Piero Piazzi

MILANPiero Piazzi, the president of Women Management Milan model agency, doesn’t beat around the bush.

Business has come to a screeching halt and he has no doubt Italy’s economy will be hard hit by the coronavirus spread, but he has a crystal clear response for when the health emergency is over: Go Italian.

“We’ve seen people singing on balconies during the lockdown, we’ve grown more patriotic — even more so than when we support our national soccer team — and we are staying united on so many fronts. It will be important to be so after the crisis has passed,” said Piazzi in a phone interview from his Milan apartment. “[Italian] Fashion has never been nationalist, it’s always turned to talents from outside Italy, whether photographers, makeup artists or models.”

Piazzi believes the number of Italian models has been increasing recently and Women Management represents 200 Italian women, from Mariacarla Boscono and Chiara Scelsi to several Italian actors. “When Italy will be free [of the virus] again, I hope it will find the value of local production. Italy has so many talents. We have incredible Italian photographers, models, stylists, casting directors. There’s been too much xenophilia,” lamented Piazzi, as Italian fashion brands, he contended, have been photographing advertising campaigns abroad with foreign models and photographers. After the COVID-19 crisis, “it can no longer be so. Designers have been so generous with their donations, now they should bring everything back to Italy,” to support the economy. Piazzi even urged the likes of Giorgio Armani, Versace and Valentino to show “at least” part of their couture collections in Italy. Every country will be likely to support its own business in the same way, he mused. “It would be only fair.”

Piazzi said a couple of campaigns for fall have been canceled for the time being and that everything is “stalled, completely blocked. It’s difficult to provide forecasts but I think everything will be stopped at least until the end of May.” He believes the ads may return “at the last minute” and all-digital, which will also affect printed media. “On Instagram now, you see there are no ads but posts on beauty, hair, wellness,” he continued.

Piazzi also believes pre-collections will all but disappear, that the men’s shows will not be held come June and that brands will show men’s and women’s together going forward. Asked if things could return to the status quo, Piazzi was skeptical. “I’ve seen other crises, the Gulf War in ’98, the Twin Towers, and with each crisis something changes and you never go back. Fashion will be incredibly revolutionized and everything will be more concentrated.”

Piazzi also highlighted a sore spot, likely to snowball throughout the country. “We’ve been asked to accept delayed payments,” he said. “It’s a chain reaction, starting from producers who don’t get paid down to the stores, which can’t sell the spring collections. And, unfortunately, there’s always someone who takes advantage of the situation.”

The agency at the moment is “planning a series of initiatives for the future, working with our models and actors on social media content, reaching out and developing contact with more clients,” he said. “We are working on new communication strategies.”

With a career spanning more than 35 years, Piazzi has served as Elite Milano’s president and Europe’s business coordinator for Elite World. In September 2018 he took on the role of president of Women Model Management Worldwide, overseeing all the network’s three agencies and reporting directly to Elite World’s chief executive officer Paolo Barbieri. That coincided with Elite World acquiring Women Model Management Milano, establishing the group as a leading company in the modeling arena, since the French and U.S.-based agencies of the same network had been controlled by Elite World since 2013. The group now counts more than 4,000 models in the network.

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