Italy

There’s an interesting report in the FT today about declining sales of China’s local-brand cars, and it’s got me thinking about the benefits and problems of “national” brands – which is to say, not state-owned brands, but rather the perceptions surrounding the name of a country, ie its own brand, when attached to product, and the way this can work for and against manufacturers. Blame it on the Made in Italy and Made in France strategy the luxury industry so cannily implemented back in the day (a recent BCG/Altagamma/Sanford Bernstein Global Consumer Insight study found a whopping 80% of consumers think “Made in is key”) but seems to me, when it comes to consumers, products don’t just have to be good, they have to somehow come to grips with national stereotype, and either neuter it or exploit it. But what they can’t do is ignore it. Read more

Kiev was burning and in Milan, Jeremy Scott made his debut at Moschino with a series of bad jokes. This is not the non sequitur it might first appear. Mr Scott could not have known, of course, when he was designing his riff on Moschino/McDonald’s – his pun on fast food and fast fashion realised in red and yellow bourgeois suiting complete with golden arches-cum-hearts or Sponge Bob yellow and black polka dots, his evening silks with junk food prints, his gold-chain-bedecked quilted leather mini suits – what would be going on in the world when it was shown. But that does not matter.

You know what they say: if the mountain won’t go to Muhammad….After building enormous flagships, after importing elaborate couture shows, fashion has entered yet another stage in its relationship with that great source of sales, China: tomorrow the Istituto Marangoni, aka one of the most important fashion schools in European luxury (alma mater, for example, of Domenico Dolce and Franco Moschino), is announcing the creation of a Shanghai outpost.
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As I was leaving Italy after Milan Fashion Week, I was chatting to Guglielmo Miani, the young-ish CEO of Larusmiani, a family-owned manufacturer of luxurious materials, when he let drop an interesting fact. Last week the Italian government quietly changed the law it passed in November that banned retail establishments from accepting more than €1,000 in cash. Surprise!

What changed?

Now, retail establishments have no limit on the cash they can accept from foreigners, as long as they take a photocopy of said foreigner’s passport. I’ll say that again: no limit. Italians are still restricted to €1,000. Read more