MILAN — The curtain rises Friday on Milan Men’s Fashion Week and despite the surge of the Omicron variant and the uncertainties surrounding this moment in time, Carlo Capasa, chairman of Italy’s Camera della Moda, is urging everyone to “find the right point of balance.”
Counting the number of cases — “which is so dramatic,” reaching daily infections of up to 200,000 in Italy — “is a distorted reflection of reality, which translates into a fear of traveling and increased restrictions,” Capasa contended. As several scientists are pointing out, most of the patients hospitalized were never vaccinated, he continued, and while the vaccines do not prevent infection, they protect from more serious illness and Italy has a high rate of vaccinations.
“We don’t know how long we will have to live with this virus, but while we must guarantee the health, safety and protection of everyone involved, we must also look to the future and guarantee business continuity. The fashion industry is the second-largest industry in Italy,” Capasa underscored.
While a draft of the show calendar was issued in December, there were several changes after the holidays due to Omicron as Giorgio Armani decided to cancel both his signature brand and Emporio shows and other labels, such as JW Anderson, opted to forego a physical event in favor of a digital one.
“Armani has his own strategic views and philosophy and he was the first to choose to show behind closed doors. He is consistent, and I don’t feel like questioning his choice and I respect it,” said Capasa, admitting that some companies had to face practical problems, such as flying their teams into Milan — as in the case of JW Anderson from London — or others that had several employees either affected by COVID-19 or quarantined.
He underscored that the Camera is doing everything in its power to work “in the utmost safety,” sharing criteria with the ATS, the local authorities, to guarantee more control and social distancing, checking proof of vaccinations and enforcing the use of FFP2 masks.
The calendar includes 16 shows, from DSquared2, Zegna and Fendi to Prada and Etro; 22 presentations; 18 digital content segments, and seven events for a total of 53 brands and 60 appointments.
“It is key for us at Fendi to support Italy, Milan Fashion Week and present a united front within the fashion industry,” said Serge Brunschwig, chairman and chief executive officer of Fendi, which will stage its show on Saturday. “Over these now almost two years we have been learning how to work if not normally, at least with all precautions necessary. For this reason we know many people will be watching the show digitally from remote, yet it is extremely important to keep our presence with a physical show also, with a limited audience attending.”
“Certainly we all hoped we were toward the end of the pandemic,” said Gildo Zegna, chairman and CEO of the Zegna Group. “Now more than ever we must go forward and be focused. It is our responsibility to do so. The important thing is not to close the manufacturing plants. I can’t deny a certain concern, but if there is one thing that keeps me serene, it’s the certainty that we have taken the right path with our strategy linked to luxury leisurewear and with the rebranding that the market has well received.”
As reported, the rebranding took place in December, ahead of the company’s public listing in New York.
The Zegna road symbol, part of the rebranding launched by the company.
Earlier this month, Alessandro Sartori, artistic director of Zegna, which will show Friday, told WWD he believes “we can’t return to a 100 percent physical experience — ever. This must be integrated with a digital one. It is fundamental for us to think of those that are physically present in the room and those that are not. Only this way can you deliver a message that will be in continuity. Digital and live will blend into a seamless experience, we are convinced of this. The format will continue to evolve depending on the timing and on the external conditions.”
Zegna believes that “for a while” it will be key to focus on the local consumer, given the restrictions that are obliging many foreigners, in particular from Asia and the U.S., to avoid traveling. That said, the company has decided to do the fall show during Milan Men’s Fashion Week via a film and in the presence of a limited number of people to protect their safety.
Zoom calls are being organized for media and buyers not traveling to Milan, as Zegna has done in the past. “The group is set on guaranteeing smart-working and to go ahead with the projects started in terms of digital and innovation. The evolution of distribution across the different physical and digital touchpoints and the attention on product durability and excellence are the most important issues that emerged in the past two years, that see us well positioned thanks to our digital and CRM investments and thanks to our DNA and our history,” the CEO said.
“The long-term fundamentals of the industry are solid, and benefits brands and companies that have a clear project as we have,” he continued, touting the brand’s uniqueness and tradition, as well as its consistent positioning and its expression of authentic values, including in particular, sustainability. “I believe in the competitive advantage of the way we have been operating for more than 100 years.”
The company has been teasing on Instagram a new partnership it has inked with Maserati on the occasion of the Expo 2020 Dubai, where, until the end of the month, it has opened a Zegna and Maserati Pop-up. The venue will offer Zegna’s newly launched outdoor capsule collection while displaying the new Maserati MC20, customized with the recently unveiled double-stripe signifier and the new Zegna logo, and the Maserati spring 2022 capsule collection, in unique colors for Dubai only.
Maserati and Zegna have been partnering since 2013, and the price of the MC20 in Dubai will include compensation for its CO2 emissions for the next six years. Customers will therefore actively support the goal of planting 360 trees at the Oasi Zegna in Italy.
Stefano Canali, president and CEO of Canali, said the year 2022 will be “very intense,” with several major projects lined up, including a retail expansion in China. There are 23 Canali directly operated stores in China out of 49 in the world and by the end of this year Canali expects stores in China to account for more than 50 percent of its total units, said the executive. “This will complete our digital development, after launching on Tmall and our mini program on WeChat in the second part of the second half last year,” he said.
The company plans to increase its focus on CRM, investing more “to optimize relations with clients,” and to re-platform its e-commerce in Europe and the U.S. in the early part of the second half of the year. “Last year our e-commerce grew 51 percent and it was up by 10 percent in 2020; it’s becoming really very important,” said Canali.
While keeping details under wraps, he also pointed to two key projects in 2022 — a new visual identity and a new store concept. Sustainability will also be a focus for the year, “based on methodology OEF and PEF, and the impact on 15 indicators, the lifecycle assessment, acting on the impact in a pragmatic way with effective solutions.”
Canali will physically present its fall collection in Milan, but, “as a compromise,” will keep the number of guests as few as possible, “as an act of respect.”
The executive wished to convey “a message of optimism, which does not mean closing one’s eyes to reality, but to understand that there is a component of new normalcy that we must get used to without surrendering, and we see an improving trend [in the infections].” He admitted “there will be moments of volatility in 2022, but we have the technical, emotional and rational tools to deal with and manage the difficulties and risks as we have done in the past with other problems.”
In terms of product, Canali continues to evolve its offer “in line with our DNA and the needs of our clients,” in particular “strengthening the personalization and the made-to-measure component for more product categories.”
MSGM is one of the brands that opted for a digital event, scheduled on Jan. 17. “We had already booked the location, planning a show for 300 guests, but we did not feel it was the right thing to do this season,” said Roberta Benaglia, CEO of Style Capital, the investment fund that controls 32 percent of the brand, and vice president of MSGM.
The men’s fall 2022 and women’s pre-collection will be presented at the new MSGM showroom. Located at the former Bottega Veneta headquarters on Viale Piceno, the space covers 32,400 square feet. By June the site will also become the brand’s headquarters and it telegraphs a major development for MSGM, as the company is bringing its commercial division in-house. Previously, MSGM’s men’s and women’s collections were distributed by the Milan-based showroom Riccardo Grassi and its accessories by Massimo Bonini.
Inside the “emotional room” of the new MSGM showroom.
In fact, Benaglia is banking on strengthening the brand’s shoes and bags offer, also helped by the arrival last September of new CEO Veronica Bertozzi, who joined from Stella McCartney and before that worked at shoe specialist Iris.
“I am pleased with the new accessories collection and the arrival of Veronica was also functional to this expansion, bringing her expertise in this category to the brand and working with Massimo [Giorgetti, founder and creative director of MSGM],” said Benaglia. “I am very confident and eager to see the development of the accessories, it marks a turning point for the brand.”
Benaglia was also upbeat about the brand’s sales campaign, as no orders have been canceled. “We have about 450 wholesalers and one third of them have confirmed physical appointments in our new showroom, but the virtual appointments and orders have also been confirmed so far. It seems that clients and customers have gotten used to living with COVID-19, as endemic and not pandemic. [During the first wave], they were more nervous, waiting to see what would happen, and I don’t see any slowdown in our stores either,” said Benaglia.
Her positive take on things is backed by the figures MSGM is reporting, as 2021 closed with sales of 51 million euros, compared with 49 million euros in 2019. “Our goal was to return to revenues close to those seen in 2019, after the decrease in 2020, so we are happy about the performance,” she said. “Of course, MSGM is very much exposed to Asia and that helped. And we continue to see growth in 2022 with a 15 percent growth in our budgeted orders.”
Similarly to Benaglia, Capasa believes “consumers are getting used to the situation, and the perception has changed. Merchandise is in stores, which remain open and digital is growing, we have positive expectations.”
He sees 2021 as “a year of recovery,” as the industry recovered 16 million of the 23 billion euros lost in 2020, which represented 23.5 percent of its revenues. “We see an additional improvement in 2022,” said Capasa.
According to figures presented by Confindustria Moda in December, the Italian fashion sector is expected to close 2021 with revenues up 20.6 percent compared to 2020 to 90.4 billion euros — equaling to a 7.7 percent drop compared to 2019 sales.
The fashion industry’s relevance is being recognized by the Italian government, which earlier this month officially earmarked 180 million euros to finance the extraordinary measures to benefit the textile and apparel sector, responding to a request brought forward by the Sistema Moda Italia organization, also in light of the increase in the cost of raw materials and energy.
This allocation, said Sergio Tamborini, president of SMI, “is an extremely important recognition, a sign of attention toward a sector so relevant” for the country, “and too often neglected.”