MILAN — Five months into her role as the Italian Chamber of Fashion’s first chief executive officer, Jane Reeve is tackling her second season of Milan Men’s Fashion Week as expectations continue to build for the city’s Expo next year.
But the Universal Exposition, expected to draw millions of visitors to the city, has been marred by a corruption scandal that is entirely unrelated to the fashion industry, bringing several managers and ex-members of parliament under arrest over alleged attempts to influence public tenders — a scandal that Prime Minister Matteo Renzi is quickly trying to purge in his efforts to jump-start the economy.
Indeed, Milan is cleaning up for the Expo, with real estate developers changing the city’s skyline and shaping new office, residential and shopping hubs, and Reeve has been rumored to be looking at new locations for Milan’s fashion shows, although the search process is in the early stages. One such area is the city’s Porta Nuova district, where in September Costume National held its first show in Milan after 23 years in Paris.
The city’s men’s fashion week begins Saturday with the likes of Corneliani and Ermenegildo Zegna shows and ends on Tuesday with Roberto Cavalli and others. For the first time, Reeve and the Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana will hold a dinner Friday to mark the opening of the shows. The event will also celebrate Rosita Missoni and her nomination as Cavaliere del Lavoro, one of the highest honors bestowed by the president of the Italian Republic. It will be at the exclusive gentlemen’s club Società del Giardino in Milan. The event is meant to enhance the city’s men’s fashion week, said Reeve, and to “give a concrete sign of the new path” of the association, which “promotes teamwork with the common goal to render the Italian fashion system always stronger and cohesive. I am convinced that to reach an important result it is fundamental to leverage our team spirit.” Reeve spoke highly of Rosita Missoni, “a woman so loved and respected, a universal symbol of creativity and of the quality of Made in Italy in the world.”
Reeve and Italy’s fashion association, backed by industry heavyweights and an increasing number of Italian fashion brands — including Giorgio Armani, who agreed to join in November — have been working on revitalizing Milan Fashion Week for both men’s and women’s wear, among other projects.
In particular, the executive has been shining the spotlight on young talents for growth. “I have been living in Italy for 26 years and, around the world, 23 or 24 years old is considered young [in fashion], while here, it’s more 33 or 35,” said Reeve with a laugh. No matter, the Italian fashion industry needs to nurture new talent across the board, she said, from the early manufacturing stages to designing.
“The diffusion of best practices is our duty. There is a shortage of skilled hands,” said Reeve, praising, for example, Brunello Cucinelli’s recent “School of Crafts,” set up in Italy’s Solomeo, the medieval village that the entrepreneur has restored and where his company is based. The Solomeo school offers annual craftsmanship training to young apprentices, with a focus on knitwear.
Another top priority for Reeve is “creating strategic alliances” to accelerate new businesses and build e-commerce. The digital element is seen as key for the industry to contribute to evolve the reputation of Made in Italy, to develop synergies and enhance the country’s production pipeline. This season, the Camera della Moda will unveil a new Web site dedicated to men’s fashion week, with video content and a daily gallery that will “recount live” the four days of the shows, she said. “With this mini site, we reach two goals: to open the shows and presentations to the public and to allow insiders to live every moment through the voice of the protagonists.”
Also, Reeve is working on creating an advisory board to promote young creative talents, to “understand problems and priorities.”