The coronavirus has come for Fashion Week, but Fashion Week is unbowed. With the 2020 edition of show season going all-digital, the key designers talk us through how they've adapted to showing clothes in a world where showing clothes is (almost) impossible.
What’s been the biggest challenge with producing a lockdown fashion ‘film’?
Your inverted commas around ‘film’ suggest the answer! This Milan Digital Fashion Week is a first for us – and everybody else in the community – and like them we had to work out what we wanted to articulate, and how. We had to cook up a fresh recipe.
What’s been the biggest opportunity?
Making that recipe. We decided not to focus on one collection. We will show Spring Summer 2021 menswear in September, when we hope it will be absolutely safe to have a show. Instead, we tried to make a film that encapsulates what Salvatore Ferragamo is all about – from the heritage of innovation and entrepreneurship created by Salvatore himself when he struck out for the US as a young man and became Hollywood’s go-to shoe maker, back to the workshops here in Italy he came home to found, through to our current mission to consistently innovate, train and employ the best young craftspeople in Italy, to forwarding our sustainability practice – and make the most beautiful shoes, bags and clothes in the world (at least we think so) .
What non-fashion skills have you picked up during lockdown?
Most of all: cooking. My Ottolenghi books were in good condition back in February. Now, they are now all dog-eared and flecked with sauce stains. I was alone during lockdown so got seriously into improving my skills in the kitchen.
How have you seen the Milan fashion community come together in the past few months?
Well we are based in Florence – also the home of Pitti Uomo – which is part of the broader fashion community. There was a point in April when there were serious doubts about the ability of the tens of thousands of small artisanal companies that are the life-blood of the Made In Italy ecosystem to continue operating after the lockdown. And there was a concerted effort amongst the entire network to protect each other and return to work – when it became possible – safely and responsibly. What I would say also is that the stereotype is that fashion is a bitchy, competitive place to be. Sometimes it can be. But in the last few months, my experience here has been that people have been kind to each other.
Is this a watershed moment for the fashion industry?
I think if you treat it as a watershed moment it’s all to0 easy to wait a few months and say ‘OK, the moment has passed, no watershed really happened, let’s continue as before’. That’s a recipe for ultimate failure. The coronavirus and its effects amplified many things across many different societies. It showed us a lot about ourselves, and while we were in lockdown we had the time to take those lessons on. I think the 2020s are going to be a decade of positive change and social evolution, and I want Salvatore Ferragamo to be a part of it. I like the notion of ‘human sustainability’ – we need to think about progress as profit.
Favourite Milanese or Milan-based designer at the moment?
Lots! There are the Titans, like Giorgio Armani or Miuccia Prada who have defined parts of the language of fashion: not talking about them is like visiting London without visiting Buckingham Palace or Tate Modern. But Milan isn’t a top-heavy fashion city, and there are many younger independent designers making great work. These aren’t people I know personally, but I admire what Sunnei are doing, and I like Arthur Abesser’s womenswear, and I like Edward Buchanan’s knitwear and his vision. Those are just a few.
What advice would you give to fashion graduates who want to set up a fashion business?
Follow what you’re passionate about, be willing to learn, and don’t expect success. You’ve got to work like a dog, and be lucky too.
Street style is impossible this year. That a good or a bad thing?
It can’t be a bad thing if there’s even the slightest chance of it being unsafe, that’s for sure. It’s a bit like face masks: there is a chance that not wearing them might make people less safe, but no chance that wearing them might make people more unsafe. So why not wear them? Street style can wait.
What kind of role do you think a fashion show will play in five years' time?
A fashion show is a key moment at which a collection and the world it has been designed for make first contact. That pollination can be seeded online, but it has to happen in person and ideally be witnessed by an audience, which adds energy and life to the moment. I think as technology develops the fashion show will develop, but that fashion shows will continue.
What has been your favourite show of all time?
I’m not sure if my contract with Salvatore Ferragamo allows me to say. Joking! How about Plato’s Atlantis by Alexander McQueen? That was a consummate fashion show in that it augured the rise of technology in society, it was moving and unsettling, the clothes were incredible. And oh yes, the shoes were very special indeed.
In a money-and-physics-no-object world, talk us through your dream fashion show.
Well if I could bend the rules of time, space and our accounting department I would create a fashion show that somehow communicated all the handiwork, mental energy, and technical ingenuity that goes into creating a single collection, as well as the collection itself. A sort of time-travel time lapse experience that allows you to see every aspect of the pieces and their creation. And the party afterwards would be an all nighter.
Who makes it onto the perfect front row?
People who pay attention, and have a point of view, and a curiosity. What we make is at a very exclusive level in that it’s very, very good and thought through. But in terms of who we invite to engage with us, well that door is open!
Who are your fashion heroes?
The people I learnt from; Alexander Mcqueen, Narciso Rodriguez, and Donna Karan. Plus Salvatore Ferragamo – the Steve Jobs of footwear –and Karl Lagerfeld. Oh, and Calvin Klein.
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