MILAN — The conference held on Wednesday at the headquarters of Italian trade agency ICE felt a bit like the end of school — with an uncertain future looming ahead.

General elections are scheduled on March 4 in Italy, and the outcome is a guessing game. “Whatever happens, the government must continue to support fashion,” said Ivan Scalfarotto, deputy minister of economic development. “What has been achieved over the past two years must not go lost. Fashion represents the excellence of our manufacturing industry, and, just as a member of the government attends the launch of a new car, he or she must attend a Gucci show, to name a brand. My hope is that the new government will recognize the value and importance of the fashion industry, paying the respect it deserves.”

Scalfarotto, flanked by Michele Scannavini, president of ICE; Carlo Capasa, president of the Italian Camera della Moda; Claudio Marenzi, president of the association Confindustria Moda, founded last year, and Licia Mattioli, vice president of Confindustria, said that “the car works, whoever comes next just needs the key to set it in motion.” Scalfarotto lamented the fact that past governments had a “snobbish” attitude toward fashion, “perceived as frivolous, but we should be proud that it is the second industry in Italy.” He said two projects unveiled last year during fashion week, Milano XL, which celebrated Italian creativity and was supported by all fashion associations, and the Green Carpet Fashion Awards, will be held again in September. Vogue Italia art director Luca Stoppini will succeed Davide Rampello as artistic director of Milano XL, he revealed.

Carlo Calenda, the minister of economic development spearheaded the “fashion table” in 2016, regrouping all fashion associations and trade shows. “It has worked really well in a world of individual geniuses, normally not inclined to team up, but they did. It’s been a great team and I am enthusiastic about it and grateful to everyone,” said Scalfarotto.

Scannavini said the fashion table contributed to attracting more public investments, which rose from 34 million to 48 million euros in three years. “Investments are driven by relevant strategic projects that have an impact and not by algorithms,” he observed. Investments, he clarified, are equally channeled into trade shows, which help gain international visibility; on retail activities, both brick-and-mortar and digital, and activities related to trade shows and promotions abroad. Scannavini said industry sales in the first 11 months of 2011 grew 5.8 percent, and China and Russia showed the most growth, up 16 and 14 percent, respectively. In accordance with Scalfarotto, he insisted: “The fashion table must continue to exist. We hope there will be continuity.”

Capasa emphasized the growth of the Italian fashion industry, which reported sales of 87 billion euros in 2017, compared with 80 billion euros in 2014. As a champion of improving the industry’s sustainability, Capasa said he was looking forward to a round table to be held in Milan on March 20, to be attended by Italian and international brands, and focused on this specific theme.

“The White Book,” conceived by the Education Committee of the Fashion and Accessories Panel, a resource set up in January 2016 in the Ministry of Economic Development, was presented during the conference. “The aim was to encourage new interpretations of fashion education in Italy, considering all the aspects, such as design, communications, culture and the business world,” said Scalfarotto. The book analyzes the status of fashion education, focusing on how to train the new professional figures that are required in an evolving industry.

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