Oooh, the trash talk out of Milan. Having finally woken up to the fact that London Fashion Week is getting buzzier, and that such a development could be a threat to Milan, its collections, and the related economic windfall that comes to a city during showtime, Milanese designers are joining forces to defend their territory – but the infighting has already begun. The gossip and name-calling is fun to watch – Armani won’t join the new improved Camera della Moda (the Italian fashion association) because too many fashion brands who are members don’t actually show in Milan; the Camera won’t let Armani and his fellow non-member Dolce & Gabbana stay on the official calendar if they don’t join; nah nah nah — but behind it is a real issue currently afflicting every fashion week: the tension between national industry interest and a brand’s self-interest.
After all, it is unquestionably better for Milan Fashion Week if, as Giorgio Armani was recently quoted as saying, ALL Italian brands, especially the ones with the advertising muscle to make glossy magazines sit in their seats, show in Milan (he’s talking about you, Valentino and Miu Miu). And it’s also better if the city’s fashion week is a full six days, as the new, brand-stuffed board of the Camera Nazionale is planning, because that means six nights of hotel fees and so on.
BUT, it is not necessarily better for Prada (whose CEO, Patrizio Bertelli, is vice-president of said board) if Miu Miu is brought back from Paris to Milan. Instead of a full week and a half between shows, that will mean designer Miuccia Prada and her entire over-stressed staff will have but days. It is not necessarily better for Alberta Ferretti if her Philosophy line is brought back from New York, since Philosophy, with its younger bent, is positioned in the same market sector as NY contemporary brands Tory Burch and J Crew, and is hence best seen (and bought) in that context. And it is not necessarily better for Valentino, for decades shown in Paris, as it is the only Italian ready-to-wear brand currently also showing on the couture schedule (Dolce & Gabbana, for example, now does couture, but has chosen not to be part of the chambre syndicale and the official schedule) and otherwise playing Parisian fashion politics.
And is it necessarily better for fashion overall, which is increasingly global, and where designers from one country routinely work in another (step forward, Alex Wang of New York and Balenciaga; Stella McCartney of London and Paris etc)?
Personally, I thought we were looking for a new solution to the passé ready-to-wear circuit that could re-imagine the whole thing entirely, to more accurately and efficiently reflect the end of the old, and now meaningless, seasonal and geographic definitions. Apparently, at least when it comes to Italy, I was wrong.
So which impulse will win out? The jingoistic or the egotistic? I know where my money – and hopes — lie. Anyone else hazard a bet?