MILAN – Carlo Capasa was pumping it up on Thursday.
“We are the best, but we tend to focus on what others do right and what we do wrong, neglecting to see how strong we are,” said the president of Italy’s Camera della Moda after the presentation of Milan Fashion Week’s schedule, which runs Sept. 19-24 and comprises 165 collections. Capasa touted the Italian fashion industry’s growth, which has returned to the levels of 2008, before the global economic crisis. After what he described as “portentous” growth in the second quarter of the year, when the fashion industry (including textiles, clothing, leather goods and footwear) was up 2.9 percent and the overall sector (including fashion, jewelry, eyewear and cosmetics) grew 3.5 percent, the rest of the year is also looking bright. Capasa expects the overall sector to close 2018 with a 2.8 percent gain, totaling revenues of 89.7 billion euros. The fashion industry alone is forecast to grow 3 percent and reach sales of 66.7 billion euros in 2018. The industry would thus be “completely recovering from the fall caused by the financial crisis, even if it is still below the highs of 2017 and very far from the year 2000 level,” said the Camera’s Fashion Economic Trends study presented on Thursday.
Fashion exports in 2018 are expected to increase 4.3 percent to 52.2 billion euros, while the fashion and associated sectors are expected to grow 3.1 percent to 67.4 billion euros.
With Gucci exceptionally showing in Paris this season and a lighter first and last day on the schedule, the press pointed to a more compressed and shorter calendar, but Capasa, speaking on the sidelines of the event, challenged that assumption. “In the perfect world, I would like to have 10 days, with all the world here, but, honestly, I see positivity in the city. There are a lot of returns, there are new brands coming, and I think it’s healthier to focus on what we are doing well and strengthen that,” said Capasa, citing Moncler’s choice to present the Genius project in Milan, for example. “I don’t see that many brands [outside of Italy] that have grown as much as they have here, from MSGM, Marco de Vincenzo and Stella Jean to Attico, Blazé, Double J, and now Plan C [the Castiglioni family’s new brand]. The week works.” He did not want to elaborate on other fashion calendars, but admitted that each fashion week has its own set of problems, including lengthy schedules. He reiterated that Gucci is the Camera’s associate and that it “has given a great contribution and will continue to do. It remains a strong bastion for the city.”
Asked about the Italian industry’s growth, Capasa praised the companies’ response and reaction to the crisis. “They challenged themselves, innovating their processes, restructuring to become more efficient than ever, improving quality with acceptable prices — we are the first in innovation and sustainability. Let’s not forget that the French [brands] that are so attentive to sustainability produce a lot here. We were behind in digital communication but we learned to communicate and perceived the potential of omnichannel. And we converted from wholesale to retail, which is not an easy step.” Markets such as China and others in the Far East have been rewarding Italian brands because they “recognized these values.” Capasa also spoke of the Ermenegildo Zegna Group acquisition of a majority stake in Thom Browne’s brand revealed at the end of August. “[CEO] Gildo [Zegna] has shown that we are not only preys but also [buyers]. And I am pleased to see how Prada is bouncing back and others are reinventing themselves and showing strong results. We must pamper our companies. We don’t have groups, but in Italy the first 50 fashion companies account for 40 percent of total industry revenues,” said Capasa.
He also spoke about import duties and said he was “obviously against” them, praising a free market, which fuels the economy. “I hope the concept of duties does not take hold in the U.S. We must each compete with our own tools in this global supermarket. Our strength is to produce beautiful, well-manufactured goods — others may compete with lower prices, but no country, including China, should be penalized by duties.”
The Camera has invited Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and the Minister of Economic Development Luigi Di Maio to Milan Fashion Week and to discuss future industry strategies, but it had not received any confirmation yet. While conceding the government had several other pressing priorities, Capasa said he hoped a meeting would take place “very soon.”
“We need to have a plan for next year. We are the second industry in Italy, and we hope the government will understand the importance of the sector and understand that fashion is a priority. It would be devastating not to continue working together,” said Capasa. This government, elected in March, follows that of Matteo Renzi and Paolo Gentiloni. Renzi, in particular, and Di Maio’s predecessor Carlo Calenda, worked closely with the industry and its associations. “Beyond politics, I think we should not throw away what’s been done before just because it was done by a different party. It would be crazy not to pay attention to a leading sector such as fashion. Renzi and Gentiloni [from the opposing Democratic Party] paid attention,” said Capasa.