MILAN — “Politicians, enough already.”
This story first appeared in the October 3, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The large, block letters stood out in the pages of Italy’s newspapers La Repubblica, Il Sole 24 Ore and Corriere della Sera on Saturday, as the eye-catching headline of a letter signed by Tod’s SpA chairman and chief executive officer Diego Della Valle.
In an unprecedented move, the Italian entrepreneur bought an entire page in the dailies to firmly denounce the status quo in a country weighed down by debt, political unrest and scandals, unemployment and reduced consumer spending, where “many Italians,” he stated, “no longer respect or trust” a political class that “has completely distanced itself from reality and the true needs of citizens.”
Italian papers on Sunday widely covered the reactions to Della Valle’s letter from industrialists and politicians alike. Part of the opposition supported Della Valle, but even Roberto Maroni, home office minister, said the entrepreneur’s words were “to be taken into consideration,” and “a strong signal.” President Giorgio Napolitano urged everyone to work together, united, while Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi speculated in Sunday’s La Repubblica that Della Valle was aiming to head Confindustria, Italy’s powerful industrialists’ association.
Della Valle said in his ads Saturday that it was his belief that “the indecent and irresponsible spectacle that many of you [politicians] are showing is no longer tolerable” for many Italians. He was careful of generally accusing most of the political parties, without singling out one in particular. It is a well-known fact that Della Valle has openly clashed with Berlusconi over the years, but in the letter he underlined that he was addressing those politicians that neglect the country in their own personal or political interests, whatever party they belong to.” Della Valle candidly accused most politicians of being “incompetent and unprepared, clueless regarding the country’s problems, the severity of the moment and a global vision of future scenarios.”
In a proactive note, he said that those who “really care” for the country should “work together to face competently and earnestly this difficult moment,” as it is a must “to offer a positive perspective to young people, create and protect jobs and guarantee a dignified life, especially to those more in need.”
Della Valle denied in a news report that he had any interest in entering into politics. “I spoke in an unselfish way. I will never enter into politics in my life. I will continue to be an entrepreneur. I have no aspiration. What I say, I say as a citizen,” he noted.
Nor is Della Valle the only fashion figure to criticize Berlusconi. Santo Versace on Thursday quite the prime minister’s Popolo della Libertà (People of Freedom) party. Versace, who is also the chairman of the family-owned company, ran for parliament as a candidate in Berlusconi’s party in 2008 for the city of Reggio Calabria, in southern Calabria, from which the Versaces hail. He was elected, but he has increasingly become impatient with Berlusconi. According to Italy’s Radio 24, Versace said, referring to Berlusconi, that “everyone in the government loves him, but nobody wants him anymore, it’s time to pass the baton and enjoy life.”
Della Valle has increasingly appeared on nonfashion pages in Italian dailies. He has been vocal about entrepreneurs taking action to preserve Italian historic sites in need of restoration, a program he has dubbed Progetto Italia. Della Valle himself has agreed to sponsor the restoration of the Colosseum in Rome, in addition to supporting the famed La Scala theater. The entrepreneur, who has investments in firms as diverse as Saks Inc., Marcolin, Piaggio, Cinecittà and RCS, which controls Corriere della Sera, is also financing NTV, a new privately held high-speed train service together with Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo.