MILAN — The Greek crisis was one of the topics of the day on Wednesday at the Milano Fashion Global Summit, although not part of the program, which hinged on “Sustainable Food, Sustainable Fashion.”
Tod’s chairman Diego Della Valle and OTB founder Renzo Rosso had no qualms speaking their mind.
“It’s disconcerting what is happening with Greece. There are politicians that talk and talk but don’t count at all,” said Della Valle, who is known for his outspoken ways.
Asked by the moderator if he was referring to Italy’s Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, Della Valle first said he was speaking “in general,” but added that they were “friends” and that Renzi had “to change gears. He has fallen hands and feet [head on] in the puddles of the old politics and we don’t want this.”
Della Valle continued, saying the general idea had been that the euro currency would have helped “amortize” issues within Europe.
However, he lamented the fact that the stock exchanges “collapse every other day,” and that there are “no precise guidelines, decisions are made at 3 o’clock in the morning, half an hour before the deadlines. This European Union does not let us sleep tight.”
On the sidelines of the conference, the entrepreneur said he did “not want to be polemic,” but observed that this is “the expression of a government that is at its end. We see the same old rites from the past, petty and sneaky behavior, and it is not doing what it had set out to do. We need facts.”
Della Valle touched on the subject of his “Noi Italiani” (or “We Italians”) association, which will be officially presented by September, noting that it is not a political party and that it will allow other entrepreneurs to initiate “solidarity projects.”
Asked about the performance of Tod’s in the first half of the year, Della Valle said it had been a good period and, in particular, that in the past three months the company was “reaping the rewards of the work done.” He also cited China as “not a problem, but an opportunity,” with more than 1.5 billion people who are potential shoppers.
Later that day, Rosso voiced his disagreement over Della Valle’s comments. “Renzi is getting involved in first person, he’s a very rare example of a prime minister doing so. His problem is that it is difficult to proceed because many of those that are being caught with their hands in the chocolate [jam] belong to his party,” Rosso told WWD after his speech. “They are not allowing him to work, they block him.”
Rosso had harsh words for Greece’s finance minister Yanis Varoufakis, describing him as a “silly simpleton,” and said that Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras did “not have the skills” to tackle the crisis. “What is happening in Greece is absurd,” Rosso said.
The executive was invited to the conference, organized by Classeditori, the Wall Street Journal Europe, Italy’s Chamber of Fashion, Class CNBC, and Bank of America Merrill Lynch, speaking as an investor in EcorNaturaSì, a rising force in the country’s distribution of organic and sustainably grown food. Rosso said he was converting his farm to a biological one. “To eat well is a priority, this is a new luxury. We are destroying the planet,” he lamented. “Politicians can only do so much, it’s the huge multinational companies that have an enormous power and they can act on the territory.”
Ilaria Venturini Fendi, who employs unused and discarded materials to create her Carmina Campus accessories, said she was working on a new social project with prison inmates, under the Minister of Justice. “I have always been happy to be a part of Made in Italy and even more so with a Socially Made in Italy [production],” she noted, adding her surprise at the signs of interest in sustainability in China, where she has been invited by Beijing Design Week.
Michael Beutler, director of sustainability operations at Kering, compared top chefs to top designers, underscoring how fashion companies “depend on raw materials and ability to supply,” relying on nature. “Sustainability is a business topic, not a standalone activity. There is a cost, but you don’t want to be taken by surprise in five years” by higher costs or the risk of being out of business.
“You can’t go back to an old way of thinking, we’ll see where it will take us,” Beutler said. “The biggest challenge is the same as with food, a sustainable agricultural system, to build a supply chain and match people. People are more conscious about sustainability through food. The climate change is not as close, food has brought this very close to home.”