The international influence of Italian brands is once again on the rise, and though the Italian economy stuttered in 2017, Milan as a fashion capital had a knock-out year. Donatella Versace’s supermodel tribute to her late brother Gianni went viral back in September while Gucci continues its triumphant resurgence. Like-for-like sales at the Florentine company were up 49.4 percent in the third quarter of 2017 (the latest data available), accelerating from growth of 39.3 percent three months earlier. Earlier this year, Pierpaolo Picciolo received a standing ovation for his most recent couture collection at Valentino, as he continues to establish himself as a singular talent, while Miuccia Prada has returned to memorable form in recent seasons.
Although many Italian companies are still comparatively young — the majority were created after WWII, most after 1975 — and are still led by their founders, or their founder’s relatives, Italy has 11 brands that report over €1 billion in revenue. That figure is set to jump to 12 once Versace crosses that revenue threshold, as expected. Despite this high density of billion-euro brands, the Italian fashion industry is notable for its lack of consolidation. Italy is yet to produce a conglomerate of the scale of LVMH, Richemont and Kering. Renzo Rosso’s Only the Brave Group, which controls Diesel and Maison Margiela is however expanding, acquiring Marni in 2015 and accessories brand Paula Cademartori in 2016.
With its mixture of established global mega-brands and emerging talent like Arthur Arbesser and Stella Jean, fashion career opportunities in Italy are diverse and unique to the country. Its rare blend of craft and commerce combined with la dolce vita have made building a career in Milan, Rome and Florence an increasingly attractive proposition, with applications to Italy growing by 15 percent in 2017.
What is a fashion person? I thought I knew but that changed when I listened to a recent Fashion Talks podcast on luxury. Retail wizard Nicholas Mellamphy and Globe and Mail contributor Nathalie Atkinson were each explaining how their interest in fashion came about, when Mellamphy declared, ”I don’t identify myself as a fashion person.”
Mellamphy is one of Canada’s most highly regarded fashion insiders. As creative director of Hudson’s Bay’s The Room, he transformed the moribund department into one of the country’s most exciting fashion destinations with fresh labels such as Mary Katrantzou, Christopher Kane and Delpozo. When he left that post, he was courted by luxury merchants from New York to Dubai, but decided instead to launch his own soon-to-be retail concept in Toronto. He attended the couture shows in Paris in January. And he has appeared on the Toronto Life Best-Dressed list.
Like Mellamphy, I have spent all of my career on the frontlines of where trends are born. In my former roles as a newspaper fashion editor and magazine editor-in-chief, I reported and shaped the news. I am fascinated by innovation, whether I personally decide to embrace a new look or not. And I love following fashion as sport. Keeping an eye on which designer is knocking it out of the park and who should be benched is part of staying current.
I have loved clothes as far back as I can remember, right back to the candy-striped cotton bikini I wore when I was 2. I have a clear memory of the leopard-spotted corduroy pants I wore in kindergarten (and wish they still fit!). And I still have the shift my uncle brought back from Africa when I was 6 because the exotic embroidery was heftier than any I had ever felt. While other kids were blowing their allowance on candy, I was buying Vogue.
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