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Decoded Fashion: How Luxury becomes a business on the Web

By Isabella Naef


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Internationalization, digitalization and young people, in other words new talents that can pour energy into the Italian fashion system. This is the recipe for putting the spring back into the fashion system which Jane Reeve, CEO of Cameradella Moda - the governing body of Italian style - gave the international public of Decoded Fashion last week.

Hosted in Milan for the second time, 500 people attended the event which confirmed itself as a launchpad for young people with brilliant ideas for selling clothes and accessories brands. The winner of the Fashion Pitch was Modist, the "Made in Canada" startup founded by Jamila Jamani which offers a “visual tour” for retailers, featuring content and photos taken from magazines and elsewhere.

The idea is to show anyone thinking of buying a garment how it is worn, who has bought it and so on. At the moment the app is optimized for iPad. The winner was declared by a jury consisting of, among others, Francesco Bottigliero, CEO of e-Pitti.com, the company which brought Decoded fashion to Italy, Stefano Rosso, CEO of OTB, the holding company for Diesel, Maison Martin Margiela and Marni. The winners will be at the next edition of Pitti Uomo and will meet the Diesel team, as well as Stefano and Renzo Rosso, at the company's headquarters.

Decoded fashion: a marketplace where fashion companies can compare strategies

Decoded fashion is also a marketplace where fashion companies can compare notes on their strategies. There are several funds in the audience on the hunt for promising ideas in which to invest. Unfortunately, however, foreign investors still have difficulty coming to Italy, frightened off by the taxes and the bureaucracy. “On this front there is an open dialogue with the government, which is aware that fashion is one of the drivers for the economy," Reeve explained.

“Prime minister Renzi knows textiles well and attends fashion week," added Raffaello Napoleone, chief executive of Pitti Immagine. There is no lack of young entrepreneurs or aspiring entrepreneurs on the floor. To judge from the trolleys with the airport label attached to the handle in the cloakroom and in the hall, foreigners were present in large numbers. The speeches, all strictly in English, contributed to making the atmosphere international. What gave away the identity of the Italian digital people was the large number of espresso coffees consumed at the bar set up at the entrance.

Besides the lack of ability to attract investment, another factor penalizing the fashion business in Italy emerged during the day. As Barbara Franchin, director of ITS explained, English fashion schools are perfect for attracting people from anywhere and everywhere. “The English school supports young people even before they arrive: and helps them find money to pay for tuition and books," Franchin emphasized. Then, when the course is finished, "if a person wants to start their own label they can. In England they don't just push the labels of young English people, but anyone who wants to begin producing in the country.”

Once a name has been found and production started, digital technology can do a lot. “When the brand is young it can gain young customers who pick up their tablet to order garments. There are social media platforms such as Instagram, for example, which become more important than the magazines," said Uri Minkoff, CEO of Rebecca Minkoff. If the brands have greater history and tradition, and belong to the world of luxury, as often happens with those made in Italy, however, e-commerce and social media are equally as important.

30 percent of Italian Twitter users have connections to the fashion world, explained Salvatore Ippolito, Italy country manager for Twitter. For Jarvis Macchi, global digital PR manager at Tod's: “Digital is a fantastic tool if you have a story to tell. We are not on Twitter because it is a social medium which is not suitable for the story that we want to tell.” According to Federico Barbieri, senior vice president, digital and e-business at Kering, however, “only when we begin to merge our historical background with innovation can we move forward," explained the manager, emphasizing that Kering is investing "a heap of money" on this front.

But what is the secret of calculating the benefits of investments in the web? “Online has an impact on business, but to prove it we would have to shut e-commerce down," Barbieri cut us short, stressing that to be able to ensure a top-class experience the secret is in the small data, the detail.

Decoded Fashion