Despite Recession Milan Kicks Off on a High Note

As a nation, Italy may have ushered in 2019 with its third recession in a decade, but for now, the fashion industry is on an uptick – both in terms of revenue and as new brands.

Arthur Arbesser Fall/Winter 2019 show in Milan. Photo by Guillaume Roujas for NOWFASHION.

According to Confindustria Moda, the business lobby that includes nearly 70,000 fashion and textiles companies, the sector’s revenue rose in 2018 to EUR95.7 billion, lifted by exports to South Korea and China.

Earlier this year, ISTAT, Italy’s office of statistics, reported that the EU’s third largest economy contracted, for the second consecutive quarter, due in part to heavy spending policies and a manufacturing slowdown, as the nation grapples with a fractious government, ruled by a radical centre-right coalition. Rising consumer prices and an unemployment rate of 10.3 percent, one of the highest in the eurozone behind Greece and Spain, are also worsening indicators for the Italian government and citizens alike. 

Trying times lie ahead for the fashion industry, which just recently bounced back from the financial crisis, which led to the closure of hundreds of small- and medium-sized fashion and textile enterprises. 

At a press conference in Milan this month, Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana president Carlo Capasa said that the fashion sector continues to expand, also due to the organisation’s attention to growing in terms of new talents.

“This edition of Milan fashion week represents a mirror into the creativity of the fashion calendar that allows every brand to express their innovation, to communicate, and to tell their story,” he said, noting that the calendar is full of new promising acts like the Marios; indie brand Alanui; and Albagia, a sleek prêt-a-porter brand founded by CEO Angela Stanzione and creative duo Federico Piaggi and Stefano Citron who designed the last runway season for Gianfranco Ferré.

Tuesday, the United Colors of Benetton unfurled a collection in collaboration with artistic director Jean-Charles de Castelbajac in order to usher in a new era for the brand in which the brand will reshore production back to Italy. To commemorate the fresh start, the fashion show included ten seamstresses and five quality controllers to show off the family-run company’s prowess.  Over the last decade, Benetton, one of the most iconic brands with roots in knitwear, has seen its revenues slow due to growing competition from fast fashion juggernauts like H&M and Zara. It is now focusing on incorporating its collections with local materials and crafting its garments with sustainable fabrics.

“The Benetton show sends a very strong message about where the industry is headed,” said Fabrizio Servente, Global Strategy Advisor for The Woolmark Company.  

Gucci Fall/Winter 2019 show in Milan. Photo by Gio Staiano for NOWFASHION.

Servente shrugged off worries about the economy. “Wool and wool products are in high demand. It’s a classy alternative to materials like polyester. It beats other materials in terms of quality and it’s sustainable. In the end, consumers want quality,” Servente said. 

Elsewhere this week, Camera Nazionale della Moda will also unveil the “Franca Sozzani GCC Award for Best Emerging Designer” as a way to promote new talent.

Some 60 fashion shows and 81 presentations will take place in Milan during fashion week here that will end Monday, February 25th.