nevertheless, we must be brave enough to attend those trade fairs that allow our companies to meet the most important international buyers. Online events are an excellent, innovative tool to sell everywhere internationally – but there is nothing like a fair to ‘touch’ the quality of Italian collections.”

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