* Italy seeks lower import duties, brand protection
* China developing own fashion brands to boost growth
* China says it is a reliable partner
By Antonella Ciancio
MILAN, Sept 7 Italian fashion executives have
called for China to improve business conditions for European
companies seeking to expand in the world's fastest-growing
China is on the track to become one of the world's biggest
markets for luxury products, but European companies face high
import duties and high levels of counterfeiting in the country.
"We would like China to lower import taxes and improve
conditions on product testing, which in China are the toughest
in the world, as well as ease visa restrictions and boost
protection of intellectual property," Gianluca Brozzetti, chief
executive of Italian fashion house Roberto Cavalli, told the
Milano Fashion Global Summit on Friday.
China is the world's third-biggest market for personal
luxury goods, with total sales of about 160 billion yuan ($25
billion) a year. In the next three years, it is expected to
leapfrog Japan and the United States to take the top spot.
European luxury goods companies such as LVMH and
Salvatore Ferragamo are sailing through the euro zone
turmoil thanks to steady demand from Asian shoppers coming to
Europe to snap up the likes of Gucci handbags and
However, difficulties remain when it comes to expanding in
Vittorio Missoni, head of the eponymous Italian fashion
house, said he had to cut ties with Chinese franchise partners
because they didn't understand the brand. Missoni is now looking
for a new partner to sell its colourful knitwear in China.
China's ambitions to develop its own fashion brands can pose
a competition problem if rules are not fair, Italian executives
said on Friday.
"We want to be partners with China, not sub-contractors,"
said Cleto Sagripanti, president of the Italian shoemakers'
association. He called for Chinese investors to take stakes in
Italian companies and help them to expand in foreign markets.
China needs to revive weaker domestic consumption and boost
exports that have been hit by the euro zone crisis. High cotton
prices are also hurting Chinese manufacturing.
This has prompted China to import more textile from Italy
than finished clothing as Chinese companies aim to create their
own clothing lines. Chinese fashion brands have become regular
guests at the fashion weeks in Milan, London, Paris and New York
as they try to develop a better reputation for quality and
A Chinese delegation of fashion representatives was visiting
Milan this week to foster dealmaking and capture opportunities
for Chinese entrepreneurs.
"China wants to acquire new technology and products to
improve growth in the Chinese market," Roger Vickery, head of
the International Brand Growers consultancy, told the summit.
Du Yuzhou, honorary president of the China National Textile
and Apparel Council, offered reassurance on Chinese reliability
as a partner. "I think that Europe should recognise China as an
important commercial partner, and not see it as a problem," the
former textile minister told Reuters.
However, Italy cannot survive without China and vice versa.
The Italy-China Association, an Italian organisation that
promotes ties between the countries, estimates that Chinese
shoppers will spend 1 billion euros ($1.28 billion) in Italy
next year, while domestic consumption is falling because of the