MILAN — It’s going to be a boiling hot June for the city of Milan. And not just in terms of temperatures.
Due to the severe outbreak of the coronavirus, which hit the Lombardy region at the end of February and which, according to experts, is expected to slow down with the arrival of the warmer season, the furniture and interior design trade show Salone del Mobile has been postponed to June.
Originally scheduled for April 21 to 26 and with the new dates set for June 16 to 21, the most important event for the city of Milan will partially overlap with Milan Men’s Fashion Week, which officially kicks off on June 20. However, for the past few seasons a number of fashion shows have been held the night before the official start, when editors and buyers are usually back from Pitti Uomo in Florence.
Making that week of June even busier, the city of Milan will also host from June 18 to 21 the first edition of the Milano Monza Open-Air Motor Show, which is expected to attract between 30,000 and 50,000 visitors.
They have to be added to the at least 350,000 people in town for Salone del Mobile and the 30,000 or so buyers, vendors and journalists attending Milan Fashion Week.
Will Milan be able to offer the appropriate welcome to at least 410,000 visitors? And this without even considering international tourists, who hopefully will return to one of the world’s favorite shopping destinations when the health crisis is over.
“We are in a state of emergency. The Salone [del Mobile] is important for Milan and it’s crucial it takes place. I didn’t participate to the definition of the new dates, but from what I heard there were no other available dates,” said Camera Nazionale della Moda president Carlo Capasa.
Asked about the possibility of moving the dates of Milan Men’s Fashion Week, Capasa said it’s not an option. “We can’t shift the dates because we are linked to the international calendars. If the dates of the Salone are confirmed, we will find the way to coexist, we have to try to throw our heart beyond the obstacle,” he said. “What the mayor [Giuseppe Sala] is doing is important because he is trying to support Milan. Postponing an event like the Salone and not cancelling it is a winning idea. We all have to be ready to give our contribution.”
While Capasa remained cautious with his comments, executives in different sectors significantly affected by the decision, including hospitality and transportation, openly expressed their disappointment.
“I think that the overlap will damage everyone,” said Maurizio Naro, president of the Association of Milan’s Hoteliers, emphasizing how “certain decisions should be taken in accordance with the operators of the different sectors. I think that the institutions should really take in consideration to revise again the dates of one of the two events. Keeping them separated would have a positive commercial benefit for everybody, also because the risk is that people won’t find available rooms.”
With the exponential increase in demand for hotel rooms that week in June, prices might skyrocket, creating budget issues for the companies having staff traveling to Milan for both fashion and design weeks.
According to an editor of an American publication, a Milan five-star hotel popular among the fashion crowd has currently put his reservation request under scrutiny due to a possible price difference compared to seasonal fashion week rates.
The issue of potential price increases was pinpointed by Sala in the video posted on Tuesday night when he revealed the new dates of Salone del Mobile. In his speech, he made a plea to the city’s hoteliers to set acceptable prices for the next Design Week in order to support the event.
“During important events, Milan’s hotels already apply a multiplying factor which is lower than those applied by other international cities, including Barcelona, Munich or Hannover,” said Naro. “I think that it’s absolutely unfair to criminalize a category which is only trying to work at its best. In 2020, due to the crisis we are going through, our margins will be severely reduced and it will be crucial to make important investments especially in terms of communication to support the industry.”
The overlap of the fashion and design events in June might also have a negative impact on transportation.
“The coronavirus emergency is causing major economic damages especially in the hospitality and transportation sectors. In my case, my company of car hire with drivers registered the cancellation of 100 percent of the reservations within the next 20 days. This results in a significant economic loss which will be almost impossible to recoup also when things get better,” said Sandro Preziosa, owner of Autoservizi Preziosa. “Giving this picture of the current situation is crucial to motivate my disappointment at the Milan mayor’s decision to postpone the Salone del Mobile to June. This decision might sound correct considering the virus emergency, but he probably didn’t take into consideration the overlap with Men’s Fashion Week. I think this decision is completely wrong: We are seriously in trouble and keeping two big events separated would give us the opportunity to work in serene, productive conditions.”
Preziosa also lamented the inability of institutions to manage the current crisis. “It’s just complete chaos… when people don’t know what to do, they put temporary Band-Aids, which sometimes are worse than actual problems. Milan is a productive city…decision makers should listen to entrepreneurs and citizens.”
Aware of the logistic and organizational challenges that it will have to face, the fashion and creative sector nonetheless telegraphed a message of support. For example, it so far seems that most of the fashion companies that usually host events during Milan Design Week will move them to June. According to market sources, Louis Vuitton decided to confirm for June all the activities originally scheduled for April.
“I personally think it will not be a problem at all, except for the fact that probably the hospitality sector will see an overbooking and people might be forced to stay in Lodi or Monza rather than Milan,” said Brunello Cucinelli, who noted that in the wake of the global fear connected to the health crisis, the reshuffling of dates should be seen as a minor side effect and that the cancellation of the events would have had more of an impact.
The entrepreneur’s namesake brand traditionally exhibits at both Pitti Uomo and Milan Fashion Week in June and has presented its lifestyle collections during the city’s Design Week over the years. Cucinelli was adamant that the brand will continue to do so this year, acknowledging no other dates were available for organizers to postpone the furniture and design trade fair and expressing his unconditional support.
“The city will be packed with people, we will certainly have a few logistics problems but that’s not a major issue,” he added. “We had terrible fears, but we’re now settling, and we will resolve the situation. We should not overdramatize a month, a month and a half of global fear just because we will have a disequilibrium in the next two to three months. I’m personally happy that throughout the week in Milan we will see a mix of fashion and design. In this occasion we will walk around Milan enjoying both and it’s going to be beautiful. We should look at the positive side of this situation,” said Cucinelli, revealing that the brand is planning a major design-related event in June to coincide with the city’s Design Week.
Cucinelli also plans to show in Florence, where Pitti Uomo will run June 16 to 19.
“Unfortunately, the only option in terms of date has been to postpone the Salone del Mobile to coincide with Pitti Uomo. However, the Salone del Mobile is both a trade and consumer event focused on furniture, while Pitti Uomo is a trade event for men’s fashion. They are both two Italian excellences, but our business is very different,” said Pitti Immagine chief executive officer Raffaello Napoleone, who also had to postpone two of the company’s fairs Taste and Testo, which are now taking place June 5 to 7 and June 11 to 13, respectively. “In addition, 47 percent of our exhibitors don’t have investments in the furniture and design segment. The only thing that we have to carefully consider is that a lot of press covers both fashion and design.”
In this sense, a Milanese fashion publicist, who asked to remain anonymous, put the focus on the “risk of distraction” that might occur in the city with the two big events overlapping. “For the companies which have interests in both the sectors, it will be hard to decide whether to prioritize the fashion or the design message,” he noted.
“I fully support Beppe Sala’s decision to postpone the Salone del Mobile to June and to connect the fair with Men’s Fashion Week. For the first time, design and fashion, Italy’s two excellences, will ideally merge,” said Massimo Giorgetti, founder and creative director of MSGM, as well as owner of art gallery Ordet. “I’m sure that June will be an extremely important appointment for Milan, a special occasion to celebrate the city as it has never been done before, after a complex phase. MSGM and I will be there with even more enthusiasm, in a special way, with many projects and a lot of energy. Milano! Milano! Milano! Stay strong!”
“It’s going to be complicated, especially for the locations, because in Milan there are not so many. Design week events usually spread across the whole city, actually taking over the town. I think that probably fashion brands will have to find new locations for the shows and presentations,” said Riccardo Grassi, founder and creative director of the namesake multibrand showroom. “However, I think that in these current times, we all have to adapt, even if I really think there will be severe problems in terms not only of locations, but also of transportation.”
“I believe that Mayor Sala’s savvy decision to postpone the Design Week to June to partially coincide with Men’s Fashion Week can turn into a huge opportunity for Milan,” said Marco Ramon, director at Studio Exhibita, a Milan-based interior design and event production studio working with prestigious fashion and luxury brands. “Even if having the two events taking place at the same time will be a big challenge in terms of logistics and organization, I think that combining the power of design and fashion will be winning. But this will happen only if we will be able to collaborate and look after the same goal of making the city of Milan shine, and not a single brand or event. I’m ready to take this challenge, especially for a city which I love and support.”
Skeptical about the capability of Milan being able to cope with such an influx of visitors in a week, OTB and Diesel’s founder Renzo Rosso nonetheless tried to stay positive. “I think that this decision will bring several difficulties to the city in terms of overcrowding, events, traffic and hospitality. I’m not sure there are enough structures to host all the visitors,” he said. “Personally, I would have tried to keep the two events in two different yet complementary moments. The positive thing is that, I hope, the world of fashion will be able to enjoy the fantastic atmosphere that the Salone del Mobile brings to Milan, maybe also getting inspired by that.”
Still, retailers are among those who could benefit from the high concentration of people in Milan in June.
“I’m quite happy of the overlap of Men’s Fashion Week and Design Week. I think that the Men’s Fashion Week doesn’t have the same impact on the city that it used to have in the past… in the last few seasons, it was about only a few hundreds of buyers and journalists who were in town for some shows, but the most interesting men’s runway events take place in Paris, where there are also the most important showrooms for men’s fashion,” said Maurizio Purificato, co-owner of Milanese luxury store Antonia. “With the great job that Pitti is doing in Florence, Milan became less relevant for men’s fashion, also in terms of people in town for that. At least, the Salone del Mobile will bring an international flair to the week.”