The World of ‘Made in Italy’

Antonino Laspina is the Trade Commissioner of the Italian Trade Agency (ITA) of New York and Executive Director for the US market.

He’s been working at the ITA since 1981, experiencing different positions, both in the headquarters in Rome and in major foreign offices. As Director of the Trade Promotion Department, he was deeply committed to promoting the Italian Lifestyle in many international markets including the United States, where he implemented a large communication and promotional campaign “Live in I Style”, that was carried out from 2000-2003. As Trade Commissioner, Antonino’s worked mainly in Asia, including Seoul, Kuala Lumpur, and Taipei before going on to become Director of the Beijing office and Coordinator of the ITA network in China for 12 years. Back in 2015, he was appointed as the Director of Marketing in Rome where his focus was on the innovation of on-demand services for the international business development of ITA customers, and supporting them in every step of international trade, including market approach, access, and consolidation. Antonino’s also utilised groundbreaking innovations in ITA core activities from executive and HR training to omnichannel business services and much more, before coming to New York in 2019.

As Trade Commissioner in the USA, Antonino is focusing on highlighting and strengthening the Made in Italy image in the American market – in the fashion and food, wine, and spirits sectors, as well in the Hitech and startup markets, promoting Italian excellence to the business world and to consumers.

Tell us more about the Italian Trade Commission.

Since 1926, the Italian Trade Agency has been the Italian Government agency entrusted with the mission of promoting trade between Italian companies and foreign markets. With more than 79 offices in 65 countries, the five US offices each specialise in a different business sector. Starting with New York City, where we’re made up of the fashion and beauty division, investment desk, and food and wine departments, working on increasing the awareness of authentic Italian products in the US by being the point of reference for trade and press and promoting the real Made in Italy through educational events, informational materials, special events trade shows, and promotional campaigns. The Miami office has been entrusted with the mission to promote design, art, architecture, and boating while Houston focuses on the aerospace sector, Los Angeles on high-tech, sustainability, and nature, and Chicago is dedicated to manufacturing technologies, machinery, and robotics. Most recent figures show the importance of Made in Italy in the US with an outstanding 61 billion dollars of Italian export in 2021 and a +15% in the first 6 months of 2022 (YoY), and we’re excited to close out the year with continued growth.

What are you currently working on?

The ITA of New York is constantly looking for new and innovative ways to engage American consumers and trade into the world of Made in Italy. We’re getting ready to wrap up an educational wine program that saw the participation of over 200 nationwide industry professionals and enthusiasts while kicking off a public relations campaign on Italian Spirits in the US and currently developing an agreement with that has brought on 50 new Italian wine and spirits to the top American online retailer. We also work year-long to secure our participation in top trade shows including Bar Convent Brooklyn, Tales of the Cocktail, USBG for the wine and spirits sector, and Pizza Expo, along with both the Summer and Winter Fancy Food shows for food, where we are set to bring close to 100 Italian companies to Las Vegas in January 2023 from the 300+ the summer edition saw.

With reference to the fashion sectors, we have truly been nonstop since July as we are coming from sponsoring 45+ beauty companies at Cosmoprof North America and 35+ at the New York “Feel the Yarn” event, not to mention the 60+ of the best Italian menswear brands at the Chicago Collective show, and 9 of the best Italian bridal brands at the National Bridal Market Chicago. In September, we were at Coterie, our largest physical sponsorship in the fashion capital of the US with 70+ Italian womenswear designers, and we will launch an SS23 refresh of our free digital fashion platform, The most exciting event is happening next month where we’ll be partnering with Saks Fifth Avenue for a fifteen-day Made in Italy promotion in-store and one month online in New York, Chicago Los Angeles, and Miami. A celebration of Made in Italy dedicated to consolidated and new to the market Italian brands we think the consumers will love.

What are your ultimate goals for the future of the Italian Trade Commission?

We know Made in Italy is one of the most recognised brands in the world and that the Italian lifestyle is among the most desired. Promoting the excellence of our various sectors also means promoting our culture and our territory, and that starts with educating the American consumer. We just marked the end of a successful project  centred around this philosophy where PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) and PGI (Protected Geographic Origin) products were enjoyed in a guided wine and food tasting tour in 12 US cities to represent Italian quality at its best.

The goal of the Italian Trade Agency is to continue to elevate the perception and appreciation of Italian categories and products and see to the continuous improvement and growth of Italian expansion in the US market. For us, it’s very important to try to maintain leadership through strong promotional activities in the areas where we are already strong, like New York, New Jersey, and California, but also carry out educational initiatives in other areas like Texas, Louisiana, Arizona, and beyond, while also attracting younger generations. This is what we hope to achieve throughout 2023.

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