The Italian fashion system, made up mostly of small and medium-sized businesses, competes with large luxury groups across the globe. Consequently, the entire supply chain, from companies to trade associations, from schools to trade fairs, needs to rely on managers and professional figures who are increasingly prepared and flexible with respect to meeting the challenges that the future poses.

This was the topic discussed during a workshop at Fashion Graduate Italy, an event dedicated to fashion training that took place in Milan from the 26th to the 29th of October. Among the speakers, all of the supply chain “actors” who are involved in the constantly evolving training process were present.

As Giulia Pirovano, chairman of the Fashion Training System Platform (Piattaforma Sistema Formativo Moda), put it: today, high-level and academic training institutions – universities and the academia – need trained professional figures with expertise in visual merchandising, marketing and fashion design, with 360-degree digital skills (from social media to e-commerce). A new figure is emerging, the “problem solver” who is able to cope with the markets’ unpredictability and changeability.

Italian schools are recognised as amongst the best in the world; however, something is slowing progress in the internationalisation of educational offer, as pointed out by Raffaello Napoleone, CEO of ‘Pitti Immagine’, namely, the difficulty for foreign students to obtain visas to come and study in Italy. This limits both the number of school enrolments, as well as the possibility to ‘export’ our country’s knowledge through these students.

Tommaso Cancellara, CEO of Micam and Executive Secretary of Assocalzaturifici, also highlighted how the footwear sector is made up of about 5,000 very small and low-turnover companies, which have so far entered the markets with scarce managerial skills, as pioneers do. Today it does not only take courage, but also specific skills and production and distribution knowledge to succeed.

Stefania Lazzaroni, Director-General of Altagamma, who observes Italian excellence from a privileged vantage point, reiterated that education is an important challenge to be able to intercept new consumers, but that there must also be a return to “doing things” because creativity is an Italian strong suit that must be preserved.

Abroad, the perception of the Italian fashion system and, therefore, of its creativity is positive, reiterated Sara Sozzani Maino, International Brand Ambassador for the Italian Chamber of Fashion. Foreign designers see Italy as a destination point, somewhere to aim to get to in order to produce their collections. Therefore, ‘Made in Italy’ is a marker of quality with a high added-value. If companies need to get themselves back in the game, then industry events must also start rethinking their role.

Massimiliano Bizzi, creator and CEO of White, is convinced that fashion should be less elitist and more open and, therefore, new exhibition formulas should be trialled. White is doing precisely this, combining the B2B and B2C formulas with initiatives open to the public.

The role of training and awareness on issues and future challenges is also the responsibility of Associations, as underscored by both Alberto Scaccioni, Executive Secretary of the Florence Centre for Italian Fashion, a body that helps companies in the internationalisation process, and Federico Brugnoli, representing Unic, who drew attention to the problem of sustainability. Gianfranco Di Natale, Director-General of Confindustria Moda, called attention to the role of the new Institution that is intended to protect the fashion production chain that is worth 95 billion euros in sales, of which 62 are exported.