Such is Giorgio Armani’s eagerness for getting back to holding physical fashion shows that not even a nasty fall resulting in a fractured shoulder and 17 stitches 20 days ago could stop him from holding his first show in 16 months on Monday evening in Milan.
Addressing the rumours that he had recently been in hospital, the 86-year-old designer explained to waiting press after taking his bow at his spring/summer 2022 menswear show that he fell down the stairs while leaving the cinema but wanted to reassure everyone that he was fine and still raring to go.
It is no surprise that Armani willed himself better. The city is, he said, “the epicentre of my world”.
Like the rest of the fashion industry, due to the pandemic the veteran designer pivoted to showing his collections in a digital format as opposed to in front of the 200+ strong crowd he is used to, but has “realised that fashion cannot survive for long in an exclusively virtual form”.
“I appreciate the importance of virtual presentations; they are useful and global,” he said. “[But] fashion needs to be seen in real life [and] I have always worked hard to make fashion for real life.”
Armani’s show brought to an end a weekend of menswear fashion week events that saw the Italian fashion industry taking its first tentative steps towards a return to fashion week as we know it since restrictions started to lift in Italy on 1 June.
Still nowhere near the usual 40-plus schedule of live shows, the schedule saw Armani, Dolce & Gabbana and Etro holding a physical show in the Italian fashion capital.
“The digital fashion show is fake,” said Domenico Dolce alongside his co-designer Stefano Gabbana, whose 94-model show on Saturday was their first since September. “It’s not a fashion show to do it digitally, between post-production and everything you lose the show. For us, the show is the moment the clothes connect with people and we [also] get a feeling of what people think about the clothes.”
Kean Etro, creative director of Etro menswear, who staged his spring/summer 2022 show at an outside location on Sunday, concurred. “You can record what you want and you can stream it, but to [really] represent yourself, we need to see each other.”
As Italy’s second largest industry with pre-Covid turnover hitting the €100bn mark, Armani said fashion week would “be fundamental” in helping the Italian economy recover following the pandemic.
“Fashion is a fundamental engine of our economy. We export everywhere, to great success … I think that a valuable fashion proposal can make the internal market flourish again, too.” Fashion week is, after all, “a part of the collective imagination as a paradigmatic story of success. Let’s not forget that designers’ ready-to-wear is entirely an Italian invention.”
Carlos Capasa, president of the Italian fashion industry’s governing body Camera Nazionale della Moda, said he was hopeful the industry was already back on the right track, predicting that 70% of the womenswear schedule in Milan this September will be physical shows.
“We lost 24% of our turnover in 2020, so from €100bn we went to €76bn. So it was severe – together with the tourism industry – we were beaten, but already in 2021 we are 17% up from 2020, so it’s possible,” he said, adding that he was less interested in “back to normal” rather back to the future.
“I’m not afraid of the numbers, I think we will go back to 2019’s numbers in 2022, but I think we should do it in a different way,” he said, citing a more responsible, respectful approach. “It needs to be slower and conscious. The new world for the next couple of years will be consciousness. Sustainability is an interesting word that says a lot but also says nothing. Consciousness is up to all of us.”