The prestigious Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana, Italy’s official chamber of fashion, has a passionate new president in Carlo Capasa. The businessman has been a long-standing member of the Camera board, which is a non-profit group devoted to the development of Italian fashion within the country and on the global stage, and his appointment in April of this year has already borne fruit.
In July, just two months after his appointment, Capasa was able to bring together some of Italy’s most prestigious fashion schools for the first annual Milano Moda Graduate show. Winning student designers were given internships within leading fashion houses like Missoni. And guests of the event were also able to attend free lectures with prestigious panelists, including Renzo Rosso and Marco de Vincenzo.
But that is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of plans that Capasa has up his tailored sleeve for the future of Italian fashion. He is already hard at work on a summit focused on Italian Fashion and is putting together guidelines regarding sustainability standards for the industry.
NOWFASHION sat down with Capasa to talk about his plans for Italian Fashion and the goals he has set for himself and the Camera, as well as the importance of Italian hospitably.
NOWFASHION: Why did you decide to create the Milano Moda Graduate show?
Carlo Capasa: Because in Italy, sometimes, we have so many things happening, that we never give value to what we have. We're not so good at telling tales. We are very good at making things, but sometimes we're not able to really tell the tales that are behind what we do. And I think the same is happening with the schools, there are some schools that are quite interesting, but the only way also for those schools to grow, is to put them together to give some kind of motivation. Also, to look at the other schools, to get more competition, something like that. So, I thought - "we have to start"… Italy is very strong when we talk about our heritage and innovation. If we don't put those two aspects together, we are, in a way, weak. Because you cannot forget the heritage, but if we just talk about heritage, we forget to talk about the future. And in school, it's the best place where you can promote this mix between heritage and innovation. But, if we don't stimulate them, to go in that direction, it's difficult for the schools. So I thought that this was a good occasion, I found it quite strange that it's never been done before, and I thought Camera de la Moda was the best association able to put them together. It's not always easy in Italy. But I understood that when I started, but it's good, we made it.
NF: So the response has been very positive?
CC: Very positive! Very positive! From the students, specially, from the schools, and from the public, from the design offices of the brands… Today, most of the important Italian brands, they pass by to have a look at those designers. Sometimes it's difficult for the design studios to go anywhere and to look at the schools. Here, you come, you see the school, you see the students, you see if there is something, somebody that you feel that has a kind of talent. And in fact, tonight, we are giving two prizes. One is from Angela Missoni, who is also the jury, and it's an internship for the winner. And the other one will be the winner of the Student Awards, we will find the company most similar to his or her style, so they can have an internship in that brand. It's about giving them the possibility to be in spotlight, to feel motivated.
NF: When did you first come up with the concept and decided you were going do this? How long ago did you start preparing this?
CC: I started to take care of the Camera de la Moda in the middle of April. And I did not decide to do this before. When I arrived here I said "ok, what shall we do?" And we [the board] discussed it all together and we tried to fix an idea for the future that was very much shared. That was the only way, sharing a precise vision and project, that's the only way to work properly in an association made by all those individually strong people. And finally we decided also to not have a President and CEO, but to have only one person with power, because it's easier. And so, I decided to do it, and the first day I said: "ok, we have to focus on the new generation". And start with the schools and also with some programs to help the new brands in terms of helping them to find the finances, helping them to find the industry, we put them in contact with distribution. They need basically those three aspects, and we must help them.
NF: So your focus is on the future of industry?
CC: Yes, for the young and for the industry. One point important for the future is sustainability. We are working very hard on that, we started already something in 2011, and this year, we will… In 2012 we came out with a kind of rules for all those associated with Camera de la Moda, but now, this year, maybe September, we will come out with the first section concerning [the use of] chemicals. So all the chemical contents, the chemical processes in the industry, we are fixing all the parameters one by one. So we are coming out with a document to fix all those parameters. And this is the first document. The second will be maybe in the beginning of 2016, and it's about the raw materials. Where they come from…
NF: It’s true that the raw materials, and how they are harvested for this industry, that are the most damaging to the environment. I mean, we can all start driving electric cars, and its like a drop in the bucket, whereas if you get look at the raw materials waste…
CC: Absolutely! Think only about all that we use to make jeans!
NF: I know. just that alone…
CC: But what we are finding very incredible, is that many Italian industry, they are so advanced, many people don't know how advanced they are. In our documents, we found out that there are some in the industry, they have done so much in the new technologies, that they are more advanced that our documents (laughter). And nobody knows this. So this is also something to promote. Then we have to work also on the interior, the ambience of the office, the shops and etc. That they also be sustainable. And then we have the last step, this would be maybe at the end of the year, to work on the social side of sustainability. So, this is about the sustainable program that we've already started, and its very much something we believe in. So, young, sustainable, and then the other point is about being linked. The world is one world, we want to be all linked together. I believe very much in sharing everything, competition with cooperation.
NF: Good competition raises the quality of everyone’s work…
CC: Exactly! But we have to always share together, we cannot forget we are family, we are a system, we are all part of that. And if the system works properly, it's good for everybody. So this is something that we also want to do, all together, decide our line for the future. And then, off course, there are some small things, that are actually not so small. For example, for me, hospitality is important. We say to people, ok, let's come to Italy, to Milan or to Florence. Ok, then we have to try to help them to feel more comfortable when they come here. And, one thing is, first of all, when they come, we want to tell them, "when you come here, we have this, this and this". If you don't know, it's a secret. Milan is a very secret city. We can tell you many things that you have no idea about… So we would prepare for restaurants, for secret places from Milan, something nice, that's interesting to see. Whatever there is to help people to feel comfortable when they are in Milan. We are starting, I think, in September, there's a concierge service, so you come here, you need whatever - our concierge service will arrange for you. You want to go to the Expo, and this is a specific place, we tell you which are the best places and we help you to go there, we organize. You want a good restaurant, you want to know what's new, you want to know what's happening, we book something for you, we will find a better price for you… We try to do all that we can do. So, small things and big things, together.
NF: You're shaking things up a bit.
CC: Yeah. And to do that, we are conscious that we need everybody's energy. In fact, what I always say to people is "please, work with everybody else. Give us a suggestion, ideas, sometimes something doesn't work properly and you want to complain - please do it. I think that, whatever is done with a positive spirit, is always good, is always welcomed. And the energy, we need to put all our energy. I cannot do this by myself. But all together, whatever we think, should be better if we try to do it together.
NF: What examples of cooperation do you have?
CC: I’m talking specially with BFC to do something together, I said "let's find also some promotion for the new designers together, let's make something". Maybe we can make something nice, new. And if it's easier to do it over there, we can move! We all move. We can do something here, something there, something in Paris, in London, in Milan, in New York. We all used to move in those cities, so let's to something together in those cities. I hope that we can convince them. Because in fashion sometimes we need this. Its the system that needs someone pulling the system. Sometimes it can be New York, sometimes Paris, sometimes Milan, maybe in the future China. But, we are all a part of that, and we all benefit when something like this happens. You know, people, they tell me "how do you feel about London doing this and that?" I'm happy. Very good. They help fashion to be vital and stimulate us to give our contribution to stay vital. What can we do better than this?
NF: So do you have anything else up your sleeve?
CC: We're also organizing one summit, as Camera de la Moda, we want to do a little bit different. We want to do almost a Manifesto of the Camera. So we will bring all the Italian heavyweights to participate and to make something. We are trying to make it very fast, by October 15th. I don't know if I can make it, I'll let you know.