Misaf, which stands for Milan shoes and accessories fair, plans to hold its second edition from June 10 to June 12, just before Expo Riva Schuh, scheduled for June 13-16. Expo Riva Schuh is held in the Italian town of Riva del Garda and is the world’s leading shoe fair for the volume market. 

Misaf was launched last year by Plum Solution, a company based in Jesi, in the Italian Marche region known for its footwear cluster, and run by Yin Xiaomei. Last year’s edition, which was held on June 15- 17, clashing directly with the June 15-18 dates of Expo Riva Schuh, attracted 80 exhibitors, all Chinese, spread over about 100 booths, and 300-400 visitors, half of whom are believed to have been buyers, mainly European. Meanwhile, Expo Riva Schuh’s June edition attracted more than 12,000 visitors from 111 countries. It had 1,462 exhibitors, of which 266 were Italian and the rest foreign, the main delegation coming from China. 

Yin Xiaomei anticipates over 1,000 visitors this year. To encourage participation, Misaf will be organizing shuttles from Milan’s train stations and airports to the venue, Studio Novanta, which is slightly off the beaten track, located in via Mecenate 88/A. 

Yin Xiaomei claims that Misaf differentiates itself from Expo Riva Schuh by vetting exhibitors for a focus on value for money and innovation. She noted that Misaf is not exclusive to Chinese exporters and that last year some Asian, Italian and Spanish companies had inquired about the fair but finally decided not to attend. She also pointed out that some Chinese firms were present both at Misaf and Expo Riva Schuh. 

Yin Xiaomei expects the number of exhibitors to remain below 100 this year, with about 60 enrollments so far, all from China. They are coming from the provinces of Zhejiang, Fujian, Guangdong, Sichuan, Shandong and Jiangsu, which contribute more than 70 percent of China’s export volume. Among the brands and firms that have signed up for the event are Max Bahr, a German label of leisure and sports shoes bought by the Chinese company Putian Sinosun; a producer of hiking shoes, Clorts; a manufacturer of luxury women’s shoes, Sheme; and Ranch International, which has collaborated with Adidas, Asics and the Chinese designer Angel Chen

Other participants include large volume producers such as Baolite Shoes, Huadeli, Jacata, Ruian Hongre, Xidebao and Kangnai, which has more than 3,000 stores in China and abroad. 

Misaf has the support of the Chinese national chamber of commerce, allowing Chinese firms to obtain subsidies to take part in trade fairs. Wang Ying, who is the secretary at the chamber of commerce in charge of imports and exports of footwear, was due to attend Misaf’s press conference in Milan on Feb. 6, but was stuck in China due to the new coronavirus outbreak. In a streaming video, he said that Chinese producers are focusing on innovation and greater added value because their industry is no longer competitive against Vietnam, Indonesia and India in the lower end of the market. 

In this context, Chinese companies are interested in European design and technology, according to Oliver Chen, chief executive of Ranch International. He also sees Misaf has an opportunity for European companies to interact with Chinese peers and enter the Chinese market. 

Yin Xiaomei noted that Chinese shoe makers are interested in buying Italian manufacturers but so far investors have been put off by Italy’s labor laws. Chinese investors also usually want the Italian owners to continue to be involved financially in order to retain their creativity, she added. 

Misaf has signed a partnership with the Milanese academy of fine arts, Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera, under which first- and second-year students will take part in a competition to decorate the common areas of the fair. 

Misaf also entered a partnership with Federazione Moda Italia, a trade association representing clothing, footwear and accessories retailers with a combined 30,000 points of sale, of which 8,000 sell footwear. Massimo Torti, secretary-general of Federazione Moda Italia, pointed out that his members are seeking “innovation, design and quality” in the goods exhibited but also expect to find new ideas on how to display the products in their stores to improve the consumer experience. 

Like Micam and Expo Riva Schuh, Misaf has the ambition of holding two editions a year, but for the time being, it prefers to concentrate on one edition because it is “important to do one properly” before expanding, explained Yin Xiaomei. 

Mario Boselli, a high-profile member of the Italian fashion industry who has endorsed Misaf, noted that the need to present two collections a year is diminishing with the transformation the fashion industry. Boselli, a businessman and banker, is currently president of the Italy-China Institute. But for 16 years, until 2015, he was president of the national chamber for Italian fashion (Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana) and is still its honorary president. 

According to the Chinese customs authority, the country’s footwear exports totaled $42.9 billion in the first eleven months of 2019 and imports reached $5.1 billion. Imports from the European Union were $1 billion, of which $776 million came from Italy, largely made up of leather shoes.