#NUMERORUSSIADIGITALFASHION 002 Carlo Capasa
Updated: Sep 24, 2019
Four years ago you became the president of The Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana and said that sustainability, digitalization and new brands are the main pillars of your strategy. Why did you choose exactly these three positions?
I have always used to work in fashion. I had a brand with my brother, Costume National. When I arrived here in The Camera della Moda, when they decided to have me as president, CEO, I thought that I want to implement one vision: to have a real program now just a year to do something. Then I asked myself about what is really important for me and for fashion today? I decided that it is the future. And what is the future of fashion? The first word came to my mind was sustainability. Sustainability, diversity and all these parts of something we have to face today. That is all about the chemical and the environmental questions, about our planet, it is also about human being and social sustainability, it is about difference, about integration of all the people in the world: different men, women, different sex, religion etc.
You’re talking about respect.
Yes, about respecting the difference. It was, for sure, very important for me, I have always thought about the future. Then I thought about the second pillar: education and new brand. We cannot imagine the future if there won’t be education, it is at the base of everything and, of course, of new brands. Then there was the third point. What is the future? Of course it is all around the digital and digitalization. When I started, Italy was not advanced in it. But I knew for fashion it is the future language and also platform to implement the way to walk inside and outside. I also added another, one more, pillar it was storytelling, because if we won’t tell the storytelling behind, then people won’t even understand what we’ve done. The storytelling helps to understand what we do, helps to tell our rules, because without strong rules you cannot imagine the future. And so this was the program.
Okay. Regarding digitalization, the most popular thing everyone is talking about, how does it impact in the fashion industry right now? Do you find it more helpful or more harmful for the industry?
I don’t like to judge the time we are living, otherwise you always stand to say “all the past was better” and I don’t like that. I think we should always look forward to the future. For sure there are some good points and some bad points, as at any time we live. Talking about digitalization, the big difference is that before there was an intermediation between journalists, buyers and you: you made clothing or brand and they said to the people what your message was and sold to the consumers what you wanted to show and sell. Today everything is more direct: you can talk directly to your community, to the people, to your consumers. I prefer to call them community than consumers. This makes a big difference in terms of creation. You don’t create for press people or byers, but you create for your community. The way you show what you do a narration, the storytelling, it products itself. You had to think that this product was already content of storytelling, before there was a product and then there was the storytelling. Today you think about the product in terms of which storytelling are behind to get them with it. And this is the work with your community. There is no distance between communication and product, they work together, they are the parts of each other, and each of them is the part of one unique. What about good aspects of digitalization? The very best aspect is a good and close relation with your community. The second aspect is the organization inside of your company, because using all the digital means to be much faster in the production, much faster in internal communication of the company. The time is getting shorter and digitalization makes your company, your program, your strategy much faster and it is also something different than before. Nowadays you are extremely responsible for what you do. Before you could say, that you did your work well, but the journalists interpreted its not in the right way, that's why the customer didn’t understand the message. Now you are talking directly, so, you are responsible for your actions, for your creation and stories.
Regarding consumers, the Millennials are coming now. They will be the biggest part of consumers in the future and nowadays everyone tries to understand the secret of this generation. Did you already find some understanding of that?
I am not sure if it is the secret, but I have my ideas about that. I think that, first of all, the difference is geographic, in the Geography. Before we used to work a lot with Europe and the United States. Today we cooperate more with China, still United States, and all new countries coming into the industry. There is a new generation of Millennials, it is like another country, different than before and the consumers are different: with a different culture, a different attitude, a different relation to the goods. This is a huge difference for me because those consumers' point of view to a product completely changed. I have one clear good sample to show how different it is. Sometimes people think that new generation wants to spend less, but it is not true. They just evaluate the goods they buy in another way. Here is one good example: you have to spend 1500 Euro, what would you prefer a handmade shoe, made in London, really good handmade shoe, e.g. John Lobb’s, or you will choose a limited edition Nike’s, for the same price, 1500 Euro. I would say, surely, handmade shoe, but the Millennials without any doubt will choose the limited edition Nike’s. This means they are ready to spend the same amount of money, but they give a different value to the product. And the value for Millennials is product is a part of the community, it must be something the community accepted as really cool, but quite difficult to get. They like the idea that the product is limited, but still, it’s a part of brand that everybody knows or a shoe that everybody knows or project that everybody knows. Or maybe it is even the shoe that famous singer use, in this case they won’t even care how much it costs. The point is they want something that is cool, part of what they perceive as cool, and it is different from what our generation perceives is cool. It is a very different approach and you have to be more connected to this generation, to understand what they really like and what they don’t like, what they think is cool and what they think is not cool. Cool is the right one.
Great Millenniums’ portrait! The Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana focuses on the innovations in fashion. Which innovations in your opinion are the most important to install?
For me it is all about sustainability. I think it is impossible to innovate for the future without innovations for sustainability. Our planet is getting destroyed, all the resources, we will use by 20, August 2019, are the one-year resources of the Earth. This means that four months of 2019 more we will use the resources of the next year. In 1970 it was a year when we used exactly the same amount of resources that means it was the last year of balance and then we started to use the resources meant for the future, more and more. If you work in the fashion industry you have to think about the future, you have to understand that the beauty cannot exist without something ethical. Aesthetic without ethics become something very mannered, not so cool. In case of creating something cool today, you have to think more in an ethical way. To be ethical you need to respect the planet, to think about the new generation's future, to explain the idea that we should always respect the people and what is happening in the planet. I believe that if the years from 2010 to 2020 were the years of digital then years from 2020 to 2030 are the years of the sustainability.
That’s why you created these rules of eco-friendly companies. How does it work with brands?
It starts to work better and better. At the beginning, we were all a little bit afraid, it was so suffering and difficult, if we do will find we a sustainable fabric, how can we be sure that the people will work in a right way. There were many difficult issues and they are still such, but when we started this, we immediately understood how hard would it be, but we also knew we can do it. For example, in Italy the only industry reduces the irregular work in the last years is fashion. Our irregular workers are little by little reducing in the last three years, 16%. This is something important, this means that fashion work to reduce irregular workers, to control better the chain: contractors, subcontractors etc. It is almost a revolution, but this is proving that we can do it. It is difficult, very difficult, but we can. What do we need? First of all we need some guidelines, some rules. We have 10 different sustainable departments for different issues: chemicals, production, environment protection, human sustainability, animal's wellness, etc. All we are trying to do is to sit altogether, all the brands, the experts of all the brands, and once a year to make this round table opened to the entire world. Thereby all the brands from every place in the world can come to talk with us, to give their the contribute. At the present time we have finished the chemical production process, pollution of the environment, now we start to work on the transparent economy issue, reuse and recycle issues and questions about social sustainability. When this would be quite complete you would know what is good to do and what is not. So-called sustainable law. And we will also try to make this very clear to the consumers; we need to make clear what is sustainable and what is not. We are trying; anyway it is good at least to start. But we want to do a lot and to explain that fashion is the business that took this aspect seriously. I hope that also fast fashion will go that direction. Because at the moment fast fashion is a big problem for the sustainability. They pollute the environment more by the using of synthetics and more frequent production, but they recycle not so much. They are very far from standards and especially very far from the social standards, because I cannot imagine that I will wear T-shirt that was produced by people who got paid not enough, even if the price would be very low. Unfortunately, it happens extremely very often. I want the brands, also fast fashion, to become responsible for all chain: from the production start to the final goods. Probably the product will cost more, because something sustainable is more expensive. But if you want to make it more sustainable you should pay attention to chemicals and to the quality of production, also to environment effect, to all the social interests of the workers. I think it is better to pay a little bit more, but to be sure that quality is high. This I my strong belief and vision of the future, I want fashion to become something that we should not ashamed of. Of course you want to make profit, but you have to feel proud of working in the fashion industry, making some clothing and not to feel shame.
Which is the biggest achievement in your life?
Well, it is difficult, but for myself personally, it is when you realize your dream.
Did you realize your dream?
Every day I have new dreams. I realize some, but you know, when you realize the dream it is not the dream anymore, and then you again need new another dream. It is a never-ending story about dreams, this makes the life and the human being interesting. As I said my dream at the moment is to push the sustainability very much, to push education, because better education makes a better world, a better society. I think today there is a lack of education in the world. I think we should stimulate the sphere of education. Undoubtedly, you can make any laws and any rules, but if the man doesn’t have an education he will not even understand them. I think we should really insist on the improvement of the education for all the people in the world. And when we will have that, everything will become easier. Also, as the other conditions that we have on the planet. Everyone on our planet must have a chance to get the education. We have to fight against discrimination and the difference between people. Yes, my dream today is the sustainability improvement, education support, giving a space to a new generation. We talk so much about “Generation Z”, our new generation. Do we give them enough space? I think, in Europe, we don't. I think the reason why the Asian and American consumers are much younger, is because they get much more space from the society. In Europe we tend to keep the space and not to give it so much to the new generation, but in my opinion it is really nice to give. I have one good story about that. In Italy in the 1960-1970’s we had a really strong movie movement. In the 1980’s there was born new generation directors from the previous and then there appeared the kind of a hole, there was no any good directors anymore. Why? Because the generation of the 1980’s directors did not give a chance to the vice-directors. They used them, but they have never promoted them. Whereas in the 1960-1970’s when the director had a good deputy, he on the contrary helped him to make a new movie. They helped them to come out. In the 1990’s, this didn’t happen, the new generation of moviemakers didn’t give any space to the new generation. Therefore, we have a kind of a hole. Now new directors have to start with themselves. The older one does not push them; there is no generosity from the previous generation. I believe that it is really good to be generous. Fortunately, in fashion, there is still this good idea of giving space to new talents. Very often we see some aspiring designer working for the experienced designer then they become bigger, and the second one help to form the new talent, to shape it. But not everywhere it is like that. In Italy in many industries new young people stay forever. They never get a space and never get promoted. This happens mostly in Europe, not just in Italy. My dream is to give new generation more space, to give new talents the chance, because they deserve it.
Was it your dream to be one of 500 the most influential people in the Fashion World?
No, this just happened. Honestly, I didn’t even expect it. It happened before I dreamed it. But it is nice to think that you have some influence, this gives you more opportunities to realize your ideas, to have a voice. Especially if you have special ideas, which are useful for the planet, for the people, for new generation, it is good indeed. I like this possibility, but it was not a dream.
We know you and your brother, Ennio, worked together. Which role do you play in your team? As I believe you are the team players.
We have always had very great relations. We are brothers and also friends, and this is very nice, not always it happens like that. We are different; Ennio is obsessed by creation, by product. You can give him a piece of fabric and he during all the day will be making a jacket. His dream is about creating something. Ennio studied at Arts High School, then at College and then he went to the Academy. He can sculpt, he can draw, he is a real artist and he likes to use his hands. Ennio is one who can create something with his hands. I am mostly a planner; I pay attention to marketing communication, ideas, general image of an organization, something like that. This worked very well, I have always been more theoretical and he was more practical. For me it was very stimulating to have somebody beside me, who have always surprised with his talent. This was a good connection.
Both of us have never been so good on a practical process organization: you have to be there, you have to check how it works. We have never been there to care very much about that things. That was our weak point. We have never liked this, we have been always more conceptual. Our strong point was to have a very advanced vision, greatly related with a future of society.
One special question, there are three cities that pretend to be the capitals of the fashion. Why Milan is the best?
Honestly, I think that Milan and Paris are the best for different reasons. If you think Milan started to develop fashion industry not many years ago, in the 70’s, you are mistaken, definitely earlier. Formerly Milan was in a row with all the ateliers, florists’ studios, etc. Milan started with prêt-à-porter, basically. There was a really innocence of Milan and innocence of Italy, but it felt the spirit of Milan. The main idea was to make something very nice-looking, good quality, that people can wear, but still creative. Not so easy. In France it was more about creation something really gorgeous, it doesn’t matter if people could wear it or not, but it would be the brand. And this was a big difference because this was created and pushed by the industry. The industry in Italy made bags, shoes and clothes very special. To make them special is to sell them, not just to put them in a museum. They are expensive and unique, but they need to be sold. This is typical prêt-à-porter; it makes Italy a very unique place. Thus much unique that now all the brands, even French, English, or American brands, want to produce goods in Italy. Because Italy is the only capital that produce very high quality and at the same time creative. It is the philosophy of Italia. That's why we created one special story about the Italian fashion industry. Italians a very individualistic. How can you create something when you are very individual? Here is a company of ten people, but they will never merge with another group of ten people because they are two different families. How can you create the system in this case? In Italy it divided by the districts. In one district you make shoes: someone makes the Heels, one other makes Tomaya, another – La Suola, etc. This creates areas in Italy, where everybody is individual but work altogether to the projects. What would it be in case of integration of the artisan and the industry? This makes Italy very creative and very flexible. If you want to make fifty shoes – no problem, you want to make five thousand shoes – no problem anyway. We will unite more industries together. If you want to make a show the day after tomorrow and you need a special finish of the jacket, a special fabric, a special color – we can make it too we are flexible and efficient. You will always find somebody to do anything special.
We are Numéro team and our slogan is to innovate the fashion. What could you advice to our small team?
I think you are making a progress. I really like the idea of your magazine’s form, the capsule collection numbers. It is very modern, because today we are living in a world that is a flat, innocence, and exactly because of that you need capsule, you need some specific points of view. The idea of the capsule collection dedicates to some specific point of views, to specific ideas. I also encourage you to work digitally. Work on the disintermediation, by creating your own community, that even when the brand pass through you, being oneself, but becoming also a little bit Numéro. I find it very nice that you help the new generation to develop. As more you support education and maintain sustainability, then more you are modern. And this also applies to your magazine; it gives some space new brands and young people, give some contribute to the education. To my mind it is the pillar of the fashion's future. I think periodicals like yours could be a part of that.