MILAN — “We want to tell our story.”
One of Carlo Capasa’s priorities is to provide an account of the fashion industry’s production pipeline in Italy, its excellence and manufacturing districts, and to help discover the beauties of the country.
The newly nominated president of the Italian Chamber of Fashion is to officially present his program today, but in an advance preview with WWD, Capasa outlined his vision for the association.
“Narration is the starting point, and we are working on staging a summit on Italian fashion in Milan before the end of the year, most likely in the fall, that can tell our story,” he said.
“I’m happy to be here in this position at this moment, one of renaissance for Italy. There is a new energy and passion, and the Expo has also brought positivity — you can feel it in fashion, design, lifestyle and food,” said Capasa, referring to the international exhibition in Milan, running from May to the end of October.
“This is reflected by our new Prime Minister [Matteo Renzi], who is young and wants to innovate. Fashion never enjoyed much attention [with politicians], but now with Renzi and [Deputy Minister for Economic Development Carlo] Calenda, there are many projects in the making, and we hope in a good collaboration together,” he continued.
Capasa underscored how members of the Chamber of Fashion account for half of the industry’s sales, which are expected to reach 64 million euros, or $71.4 million, in 2015. Exports are expected to generate 50 billion euros, or $55.8 billion, out of the total figure. Accordingly, Capasa has focused on what he calls “the three I’s: institutionalization, innovation and internationalization.”
“We want to have a single voice, working and talking with the government, the embassies and [trade promotion agency] ICE, for example, to create strong alliances,” explained Capasa, remarking on the existing “cohesion” with other Italian fashion associations.
He cited the audiovisual installation “Panorama,” which will be unveiled later this month in Milan, in collaboration with Fondazione Altagamma and Salone del Mobile, as well as state bodies ranging from ICE to the Ministry of Economic Development and the Chamber of Commerce to promote Italy and its beauties.
A “fashion train” on June 19 from Florence to Milan will help the fashion pack travel from Pitti to the northern city for Men’s Fashion Week, and that evening the chamber is organizing a trip to Expo, followed by a visit to the new Armani/Silos exhibition space and the Fondazione Prada at the tail end of the Milan shows.
Innovation for Capasa means offering “real support, infrastructures, training and financial support” to young designers, in addition to a “hub” — a physical space where they can develop their businesses. Two or three options are on the table, with a final location to be communicated by September.
To help facilitate young designers, Capasa is working on developing a partnership with a bank that will become a reference point for the industry, a “fashion bank,” which can also assist in setting up e-commerce structures. To identify this pool of young talent, the chamber is selecting members of a high-profile commission that can also “accompany, mentor and tutor the designers, and help deal with organization, distribution and financial issues.”
As for internationalization, the idea is to strengthen relations between the association and the other fashion bodies around the world. Capasa leverages on a deep-seeded rapport with the French fashion association as chief executive officer of Costume National, founded with and designed by his brother Ennio, which showed its women’s line for more than two decades in Paris, returning to Milan in 2013.
In addition to working on the shows’ calendars, which are now set until 2017, Capasa highlighted the common fight against counterfeits.
“I also believe we should set up a think tank on sustainability, which is a new strong subject, stimulate an exchange on professional training, improve relations with department stores to enhance young brands, and improve relations with the international press, which is our number-one partner, given the weight of our exports. It’s important to support each other,” he said.
Capasa is also to take on the role of ceo of the chamber when Jane Reeve leaves at the end of June after 18 months holding that post. Capasa attributed this departure to differences with the board on a strategic vision.
“The board decided to go with an inside choice, someone that could fully represent its vision,” explained Capasa, pointing to Reeve’s “different background,” coming from marketing and advertising.
“In light of the complexity of the fashion system, we felt there should be a strong sense of belonging and it is simpler if the ceo and president roles are held by the same person,” remarked Capasa, who is both a fashion entrepreneur and a member of the board of the association.
He succeeds Mario Boselli, who is becoming honorary president and will be in charge for one year, with the elections due to be held in 2016.
Capasa underscored the “generosity” and expertise of the members of the association, highlighting the “cohesion” of the group.
“It’s not true that they are a litigious group. I’ve never seen a more united board, with the same strategic vision. The disagreements are mainly over the shows’ calendar, but they can be solved easily with transparency and clear rules,” he said.
Asked to elaborate, Capasa said he is vying for a permanent calendar that will not change every season.
“There is so much attention on the calendar, and talk around it, but this is just one part of the association’s work,” he said.
Responding to recurring questions about Italian brands showing outside Milan, such as Miu Miu in Paris or Dolce & Gabbana’s refusal to be part of the chamber, Capasa said the first is “not a problem. There should be an exchange, and we should fly high, have an ample vision, consolidating the fashion system in its totality.”
About the latter, he admitted it was a “puzzling” decision, but conceded it was “their choice. They say they don’t like the organizations and don’t want to be part of any.”
The executive is spearheading a program of cultural events “to help the press to discover the hidden treasures and beauties of Milan and Italy, a program of visits of secret locations, a concierge or personalized service, late dinners in collaboration with restaurants. And we want fashion to be more open to the city.”
Capasa is also working on creating three special commissions, fashion and culture ambassadors and an external advisory board, comprising five high- profile international individuals from the cultural and fashion worlds.
“By the end of the year, all the steps will have been taken,” concluded Capasa confidently.