Is the fashion world really as glamorous as it seems? What lies behind the glitter of the catwalk? Can Italy hold on to its heritage of making world renowned luxury goods? We look at an Italian TV report that rocks the foundations of the fashion world and exposes its darker secrets.
Investigative reporter, Sabrina Giannini, recently conducted an in depth investigation for Rai 3, Italian TV station, into the underbelly of high fashion in Italy. She wanted to find out more about the Made in Italy label, which is a valuable part of Italy’s heritage, a guarantee to the world that a product has been created with all the culture and skill of generations of Italian artisans behind it. It has been the subject of much controversy in the fashion industry recently, as loopholes in European law allow inferior products from abroad to bear that label, eroding its validity and integrity, though most Italian fashion houses use the label to denote the quality of their brands.
In the progress of her investigation Giannini found herself blacklisted from the fashion shows and denied interviews with fashion editors, so she certainly stirred up enough dirt to cause ripples of unease in high places.
Her report, first broadcast in December 2007, looks into the nature of fashion today and unsurprisingly finds that beneath all the glamour and sparkle, high fashion is a huge commercial business. The big names dominate global markets and Milan Fashion Week, the most important event in the fashion calendar, focuses the world’s attention on Italy, inspiring a hive of frenetic activity as journalists, buyers and designers hurtle between shows, showrooms and glossy events.
One would have thought that the power of the big Italian fashion houses would have given Milan enough clout to be self-determining, but last year one phone call from American Vogue editor, Anna Wintour, (inspiration of The Devil wears Prada) was enough to get the organisers to adjust their calendar to suit her schedule, cramming the shows into four days instead of the full week, thus marginalising new small designers and turning an already busy week into mayhem. Apparently she asked Paris to do the same thing but her request was denied and she boycotted some of their shows.
What it comes down to is that, for all its elevated status, fashion is driven by money, and there are a few very influential people pulling the strings. The true spirit of fashion, fostering new talent and creativity, looking for originality, virtuosity and above all quality, is being threatened by this commercialisation, as is the integrity of the Made in Italy label, when the virtues of fine workmanship, attention to detail are made secondary to profit.