28 February 2010

LIFE: Passion for Fashion

SARONNO, Italy - The Mayor of Milan, Letizia Moratti, is mad. Furious, actually.

“Nobody, not even Anna Wintour, has the power to change our fashion calendar,” she snapped to reporters a few days ago.

It’s Fashion Week in Milan, five days of non-stop fashion shows, fashion parties, fashion dinners, and now fashion controversy. The problem is that Anna Wintour shortened her trip to Milan by two days, throwing the Italian fashion industry into a tizzie. If you don’t recognize the name, Wintour is Editor in Chief of Vogue Magazine and the “devil” who inspired the book “The Devil Wears Prada”.

With Vogue the most important fashion magazine out there these days many Made in Italy designers were scrambling to re-scheduled their runway shows for the last two days of the week. But every even remotely acceptable venue was already overbooked, not to mention the models, hairdressers, make-up artists and stylists. And so another layer of stress was added to the milieu.

So was la Wintour satisfied? Apparently not.

"This is absolutely crazy,” said Mario Boselli, the president of the National Chamber of Italian Fashion. “She wants designers to schedule their shows during the three days she will be in town."

“We should just say no. Italian fashion rules the world and no one can take that away from us," added Saverio Moschillo, the deputy chairman of the Italian Fashion Association after la Wintour failed to show up for his Haute collection.

To make matters worse, Mayor Moratti decided to ban all auto traffic in Milan on Sunday, a solution Italian cities often use to reduce air pollution. 

When Fashion Week organizers heard that bit of news they began bouncing off the walls. In a desperate, last minute plea they finally convinced the Milan town council to grant journalists, buyers, florists and others attending Sunday’s shows, special permission to drive into the city.

It’s hard to fathom just how big an industry fashion is here in Italy. In Milan it is super important and super intense. The country’s economy revolves around the Made in Italy label and Milan is at the epicenter of this world. What happens on these streets determines the failure or success of a large number of industries up and down the Italian peninsula, and in these days of global business, also around the world.

Traders on the Milan stock market scrupulously follow the fashion shows and design trade shows. Il Sole 24 Ore, Italy’s number one financial newspaper, runs a special fashion section each week, and Milan is home to an international news service dedicated solely to the fashion industry. Who’s lunching with Krizia and who’s having dinner with Giorgio are not just items for the gossip mill, but serious industry indicators.

The end-of-the-year figures are staggering. Design houses report income in the billions of dollars and fashion brands earning mere millions are a dime a dozen. It’s a town of handshakes and back slapping that goes on behind mountains of fluffy tulle and soft silk organza. It’s a multi-billion dollar a year kissy-kissy business conducted with kid gloves, in the latest fashion color of course.

Milan’s Fashion Week runs from February 24 to March 2. Be glad you are not here

Photos: (1) Donatella and Santo Versace, Feruccio and Massimo Ferragamo with Emaunuel Ungaro, Missoni family, Miuccia Prada with husband and sons, Diego delle Valle and his family. (2) Massimo and Alberta Ferretti

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