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Jane Reeve Steps Into Role at Camera

The first chief executive officer of the Italian Camera della Moda discusses Milan's fashion industry with WWD.

MILAN — Jane Reeve, the first chief executive officer of the Italian Camera della Moda, has been taking notes.

While appointed in September, Reeve effectively took on her role at the start of the year, after spending weeks observing the industry’s inner mechanisms and before her baptism of fire, the Pitti Uomo men’s wear trade show in Florence and the men’s collections in Milan this month.

She is preparing her contributions to the association, which is working on revitalizing Milan Fashion Week, among other projects. The Chamber of Fashion and Reeve are backed by industry heavyweights and an increasing number of Italian fashion brands — including Giorgio Armani, who agreed to join in November.

After starting her career at Marks & Spencer, Reeve moved to Milan in 1987 as managing director of the then newly formed AMC Italia agency, part of the TBWA group. She moved on to become general manager at Wunderman, then brand consultant within Omnicom and general manager at Interbrand Milano. In 2003, she was appointed ceo of RMG Connect and, in 2009, following the global integration of JWT and RMG Connect, she became president and ceo of JWT Italia.

With her blonde bob, sparkly eyes and friendly and energetic attitude, Reeve took the time to share with WWD some of her ideas, sounding upbeat about future prospects.

WWD: Your appointment took some by surprise as you were not part of the established Italian fashion circle. How do you think your expertise will benefit the Camera?
Jane Reeve: There are more things in common between the two industries than one would think, communication is about being creative, so I see a meeting point through creativity. I learned a lot about different businesses through the agencies, and communication changed radically seven or eight years ago, as it was more standardized before, but it’s very much technological now in this digital world. I will start with attending Pitti Uomo first and then Milan’s men’s fashion week, keeping my ears and eyes open. They will be accelerated learning lessons. I need to absorb and digest everything as I have to compare this understanding with my own ideas until I know exactly [what to do].

WWD: What attracted you to this post?
J.R.: I realized it was a real job, that’s when I knew I wanted to do it. I always wanted to make things happen — with a beginning and an end — and this is not institutional, it’s a very real project. There is a real wish to evolve the Camera and make it a more active player. Communication is one of the key aspects, given my background, with a global perspective. It’s a whole project on a much broader scale. We are working with Rome, Florence and Milan, big companies, small and medium-sized firms and small artisans. Pitti is doing interesting things. We want to make things better for Italy, it’s in the air, you could already feel it in September in Milan — and I could feel it more as an outsider, as I was not directly involved. I was very happy here [at JWT]; I turned the agency into one of the most dynamic. I wouldn’t have left if I hadn’t felt a wish to do something concrete.

WWD: Reports of rumored jealousy between Milan, Florence and Rome and the different fashion associations have always surfaced over the years. What is your impression? Can these cities and organizations really work together?
J.R.: Yes, [Italian luxury goods association] Altagamma, [Salone del Mobile organizer] Cosmit and the Camera are working together, they are looking at boosting Milan’s creativity, which is not just about a logo or creating a symbol, it’s representative of how it can be a hub of creativity. Associations working together is a positive sign, this is a project with three of the most important bodies that represent the best in Italy; it’s a concrete sign, we want things to happen and create energy, and there’s an active interest on different levels, [Prime Minister Enrico] Letta will meet with us in January. I never listened to jealousy rumors, it’s destructive and disruptive, and does not build anything.

WWD: The rivalry is not only within Italian associations as other international fashion bodies work to develop their own fashion weeks.
J.R.: The British Fashion Council is very good at marketing, for example, but we have excellence of product on top. We should start marketing and communicating in the right way, to increase our visibility. The U.K. are doing very interesting things; we are doing even better, we just haven’t communicated it.

WWD: What about rivalry between strong personalities and brands within the Camera’s board?
J.R.: [The changes] will help everyone’s business, there is a common interest to improve one’s business. Who says no to getting there? I have always worked to help my clients to improve their business, and it was not only about nice campaigns. Every penny spent should return. This is about common sense.

WWD: With a nationalistic streak, some newspapers here flagged the fact that you are not Italian.
J.R.: I have chosen to live here and have made an active choice to continue to live here for 26 years now. There are so many Italians complaining about so many things, but if you have the wrong attitude you never move on. In any case, I am a hybrid and worked for international groups for years.

WWD: What are the first steps you plan to take in your new role?
J.R.: I have identified three macro trends. One is innovation and digitalization — improving our Web site, not only to amplify, but to also facilitate and give value to the associations, to provide services. Small and medium-sized companies may find it difficult to get information on different markets, and there are more options than just e-commerce. Technology helps the relation with consumers and clients. The fashion industry needs to find clients and keep loyalty. Before it was not so necessary, but now in this economy…

Second: Focus on young people, the future; you need to mix them with the experienced, and create a system, support designers, give visibility to them and to young ideas.

Third: Internationalization. We live in a global world, and most of the brands are exporting, we need to help small and medium-sized firms. It’s a smaller world and the priority is a digital platform.

WWD: Members of the Camera have agreed to up their investments as, starting next year, the association will have 4.7 million euros, or $6.4 million at current exchange, in its coffers, 300 percent more than in the past years. How are you planning the Chamber’s investments?
J.R.: I will write a plan for where best to spend the money and then start implementing things. There are strong expectations, and despite the pressure, I want to make sure everything is right. I have two months to understand then I will write a plan with key priorities and measure what’s what. It’s not my money to spend.

WWD: What do you think of opening up fashion week similarly to the Salone del Mobile?
J.R.: There are opportunities, so we could let everyone share in the magic, but, in luxury, we should not lose that element of magic or glamour.