Is Milan Fashion Week Headed Down The Drain?

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With our attention turned to Milan this past week to preview the men's RTW collection (and perhaps a little extra), it's especially timely that the Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana has appointed new members to its board. Business of Fashion reports that the Camera, the Italian equivalent of the CFDA, should serve as an exciting addition to the country's fashion capital — ideally, as a fresh resource to help foster new talent and industry growth. But, instead of celebrating, we're actually a bit concerned.

The noteworthy new CNMI members include Gildo Zegna, owner of Ermenegildo Zegna; Patrizio Bertelli, CEO of Prada; and Diego della Valle, president and ceo of Tod's. And while the press conference to welcome them was intended to promote strength and unity across the industry, BoF described some of the most important moments as "heated and sometimes awkward," specifically in addressing the fact that two of the most influential fashion houses, Dolce & Gabbana and Giorgio Armani, refused to join the CNMI. “Nothing has changed, and I am not joining the Camera,” Giorgio Armani told BoF, a likely reference to the frustration over a lack of Italian designers at Milan Fashion Week — namely Prada and Valentino.

Despite the fact that the old guard of designers don't seem to be collaborating, as the report claims, there was not much to be said by the CMNI about the next generation. "This is the biggest problem facing Italian fashion, which desperately lacks a support system to systematically identify, cultivate, and invest in the next generation of Italian luxury brands," says Iman Amed, who also drew attention to a remark by Alex Fury, fashion editor of The Independent. “Milano is dominated by companies whose vice-like grip on the fashion industry has been in place for decades," Fury said. "Sometimes, that grip feels like more of a choke-hold, strangling off oxygen to new talent.”

Don't get us wrong: Milan Fashion Week is a huge, important, and beautiful part of the fashion industry, but if these new CNMI members (an all-male, all-50-and-older crew, we should add) make any positive difference, they will need to cultivate the designers and visionaries who will not only evolve the Italian fashion landscape, but be able to preserve it, as well. After all, a quick look at the history of Italian fashion designers will show that quite a number of the biggest names we know started their careers from family businesses — Prada and Guccio Gucci, for example — or had previous successful careers, such as Emilio Pucci, who was a pilot in the Air Force, and Ottavio Missoni, who was a former Olympian. But for someone, like Gianni Versace, who never acquired any formal training, or Muccia Prada, who was not encouraged to be a woman in the workplace at all, it's important that the CNMI pay attention to how the systems it sets in place today can create careers for designers who will become the next gen of fashion tomorrow...and perhaps the future in-demand seat at Milan Fashion Week. (Business of Fashion)

Photo: Courtesy of Dolce & Gabbana