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Seven Suggestions For Improving Milan Fashion Week

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Gildo Zegna, Patrizio Bertelli, Cav. Mario Boselli, and Diego Della Valle during the Camera Nazionale Della Moda Italiana press conference in Milan

At 8 a.m. on Sunday morning, the Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana held a press conference at which attendance had been all but mandated weeks in advance. The early, un-Italian hour was no doubt meant to indicate the seriousness of the occasion, as was a lineup of speakers that included Patrizio Bertelli, Diego Della Valle, and Gildo Zegna, all of whom have joined the organization’s new board. Essentially, these captains of one of Italy’s most important and cherished industries have banded together to reinvigorate Milan’s increasingly hidebound fashion weeks. “I’ve heard the word boring,” Zegna acknowledged, though he insisted that wasn’t the case. The speeches were heavy on sweeping statements and light on concrete details, which provoked the assembly of sleep-deprived journalists into a volley of probing questions. Bertelli had earlier compared his fellow board members to “senators of fashion,” and he might have been thinking, Et tu, Suzy? as the International New York Times‘ Suzy Menkes led a round of interrogation into everything from Milan’s inhospitality to young designers to its perceived shortcomings on the digital front. Bertelli is no pushover, and he gave as good as he got. When a French journalist asked why we were only hearing from old men (Angela Missoni was a mostly silent presence on the board today), the Prada CEO told him he’d be a dangerous old man himself if he didn’t change his attitude, and then unexpectedly pointed out that Italy was the first country to abolish slavery, in the 1300s. By the end, one attendee was muttering, “Business as usual,” but if the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem, then today’s announcement should be welcomed as a positive development. Certainly there is enough firepower and entrepreneurial know-how on this new board to solve world peace, let alone bring new energy to a fashion week. Zegna stressed that the process would be a dialogue and said suggestions would be encouraged. In that spirit, here are seven modest proposals for improving Milan fashion week.

1. Lure young, international designers to Milan.
Menkes wondered how Milan would be replacing Burberry and Alexander McQueen, two brands that have recently decamped back to their native London. But the city’s relatively uncrowded schedule could be one of its biggest assets. Given how ridiculously packed the New York and, increasingly, London and Paris schedules have become, you would think any number of hot young brands could be persuaded to believe that they’d have a better chance of standing out in Milan. If access to Italy’s unparalleled production expertise were thrown in as part of the deal, who could resist?

2. Take the show on the road.
The British Fashion Council and, to some extent, the U.S.-based CFDA have done a good job of promoting their designers abroad. As part of the London Showrooms events, a dozen young U.K. talents have even careened around Hong Kong together on a bus. While there are barely enough young Milan-based designers to fill a Smart car let alone a minibus, and its more established designers are already well known internationally, it shouldn’t be too hard to come up with the right kind of touring exhibition. Picture a mix of up-and-comers such as Umit Benan, Andrea Pompilio, and Fausto Puglisi; some cult brands like MP Massimo Piombo and Aspesi; and a couple of designer offshoots like Versace’s Versus line and Lapo Elkann’s highly covetable new made-to-measure collaboration with Gucci—all introduced by a charming, high-profile figure (yes, we’re talking to you, Lapo). That would go some way to showing the rest of the world the extent of Italy’s ambitions. Continue Reading “Seven Suggestions For Improving Milan Fashion Week” »