Fashion has been used, since forever, as a means of escapism, a way of transporting insiders and non to faraway lands full of beauty and creativity. From the creations of John Galliano at Dior to Alexander McQueen’s own eclectic work of arts, fashion visionaries used to bridge the gap between fashion and the arts.
As the world steered in a different direction, so did the market – and the interest in fashion. Fashion talents nowadays don’t seem to be producing collections which are as groundbreaking as before. So, what makes a young talent stand out nowadays? And how can young talents be successful nowadays in the current market?
In an interview with NOWFASHION, Giulia Pirovano, the former general manager of the Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana and new Group Market Director of Milan’s Istituto Marangoni, weighed in on the matter: “As the fashion industry and market has changed and developed, so has the role of the designer. Creativity isn’t enough nowadays.”
Because of this oversaturation of the market and the democratization of social media platforms, it is very rare to find fresh and innovative creatives or at least ones that can be compared to the groundbreaking fashion visionaries of the past.
Whilst before, although not in all cases, the role of the designer was relegated to a strictly creative and research-based position, in this day and age, designers have to be able to present themselves with a full-circle set of skills, from digital communication to teamwork and more.
“Young designers who haven’t had a structured education are used to skipping around to one thing or another too quickly,” said Pirovano. “This new generation of fashion creatives has to develop a cultural understanding of history, diversity, and sustainability in order to use it to develop innovative techniques in their line of work.”
Through the emergence and rise in popularity of social media platforms, Instagram in particular, many young creatives have been successfully selling themselves through the use of extremely curated and art directed feeds.
Social media platforms have become the double-edged sword of the fashion scene. Because of their use, they have aided the emergence of new creative communities; however, concomitantly, they have destroyed others who have been non-compliant and insensitive to important social and political issues.
Undeniably, the talents who are standing out today are the ones who have strong digital skills and know their customer really well.
In an interview on Business of Fashion, Amanda Carter, founder of communications agency Modeworld, stated that the “brands that stand out today are those with a real direction and point of view, the ones who can figure out who their audience is and who they stand for.”
When asked about what she thought of some of these digital success stories, Pirovano agreed with Carter, stating that, “I believe these occurrences are rare phenomena; however, I really admire designers like Virgil Abloh at Off White or Francesco Ragazzi at Palm Angels because of their interesting and non-traditional stories and because they were able to use storytelling as a means to create their own path towards success.”
Yet, apart from a few standout rare cases (take, for example, the popularity of the Medea bag by the Venturini sisters) which can be counted on the fingers of one hand, why aren’t Italian talents emerging today? Fashion companies abroad produce so much in Italy, and the peninsula, after all, is renowned for its artistic heritage and its artisanal expertise.
“It isn’t true that we don’t have great talents in Italy, but young creatives rise more successfully to fame abroad because they don’t have to compete with a variety of institutional brands which have been around for a very long time,” Pirovano stated. “And the markets are different as well. Take the American market, for example – when realities like Saks or Bergdorfs decide to stock a young designer in their department stores, they make their immediate fortune because they have at least 70 to 150 locations all over the country.”
Italy’s market has also been monopolised by these institutional brands who, with their capital power in the world of communication, are able to transmit their potency everywhere.
It is rare for non-Gen Z customers to invest in young designers unless they are one-of-a-kind pieces. This is also why, most often, even if a talented designer emerges in the Italian market, unless it is supported economically by its family or a backer, it will struggle to survive.
Although it is admittedly harder for young talents to emerge in Italy, Pirovano has a positive outlook: “Because of recent cases like Sunnei, GCDS, and Palm Angels, I am positive that slowly more and more designers will arise.”