As the furniture fair in Milan is opening I thought I’d share some of the stories I noted down from my last visit. I’ve thrown in a few of suggestions for designers who are about go for the big showcase!

Time is the essence
I spoke to a couple of designers established in Finland. It was one of the few stands where I was approached for conversation. Being in Milan for the 3rd year, they said that their commitment was starting to pay off as buyers and manufacturers were now coming to see them on their stand. Interestingly they also admitted that they started to design and show products that would be easier to sell, for example smaller objects.

Honesty in movement
There was a designer from Australia who was showing to a small group of visitors the way his products worked, folded, collapsed and adjusted. He also openly admitted that he was looking for more opportunities for his products. As this conversation was happening, other people stopped and picked up cards (shame there was no brochure).  I would not be surprised if his honesty paid off.

A nice gang
A gang of cap-wearing designers giving a continuous demo of their products. Since I remember them so well, it proves that their display and performance worked. One of them was handing out information leaflets to visitors who, like me, looked vaguely interested. However, the demo, which consisted of throwing clothes on rubber bits, was taking over most of the stand and exposing adventurous passers-by to the risk of being struck by some young men’s trunks or T shirts (clean, I hope!). They all seemed to have fun though, which is certainly a way to retain attention.

Best behaviours, a few tips

  • Offer the right amount of information. Prepare as much as possible for questions and give information to all your stand visitors.
  • Keep busy. A busy stand is more engaging than a quiet stand where people look bored. Don’t hesitate to give a full product demo to design students, it might inspire a journalist or buyer to stop.
  • Turn passers-by become actual visitors. Devise a way to engage with anyone who shows the slightest interest. You could offer a piece of information to read or have someone available to speak to people, giving and taking information. Be creative and keep it interesting.
  • Don’t do it on your own. Share your stand and have people helping. Whoever helps should be well briefed and trained to answer most questions.
  • Be honest. If you are looking for stockists, manufacturers, staff, etcetera, mention this in your conversation as you never know who you might be speaking to and who they know.
  • Use your market collaterals. Have to hand cards, brochures, price lists, press releases and perhaps a CD with good quality images and know what you give to who.
  • Be memorable. The challenge is to give the right thing to the right person; find out who they are and what they need the information for. The bottom line is that your products have to be remembered and trade visitors get saturated quickly, so it is important to create a long-lasting impression.
  • Network! More than speaking to your stands’ direct neighbours allow time to network with the other exhibitors especially the larger companies outside of your hall, aisle or space.

Coming soon: the Bangalore furniture fair story on my India Connections blog!

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There are some very interesting companies showing at Tex Style India 2010. Definitely a key event for companies seeking production of home furnishing products. Besides the usual items found in the average Indian souvenir shop or Emporium, everything textile can be made in India especially in the Panipat District.

Natural, organic, synthetic and mixed fibres, traditional and modern processes are all here from yarn to the final packaged product.

Business attitudes are quite open-minded and meet generally accepted international standards.

  • Copyright is respected
  • Minimum orders can be catered for in some instances, ie: larger and more complex pieces can be manufactured in dozens
  • Lead time: up to 15 days for sampling, 60 days for a first order
  • A diverse technology; some companies can provide both hand and machine made pieces
  • Business models are transparent and include artisan workers’ co-operatives, engineer-led textile companies and family businesses, amongst others

I was very sensitive to the ability of these business owners to take the time to explain how their manufacturing company works, how they enjoy collaborating with smaller companies, their understanding of and supply to European design brands and that they can be wary of buying agents.

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I am wondering when handbags “made in India” will take over “made in Italy”. Yes, it’s not a myth. There are many large brands who manufacture in India but don’t publicise it. The quality is good. Many Indian companies are BSCI certified and are willing to open their doors to their clients. One company director told me that having this certification is the only way for a leather goods manufacturer to survive on the international market.

I’ve seen very modern looking bags with a great level of fine detailing. Many suppliers offer a wide array of technology to transform leather and source skins hailing from India to Brazil or Italy.

Interestingly many won’t supply to the Indian market directly, local taste is different. Ironically, the richest probably buy from European brands who discretly manufacture in India.

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I’m off to the region of leather work. I will also be looking at homeware, textiles and rugs.

I am both curious and excited to attend my first trade fair in India. After Kolkata, I am heading to New Delhi then Agra which, besides being the home of the Taj Mahal, is the centre of quality leather slippers and leather footware making.

real green fake grass

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