How to attract international talents to develop “Headquartered & Made in Italy” brands and maintain the status of a “Fashion Capital”.
Some suggestions from Arthur Arbesser and Yong Bae Seok.
Article by Elena Antiga and Cecilia Castelli – Global Fashion Unit
Made in Italy is per se a source of value. For this reason, many brands, including foreign, choose Italy as their productive platform. However, this is not enough to assure Italy a central role within the Global Fashion System.
There is a tendency to combine men and women fashion shows (mainly converging on women’s wear), with the risk of weakening Milan fashion week in favor of Paris, and emerging designers increasingly prefer London and New York as the headquarters of their new brands, while creative directors of leading maisons choose them as the venue for the fashion shows of their personal lines.
Milan’s AW 16-17 fashion shows received a very positive feedback because of their freshness and creativity. But this success is due to the companies of the sector and to the tenacity of young designers. The level of support from the Government and from the country’s economic system is not comparable to other fashion capitals. This sector receives muchless attention than it deserves, although there are positive signals. For the first time, with the AW 16-17 season, an Italian prime minister opened a fashion week, with the goal of confirming the importance of the sector, both in terms of international visibility for Italy and of its contribution to GDP and the balance of trade.
Who better than young designers could describe what Italy and Milan mean for creatives? We interviewed Yong Bae Seok (a Korean designer who has been living in Italy for years and works with brands like Superga, Bally and Geox) and Arthur Arbesser (Austrian designer, founder of his own brand and creative director of Iceberg).
Italy and Milan have no rivals in terms of manufacturing, know-how and ability to turn ideas into products. They also offer direct access to producers of raw materials, such as fabric, leather, and metal accessories or components.
In addition, the city’s “informal” atmosphere prevents people from feeling lost, while providing the necessary conditions for achieving maximum concentration during manufacturing phases.
However, its smaller size and its DNA as a “Business City” can be constraints during the more creative phases of the collection development. Cities with a more frenetic, dynamic and international style are more congenial to generating the tension required during the creative process.
In Milan, and in Italy in general, it’s not easy to access to financing and economic incentives. Yong quotes the positive example of New York where a strong network between schools, business and investors exists that facilitates and accelerates the contact between talents and funding. In particular, selective and merit-based educational approaches and systematic relationship between schools and companies are a guarantee when selecting “soloists” projects to be funded by investors and business angels. Therefore, it is easier for young talent to start-up their projects, irrespectively of their background or contacts, something that does not happen in Italy.
Arthur Arbesser also stresses the importance that public funding had in the start-up of his maison. In Austria, three-year support programs are available to young entrepreneurs in creative sectors, including designers; and in addition to financing, these programs offer management and administrative training during the start-up period, while fostering networking both between designers and towards other traditional sectors.
Three suggestions for Milan’s new mayor to promote young designers working in Milan? Arthur Arbesser’s response, featured in-full in the video, is this: dedicated financing, focus on fashion show venues, and contact with potential sponsors … tangible support that could make the difference in the launch phase of a new brand!
Partner, The European House - Ambrosetti