Milan Fashion Week keen to broadcast positive message
The Milan Fashion Week, which opened on Tuesday under grey skies, is scheduled to end on Monday September 28, handing the baton over to Paris. Like the unsettled Milanese weather, clear skies alternating with showers, the programme for this fashion week dedicated to the Spring/Summer 2021 womenswear (and in some cases menswear) collections has been changeable until the last minute. For obvious reasons, this can't be expected to be a normal fashion week.
The event's customary frenetic pace is a distant memory. The atmosphere at the Italian Fashion Chamber’s Fashion Hub, the section focusing on emerging designers that opened on Tuesday night, was almost surreal. There was no hustle and bustle at the entrance like in February, only a few scattered guests slipping swiftly through the check-point where their temperature was read. At reception, each guest duly filled in a form providing their contact information, receiving in exchange a face mask in bio-tech material produced by Italian manufacturer U-mask.
“This Fashion Week must be an example of our ability to adapt and live with Covid-19 in the smartest possible way. In the course of the week, we want to demonstrate that it’s possible to forge ahead despite the circumstances. I’m expecting plenty of positive energy,” said Carlo Capasa, president of the Italian Fashion Chamber (CNMI), speaking to a group of journalists.
Capasa went on to list the very stringent safety regulations imposed on all labels showing. For example, wearing masks is mandatory for everyone backstage, until entering the runway. Social distancing rules must be complied with. Shows are open to a handful of journalists and buyers, on average never more than 150 people, and several labels have asked guests to fill in self-declaration forms to gain access to shows.
“Of course, we're going through very tough times, with sales shortfalls between 25% and 30% since the start of the year. But we can’t sit and wait for the vaccine, or for things to get better. We must find the energy and the resources to live safely with the virus. We can’t grind to a halt. On the contrary, this is the time to protect our SMEs, our artisans and our emerging talents,” said Capasa, underlining how fashion is Italy's second-largest industry, and the country is the leading apparel producer in Europe, with a 41% share of revenue, compared to Germany’s 11% share and France’s 8% one.
But while the Milan Fashion Week got properly under way on Wednesday, with shows notably by Fendi and Dolce & Gabbana, the presence of industry players in Milan has been further reduced by the renewed rise in Covid-19 cases in neighbouring countries. Some labels even struggled to find models for their shows.
Concern about France
The situation in France is especially concerning. On Monday, the Italian government decided that all travellers coming from a number of French regions had to test negative for Covid-19 before entering the country, forcing many journalists and buyers not to travel.
“We are disappointed because, until Sunday night, a large number of visitors from France had confirmed their arrival, many of them due to reach Milan on Tuesday. Knowing that American and Asian visitors would not come this season, we were expecting those from Europe, from Germany, Spain and France in particular,” lamented Capasa. Only a few hundred people are likely to arrive in Milan this week, a far cry from the usual thousands. They will attend 22 physical shows, out of a total of 64 shows on the calendar, the majority of which will take place virtually.
Among them Versace, which had initially planned to stage a physical show, but decided a few days ago to show behind closed doors. As well as Prada, which has opted for a digital event this week to unveil the first collection co-designed by Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons, and also Giorgio Armani, which will also show behind closed doors, broadcasting the event live on Italian TV.
Gucci is giving this season a miss, but the Milan Fashion Week can count on Valentino. After showing in Paris for years, the Italian luxury label is making a grand come-back to Milan. In total, 159 events are scheduled on the CNMI website, between presentations, catwalk shows and special projects, either physical or digital.
“Luckily, we have digital options! Of course, they’re no replacement for physical shows, but digital tools have been a great help to the industry, through e-commerce solutions, virtual showrooms and the streaming of fashion week events. In July, for the Milan Fashion Week Men, our website was visited by 15 million users worldwide. This time, we’re aiming for 20 million,” said Capasa, who was also at pains to highlight the multiplicity of events in support of emerging labels organised in parallel with the official calendar.
Like the ‘Milano Moda Shoppable Project’ for example, organised by CNMI with Milanese department store La Rinascente, presented on Tuesday morning. Until October 11, La Rinascente will host, in its new fourth-floor area dedicated to pop-up stores and contemporary brands, the collections designed by 13 young Italian labels (Twins Florence, Drome, Nico Giani, Simona Marziali – MRZ, Iindaco, Vitelli, Blazé Milano, Act N°1, Marco de Vincenzo, Fantabody, Flapper | Genevieve Xhaet, Marco Rambaldi and Vìen). Their collections are also showcased in the department store’s eight shop windows, in the heart of Milan, a stone’s throw from the Duomo.
Also, several young Italian designers have been able to produce their collections, organise catwalk shows or produce videos thanks to funds raised by the CNMI’s Fashion Trust, via the TogetherForTomorrow project that was launched during Italy's lockdown period.
Other initiatives focused on emerging talent are the Fashion Hub Market showroom, hosting debut collections by seven labels (Gentile Catone, Salvatore Vignola, DassùYAmoroso, Daniele Carlotta, Roni Studios, C’est la V and Francesca Marchisio), and the Milano Moda Graduate collective catwalk show, reserved to graduates from leading Italian fashion academies. In addition, there is a presentation of six labels concentrating on sustainability, and a showcase for emerging Hungarian designers.
And this is not all. For the first time, the Milan Fashion Week is staging an event in support of designers from racialised communities, in collaboration with the ‘Black Lives Matter in Italian Fashion’ collective, presenting the work of five stylists via a video entitled ‘We are made in Italy- The Fab Five Bridge Builders’, overseen by designers Stella Jean and Edward Buchanan.
Finally, following the disastrous explosion in Beirut in August, CNMI launched a project called ‘Spotlight on Lebanese Designers - CNMI in support of the new generation of Lebanese Talent’, enabling seven fashion designers from Lebanon to take part in the Milan Fashion Week by presenting digital content.
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