FLORENCE — Politics and the relationship between the fashion industry and the Italian government took center stage at the Future for Fashion conference on Friday.
Held at Palazzo Pitti’s Sala Bianca, the two-day event was closed by the Minister of Enterprises and Made in Italy Adolfo Urso on the same day Italy’s President Sergio Mattarella was expected in Florence at the Chamber of Commerce conference.
Leonardo Ferragamo, chairman of the Ferragamo company, spoke of the need to intensify the conversation with political institutions, and beyond local confines.
While references to Florence and its history peppered the conference, Ferragamo urged executives to “look to the future and be in sync with the times,” approaching the subject of heritage that is widely embraced by Italian fashion brands. “We can’t live on heritage. There is extraordinary value in that, but it can be a double-edged sword. We must take the values from heritage but not follow by example, otherwise the brand becomes obsolete,” he contended.
Ferragamo’s namesake company has been going through an extensive change, spearheaded by chief executive officer Marco Gobbetti and creative director Maximilian Davis, who was appointed to the role last year.
“There’s been a significant evolution and the pandemic made us understand the real potential to set the basis for a solid future,” continued Ferragamo, adding that this has been one of the most “intense periods of hard work.”
He admitted that “changes are sometimes hard and play with our emotions. We debated for years whether to change the logo but there is a fil rouge with the past,” Ferragamo said of the decision under Gobbetti to drop his father’s name, Salvatore, from the logo and adopt a new font. “You can imagine how this touched us, but then we saw that [Salvatore] used to sign his designs only with his last name,” the executive continued. “Also, the new logo is inspired by the font created by Lucio Venna [in the 1930s]. And the new, bolder red for the packaging is the same of the shoes with Swarovskis created for Marilyn Monroe in 1950, so there is a thread.”
Incidentally, he noted that the company in 2023 will mark 100 years since Ferragamo’s first store in Hollywood.
Carlo Capasa, chairman of Italy’s Camera della Moda, was asked to comment on the new government headed by Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, installed last October. “Last week, I met a parliamentary commission and I saw an increased interest to understand the country’s fashion industry,” Capasa said.
However, as has happened with previous governments, he was “surprised by the lack of knowledge of our sector. This is a serious business. We are often seen as a frivolous industry compared to the French government’s perception of the French fashion industry.”
On the topic of fashion shows, which after the COVID-19 pandemic returned IRL in full force, Capasa defined the fashion weeks “the Olympics of fashion,” which “stimulate creativity and represent the dream.” While the dates are often debated, he said they “are a good compromise. Someone thinks the women’s shows should move to June and November, but those dates would be too far from the market,” contended Capasa.
While a potential stock market listing was a key topic a day earlier, independence was touted by Alfonso Dolce, CEO of Dolce & Gabbana. “It is our vocation,” he said. “This does not mean not opening the company to third parties, it’s an open community, but we value the independence of individuals.”
He admitted developing the company independently “is very onerous, also from a human point of view.” He offered a concrete example of independence, which was the choice of freezing the D&G line in 2011, which contributed to the business with sales of 600 million euros and earnings before interest taxes depreciation and amortization margins of 29 percent. “We could never have done that if we had not been independent,” he said.
Dolce & Gabbana has been developing its own beauty business, investing in the capital of manufacturer Intercos, and in a home line.
After the pandemic, “cooperation and co-creation are increasingly fundamental and there has been a shift, with a realization in the industry that there is a need for more collaboration and more unity,” according to Stefania Lazzaroni, director of Altagamma.
Asked about her expectations from the government, she said she would hope for “stability and clarity,” and, in sync with Capasa, Lazzaroni feels the industry “needs to be better understood as a business model.”
Roberta Benaglia, CEO and main shareholder of private equity fund Style Capital SGR, agreed, noting an increased drive “to join forces, accelerated by COVID-19.”
With investments in MSGM, Re/Done and Zimmermann, as well as LuisaViaRoma, asked what sparks her interest in a brand, Benaglia said “it should be recognizable, with a strong identity, a product that has value for money, and the potential to expand into new categories and new geographies.” It should also be able to be developed “with a balanced distribution by channels,” she added.
Concluding the morning event, Urso echoed Brunello Cucinelli’s remarks a day earlier, saying that to guarantee a future for the pipeline with a generational handover of artisans, “a cultural revolution is necessary. Tailors have become designers, cooks are now called chefs, and the same should happen for the artisans so that the manual work can be transformed into a professional excellence. Made in Italy is not a location for production, but is art, style and creative excellence.”