THE GENERATIONAL TRANSITION IN FASHION
The changes in Fashion in anticipation of generational changes
‘Real fashion change comes from real changes in real life. Everything else is just decoration.’
The History of Fashion and Customs has origins similar to those of the birth of man and only in part can it be considered the mere need to cover ourselves to survive the climate with leathers, fabrics and materials worked in order to then be worn. Clothes, or whatever is necessary to cover our own bodies, right from the period immediately after Prehistory, assumed a precise social function, with the aim of distinguishing roles in the community, social classes as well as belongings to the family, administrative, military or sacerdotal sphere of a community and the relative modulations of tasks, roles and importance.
It is therefore appropriate to immediately reach a conclusion: Fashion was one of the first elements to define the factors of Generational Transition in the context of a society. Let’s study in detail just exactly how.
Fashion. What is its primary meaning? The term, with Latin etymology, indicated a modus, or a manner, a norm, a rule but also a time, a tune, a rhythm and finally a mode, a guise, a discretion. Still today, the intrinsic meaning at the root of the term continues to be used in our language and defines a wide range of conventions that not only relate purely to clothes. Fashion and Customs and their history have proven, over the years, to be instruments of great importance for the study of society, of the Economy, of the History of Art, of Communication. To fully understand an Era – whatever it might be – of any latitude and longitude, one of the key factors is to focus our attention on the fashions of that particular period. These have always been constantly evolving factors: their transformation, year after year, season after season, marks the passage of time for each society, becoming a sort of illustrated, tangible and real chronological line.
A constant still exists in the time flow of Fashion: past eras are characterised by more traditional and rigid fashions, by counter-culture trends, while the fashion of the moment is the one that breaks the previous moulds, it is its direct evolution or its countertrend. There is a common ground between these characteristics: society is the alpha and omega term for the path of Fashion and, within this channel, it is possible to recognise what links desires and the need for subjective expression within a wider group.
Fashion is recognisability.
Fashion is also belonging to a section of society which one is part of or from which you want to distance yourself or even to which you are striving to be part of. Remember that Fashion understood as symbol in ancient times was the prerogative of the wealthier classes, in particular due to the high cost of the fabrics and colours – derived from the mineral, animal and vegetable extraction – and until the Nineteenth Century clothes were precious goods, enough to enter by right the bequests of wills.
The refinement found in the higher classes was offset by the use of rougher clothing, of neutral – inexpensive – or natural colours, by unrefined materials, matched with wooden or cloth shoes. A submarket of used clothes existed that were repurchased by the same population with no financial means that went beyond sustenance.
From generation to generation, therefore, Fashion has generated a sort of silent code, however immediately clear and, almost paradoxically, noisy.
‘It’s a new era in fashion – there are no rules. It’s all about the individual and personal style.’
The statement of the British stylist Alexander McQueen is timeless, as the subversion of the rules of a previous era – near or far – is one of the main characteristics in the History of Fashion. From this perspective, therefore, Fashion is a symptom of a need for progression – that doesn’t always align with progress – that seeks on the one hand to change the status quo, in short the fashions that no longer match the collective hic et nunc sentiment, and on the other to search a new pentagram on which to create a harmony in the unknown of the ‘not yet’ or in the suitability of the ‘revival’.
Isn’t this perhaps what happens in the Generational Transition of a company?
The ‘before’ is abandoned, slipping into an ‘after’ that is able to borrow capital elements from the past, while changing their characteristics for an actualisation or a shift into the future.
‘Don’t be into trends. Don’t make fashion own you, but you decide what you are, what you want to express by the way you dress and the way to live.’
‘Be the one to decide who you are.’ Can the same be said in the case of an entrepreneurial Generational Transition?
What are the mechanisms that fall within the transition process that express and include the needs a company, a board of directors and employees or consultants of a business?
Probably, during this long study of ours on the metaphor of the Generational Transition outside the company, undertaken by Jaumann as a study of an extra entrepreneurial conditio, the ‘chapter’ dedicated to Fashion is the most appropriate – ça va sans dire – in the wake of a binary allegory. If indeed other focuses, such as those regarding Art, Design or Cinema have outlined a rather large map and of wide spectrum conceptual origin, what we have is the universe linked to Fashion appearing to be subject and object of this research.
In modern times, from the end of the 19th Century to today, the Generational Transition relating to Fashion has been both a transition in terms of customs and habits, and an evolution and change of society and businesses, a kind of change and development within a company, very often family-run, in which the generations and their alternation have tangibly marked the history of the brand.
Underpinning the evolution in the History of Fashion what exists, besides what defined as a ‘necessity’, is a true ideology of aesthetics that has a collective character and in which the value of the unicum becomes apparent and whose phenomenologies in various ways define the importance of a transformation.
History is the offspring of needs, of necessities, of desires and dreams, like Art and as each expression generated by the urgency of man to bring testimony to the surface, both of his own feelings and of his own presence but also of his own subjective contribution to the well-being of the community. If the artist, the designer and the director are prominent figures of what is happening in the universe of ideas translated into reality, at the same time, a bright entrepreneur will know how to intercept and satisfy personal aspirations, of their own company identity, of their collaborators and of their clients.
The stylist, the couturier or the patron of a Fashion house – in the same scheme of roles covered by the companies cited in the previous chapters – in equal measure cover that necessary skill from where something ideal becomes real, translating fantasies but also urgencies of the public and of the population.
Clearly, needs dictate certain rules, encapsulated in a number of apparently simple combinations. Hot|Cold, Occasion|Representations, Chic|Cheap, Cool|Vintage, and so on. Alongside these paradigms – always flexible and flowing like the human body and like the fabrics designed to envelop it – clothing relates to a linked symbolism whose roots, sometimes mysterious and ancestral, have both the ability to remain faithful to themselves and to the rules of which they are emanation and to allow themselves to be influenced. One of the recognisable peculiarities of the History of Fashion is undoubtedly the influence that a habit, a distinctive tradition of a place or of a group, undergoes thanks to the knowledge of cultures different from one’s own or due to the development or renewal within the temporal sphere.
This process dates back to ancient times and many changes and innovations have impacted fashion thanks to the interrelation between different and even opposing peoples. As such, if the History of Fashion is an eternal succession of experiments, innovations, trends and cultural melting pots. It is also true that rarely does fashion completely abandon its own roots, due to to a sort of unconscious nostalgia for its own hidden and primal baggage.
Fashion, then, is a sort of composite puzzle, consisting of tens, hundreds of pieces that refer to subjective and collective desires, a communion of intentions or the will to stand out; it also involves a narrative or symbolic medium of a main message, of an ideology; moreover, any item of clothing carries a story with it: choosing a garment is a statement, it is a visible expression of an inner cosmogony.
‘What you wear is how you present yourself to the world, especially today when human contacts go so fast. Fashion is instant language.’
Leaping back into the past, a first Generational Transition in Fashion or rather in its History can already be recognised in Palaeolithic times, essentially when, added to the simple use of animal skins as covers, prehistoric man began to drape the skins in the shape of garments with which to wrap themselves, obtaining replicable ‘models’ thanks to the use of ‘needles’ made from bone fragments: through these intuitions, a significant change was witnessed and the furs, from shapeless covers suitable for protection against the cold, were transformed into elements that were chosen, processed and ‘stitched’ in such a way as to adapt them to the physical structures of the various bodies. The generational leap appears clearer in Neolithic times: during this period, the progress that witnessed the first construction of looms allowed the creation of fabric clothes, mainly of linen and wool, thanks to the warp and weft.
Starting from the uses of the Middle Eastern populations, in particular with the Phoenicians – 1st millennium B.C. – the introduction of hemp, cotton, silk and fine linen, as well as the purple dye of the fabrics, a pigment obtained from the drying of murex, involved a gradual leaving behind of animal skins, giving way to greater care of the garment: technical innovation had led to a fundamental development and made it necessary for improvement also to exhibit clothes as a sign of belonging to a group: the climatic and environmental conditions, from this point forward, began to be accompanied by the characteristics of the different social conditions.
‘Clothes mean nothing until someone lives in them’.
With the passing of time, and naturally in the examples presented, this involves very wide time spans with respect to what we are used to today – what became increasingly clear was the intention of people to improve and innovate their own ‘wardrobe’; this pushed the ancient populations to create a business that was not only food-based but which was also linked to the trading of products connected to fashion, leathers, pigments of various types, minerals and precious stones.
476 A.D. witnessed the Fall of the Western Roman Empire and the start of the Middle Ages that, despite being known as a time that was dark and closed, still continued to attribute to fashions a certain importance, the prerogative, however, only of the noble, high ecclesiastical and military, with a marked difference between East and West: if in Europe, in particular, a significant reduction in the interest in fashion was perceived, in Asia and North Africa, a great deal of attention for this character of the human invention and of the aesthetic representation was fostered.
In any case, again, technology and its evolution facilitated improvements and led to an impressive development of textile working: the invention, use and dissemination of tailoring tools, such as scissors and metal needles, allowed all swathes of the population to access clothes, even if not of high quality, thus generating of sort of a common level of recognisability.
‘The customs and fashions of men change like leaves on the bough, some of which go and others come.’
The following centuries would bring with them important transformations. In the Fourteenth Century, for example, buttons and shoelaces were introduced, the use of linen and tailoring essentially grew, thus allowing the creation of more complex patterns, such as draped dresses, shaped models and linear seams.
The Fifteenth Century is undoubtedly the century of social affirmation of weavers, tailors, fabric and pigment merchants and cloth merchants – called strazzaroli in certain Italian cities – who gained social, economic and even political importance. Velvets, brocades, laces, stockings and caps appeared in fashion, elements of excellent and precious workmanship, whose production increased at the same time as the economic growth and the artisanal production techniques.
Century after century, the Generational Transition in the universe of Fashion has acquired considerable value, becoming practices and an opportunity for social translation.
The excursus continues and reaches the Sixteenth Century in which the pomp exhibited through clothing was the ideal and aesthetic representation of wealth and power, noble, economic, military and political. In the upper middle classes, it was even the case that clothes were intended to be merely ornamental in their function rather than having a practical use while in the lower classes garments were enriched with functional arts and crafts elements.
The Seventeenth Century marked a new evolution: in the court in addition to the nobles, also ladies, chamberlains, guards and artists were provided with precious uniforms, often multicoloured and sought after, produced with very expensive and rare fabrics, an exaltation that undoubtedly reached the French court of Louis XIV, Sun King, who, in Baroque times, ‘forced’ his attending courtiers to wear sumptuous and embroidered garments.
During this period, in the years between the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century, a particular Generational Transition was witnessed in Europe: The death of Louis XIV and the start of the rococò era coincided with a new trend, characterised by the exasperation with luxury in its every form, that defined the entire aesthetic phenomenology linked to the society of the time, while always distinguished by the class divisions. It was women who were the protagonists of this transformation.
Their bodies were enhanced by constricting corsets, very wide skirts supported by paniers, sophisticated shoes in precious materials and adorned with jewels, extremely high heels, wide hats brimming with decorations and arms and hands covered with gloves ready to wave mischievous fans, while hairstyles became complex and voluminous thanks to the intervention of wigs. Make-up, once again, assumed an important role – which had been absent in Europe for centuries.
In the years of Louis XIV, the pomp linked to the customs of Queen Marie Antoinette was replaced, a true Generational Transition in the royal sphere of France.
The Eighteenth Century, marked by great changes, century of the enlightenment and of the concept of a composite and active society, found in the birth of the bourgeoisie a new interlocutor for the History of Fashion. The bourgeoisie, in fact, enjoying full freedom of clothing and garments, once more became a symbol not only of independence achieved and its exaltation but also of functional rigour: the bourgeoisie was, in fact, composed of high level workers who needed both suitable and comfortable clothes but also a style to clearly set them apart from the classes of servitude, manual workers and from those persons who were less affluent. In the Eighteenth Century, Fashion was once again an element both of representation and distinction – even if with a certain leaving behind of the great pomp – and of everyday necessity.
These needs found in the bourgeoisie class a dimension suitable for a development that, in the years to come, would lay down the rules for the future centuries.
Observing a similar change, with its roots in anthropology and in the political, economic and social dynamics of the time, the transition between the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century and the changes intrinsic to society denote and highlight a significant ‘changing of the guard’: the most ancient, closed and elitist tradition that made fashion a form of expression linked only to the classes of power – civil, military, religious – ended up subverting the rules, proposing, with the advent of a new and dynamic social class, a ‘young’ class. An epochal change.
In the Eighteenth Century, Fashion became a ‘new generation’ status symbol, inspired by desires, capabilities and ambitions of an expanding community. What was being witnessed therefore was a Generational Transition which found in the roots of the past the philosophical foundations of a drive towards egotic and collective affirmation but that, at the same time, knew how to create new elements to affirm its newborn identity, able to bring about significant improvements to an entire system that had stood for millennia.
However, if we explore certain aspects, we realise to what extent, also in the mechanisms of the Generational Transition, recurrences existed dictated by an unconscious matrix. Indeed, it was precisely in the Eighteenth Century that attention to the exterior appearance and a very careful selection of high quality materials with which to make clothes and accessories helped set the scene for a ‘fashion’, the dandy one which indicated an elegant man, sophisticated, narcissistic, ironic, cultured and contemptuous of the mediocrity of the young bourgeoisie, nostalgic for the decadence of a past of pomp, even to the extent of being such a transversal symbol as to relate both to Fashion and to also influence the cultural movements of the following century, in particular impacting on Decandentism. The figure of the dandy was echoed by that of women who, instead, through clothes, accessories and aesthetic ostentation openly declared the status – rich – of family belonging, elitism and snobbery.
As time passes and, apparently – as well as deceptively – ever faster, the evolution of European society is always marking new stages.
Fashion you can buy, but style you possess. They key to style is learning who you are, which takes years. There’s no how-to road map to style. It’s about self-expression and, above all, attitude.’
Again in Europe roughly midway through the Nineteenth Century an uproar arose within what we can define and consider the dictates of Fashion of the era: in fact in 1851, in a period in which the female opinion counted almost for nothing and where women could not object to the actions aimed at maintaining high standards of beauty – often harmful and unhealthy – the first protests began against the rigidity of the rules linked to Fashion.
The generations of juniores had the ability and the will to object to centuries of rigid imprisonment or to the limitations that, by now, even useful for the cause of the centuries and of the preceding conventions, halfway through the XIX Century, no longer had concrete adhesion to reality and, in addition, were harmful for some categories of people. In this way, through fashion, its processes and its mechanisms, the Generational Transition appeared, with its first disruptive force, the one capable of observing phenomena and their consequences. Effects which, however, proved paradoxical.
In 1857 Charles Frederick Worth set up a tailoring workshop in Paris and it was he who was considered, in the History of Fashion, to be the first stylist. It was in this workshop and through his vision, that haute couture and the mannequin girls were conceived. Again, therefore, in the span of little more than five years, the body of women once more was manipulated by Fashion and by its rules.
In Europe and in America, the second half of the Nineteenth Century, can be said to be characterised by a will, even in women’s tailoring, to make clothing progressively more functional, in an ever more evident abandoning of the excesses of the luxury of the previous eras. This, besides being a child of its times, was also motivated by the popularity of sport and by new needs related to travel and opportunities for public presences – at the end of the century, for example, the first female tailleur appeared as did black stockings-.
The principles of the Generational Transition follow processes which, although not linear, are always recognisable.
While it is equally true that every step relating to a business, a company is unique and linked to the history of a brand and a family, it is equally true that there are certain developments that are repeated within the dynamics of generations. Whatever the key point of the transition, this is evident in every area and reflects a continuous advancement ex ante and ex post.
‘To be modern is to tear the soul out of everything’
The arrival of the Twentieth Century allowed the History of Fashion to make a rapid leap. The short century – as it is usually referred to – was marked immediately by a deep need to detach from the tradition and from the identities of the past, in every area. Culture, technology, politics, economy and every area of life moved differently compared to the previous years. The West was thus struck by a vortex of changes and, of course, Fashion and Customs were excellent witnesses to this.
The spasmodic search for novelty was reflected in the look and couturiers assumed an ever more important role, iconic and elitist – once again – and this prompted the birth and the popularity of the first Fashion magazines that, reaching even the fringes of the main poles of customs, also allowed the small tailors to create trendy clothes for the less affluent woman. From luxury to élite, Fashion, considered trendy, finally conquered all classes of society thanks to the prêt-à-porter, in other words garments produced in large quantities by famous stylists.
This popularity, seen through the context of the Generational Transition, revealed an element that stands out with even more force in society: Fashion as a banner of freedom.
A freedom that, however, appeared multi-faceted; the freedom intended as a desire to detach from the rigidity of the stereotypes of the past was accompanied by an additional freedom, namely that of even moving away from the new norms imposed by the same trends of the new fashion. It is here, as in the Generational Transition of business that the figure of a mediator would have been welcome – a figure who, in various forms, existed, in a certain way, in the universe of the customs, as had happened in art, in music and in cinema -.
The Twentieth Century, that of the Two World Wars, changed the way society lived and brought with it a change in gender roles: what up until a certain time had been true could no longer be valid and, for example, women were no longer prepared to ‘wear’ the clothes of past years.
“Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening.”
It was in fact Coco Chanel who can be recognised as one of the great icons of the Generational Transition in the Fashion of the Twentieth Century as her creativity reshaped the actual meaning of aesthetic phenomenology that paved the way for the development of the female role; women, compared to their progenitors, formed part of an actual revolution, starting with fashion and its preconceived perimeter.
In the Twenties, the black tube was born ‘le petite robe noire’, a symbol that entered the myth of the universal imagination. Blue jeans were launched onto the market in the Thirties by women and in the Forties, the tailor Louis Réard invented the bikini.
These elements of transformation, which took place in a very short space of time, clearly and unequivocally revealed that something, magmatically, was moving in society.
Post-war Europe devastated to the depths of its roots, was characterised, starting from the Fifties, by a great economic, social and cultural renaissance; an era in which a new voice was given to young generations. They felt, increasingly strongly, the urgency to turn their back on the rules dictated by Fashion trends, also seeking to create different styles that would often reflect the group of belonging, resulting in the birth of subcultures, numerous and represented by specificities of certain types of clothing, whose peculiarity and recognisability were essential elements.
‘Fashion has the charm of the beginning and the end together, the charm of novelty and at the same time of the transience.’
In the seventies and eighties, fashion, whose western model rapidly conquered other continents, returned to play the political and social role it had held in previous centuries but this time it was accompanied by a double objective, typical of the Generational Transition: the desire for transformation was accompanied by the comfortable sensation of the already known. These years were the reign of success of Fashion as a metaphor for life and the years in which the protagonists of Fashion – stylists, brands, models and models – became style icons to be imitated while Fashion entered into a relationship with other areas of pop culture: music, art and cinema. These became increasingly influenced, becoming interchangeable introjections and stages, with their protagonists becoming secular icons to be imitated.
‘The nice thing about standards is that you have so many to choose from; furthermore, if you do not like any of them, you can just wait for next year’s model.’
Andrew Stuart Tanenbaum
Fashion, whose philosophical prodromes can be sought in Art and in its collective and imaginative dynamics, from the Nineteenth Century and in the Twentieth Century – and it appears obvious for the Tens and Twenties of the Second Millennium – has broken banks and swept away borders, becoming a fluid language between cultures, uniting and emphasising, high and low culture – please excuse this banal simplification – and halving or removing the physical and geographical distances. Not all of them, clearly; sometimes, unfortunately, Fashion and its trends generically and superficially clarify only the economic – and buying – power of all those actors who take part with different roles in the attitudes triggered by the Fashion universe – of which the contemporaneity of pop and media culture is a bridge -.
‘Fashion is management, it is strategy.
Everything that I have learnt recently. Before that, I dedicated myself more to creativity.
In the ‘strategy’ cited by Donatella Versace, allegory of one of the most important brands of Fashion in the world and family business that has necessarily had to reinvent itself through sudden dynamics of Generational Transition, until the sale in 2019 to Capri Holdings Limited, a multinational that works in the fashion sector, with its registered office in the British Virgin Islands and offices in London and New York. Founded in 1981 by the US stylist Michael Kors – but with the sister of the late Gianni Versace at the helm of the creative direction of the same-named brand, what we have is Fashion as a factor of an entrepreneurial chessboard that each year produces stratospheric turnovers, showing itself to be a business parallel in which the Generational Transition takes place with a dual action: both in the boardrooms and on the catwalks, in the showrooms and on the street.
‘Nothing goes out of fashion
as fashion does.’
Reading the words of Bruno Munari brings to mind an event that took place in the Twentieth Century and that, since then, has continued its journey backwards, something that actually has a lot to do with the Generational Transition and with some of its dynamics.
The last decade of the Twentieth Century, in fact, marked by the race against progress – constant development of research into new fabrics, lines and models that enhance the male and female figure; accessories as essential elements of the look and affirmation of brands thanks also to the power of advertising, increasingly refined narrative – split into two and, in its desire for change, began to orientate its interest towards specific details of previous decades, in terms of fashion.
This is how vintage came about.
Vintage is a phenomenon, wholly cross-sectional: from haute couture to mainstream labels, from warehouse or second hand, vintage clothes are becoming the thread of a style stitched through the collective taste, marking a journey based on a dual aesthetic and conceptual exchange. Innovation, in fact, showed that it was able to draw inspiration from previous bases, placing the meeting between times and ways – and fashions – the quid of an almost perfect advancement. Not transformation at all costs, in which only the rules to the contrary would have been valid, but a transition whose seeds of change were perfectly aware of a past capable of surviving to offer new opportunities – and we are already witnessing, on the threshold of 2022, a revival of the trends of the early 2000s, now twenty years ago, where on the catwalks the style of the next spring summer season was anticipated –
‘Fashion is not only about clothes—it’s about all kinds of change.’
Past, present and future are the timeframes within which and towards which the Generational Transition moves, in any area.
Fashion, universal and continually expanding, with its fixed stars, its meteors, its planets light years away from the suns and moons that attract and illuminate, is undoubtedly a daughter of the concept of Generational Transition, right from its origin. And yet, if we strictly explore what the Generational Transition business includes in the world of Fashion, we will discover to what extent the transitions remains, in large part, a true taboo.
Taboo stems from a historical but also from a numerical matter: the family-run businesses sector represents between 70 and 90% of the world GDP and many of these ‘family companies’ represent the big brands of fashion, especially in Italy. This means that often companies are passed from father to son, in a spirit of continuity. Even after the great economic crises, if abroad companies have sought outside valid and concrete professional and managerial help, in our country, the relaunch of a brand has often been assigned to members of the families themselves, with some flaws: sometimes, young offspring, positioned at the top of the family business, lacked suitable preparation and, therefore, the right entrepreneurial solutions to resolve internal conflicts.
There have been several entrepreneurial responses: the link between generational deliveries between entrepreneurs-stylists, founders of the brand and new recruits saw both the path of listing on the stock exchange – with manager CEOs outside the family, therefore able to find harmony between the logic of market and family dynamics – or that of expanding the company, generating holdings with majority shareholders, family members, even the youngest ones.
Is there a winning road? No.
Is there a singular direction to unravel the intrinsic processes of the Generational Transition in a company – family-run and other – ?
Of course there is no established and infallible path just as in the same way there is no one Fashion suitable for all. Sometimes, behind great difficulties, there are cultural problems or often generational conflicts that are latent and ready to appear with all their force in the area of governance: the founding fathers want to resume this role without being challenged, beyond the administrative choices, a condition that can generate both strategic intuition and an antiquated vision, one that is not in step with the times. The fact remains that, especially in Italy, a Fashion brand often contains the DNA of a family understood as an intangible value. One of the convictions – and fears – that the Generational Transition brings to company, strategic and market mechanisms is that the brand must never betray itself and its history. A concept that is not entirely wrong, quite the opposite and susceptible, however, to a level of protectionism that is so intense that it becomes a cage.
And if we look beyond the borders of Italy?
Firstly, when we reason in terms of Fashion and haute couture, the main parallel occurs with France which, despite its proximity, opens up different scenarios. Indeed the Generational Transition took place beyond the Alps in a much more entrepreneurial way and, above all, it already happened a few decades ago, despite the fact that the national system is tackling this transition with alternating perspectives and with some difficulties.
Observing from close-up what happened in Paris and in its surroundings, it is easy to understand how the transformations within family and fashion business groups have followed unusual roads. The main holding linked to Fashion, Customs and Luxury is the French LVHM, owner of over seventy brands divided into high fashion companies, the result of the merger between Louis Vuitton and Moët Hennessy; due to entrenched disagreements between the two parties, a third negotiating party intervened: the former president and owner of the group, Bernard Arnault. Today LVHM owns many Italian brands, whose history is mainly linked to big Fashion families: Fendi, Bulgari, Loro Piana.
‘It is not enough to have a talented designer; the management must be inspired too. The creative process is very disorganised; the production process has to be very rational.
Not to mention many other famous brands of French and international luxury. Just think also that the other big rival group, Kering – PPR (Pinault-Printemps-Redoute) founded by François Pinault and today managed by his son, now owns a good share of the other big brands, including Gucci, Bottega Veneta, Pomellato, as well as Yves Saint Laurent and other international brands.
‘The Italians live well. They have problems, like all countries, but they are well-dressed…’
Both LVHM and KERING are obviously listed companies and have often ‘taken advantage’ of the internal difficulties of family businesses at the time of the Generational Transition: the ‘natural’ successions, fraught with disagreements or different views, have forced companies to sell to third parties during critical moments of non-succession, and in the absence of direct heirs. If it is necessary, in the process of transitive succession, to never lose sight of one’s roots, it is true that the entry of foreign directors is not always a bad thing, far from it: often, the brands that have been able to open up to capitals or to external managers have experienced greater success, in percentage terms.
Apparently, however, a succession of negative examples echo what happened with Salvatore Ferragamo: on the death of the founder, his wife and children were able to see beyond their own company perimeter and successfully transformed the fashion house into brands of international importance, without ever betraying their deepest values.
The same can be said for Prada, Natuzzi and Tod’s, family businesses in which the Generational Transition took place by natural inheritance between seniors and juniors, which resulted in new life, excellent market positioning and a large growth in turnover, thanks to a very natural generational process.
The Generational Transition, therefore, as an internal process in the world of fashion entrepreneurship passes through the dynamics of managerialisation and senior-junior turnover. Italy, historically unfamiliar with the idea of a fluid Generational Transition, continually puts family-run small and medium-sized businesses at risk, a true great productive fabric of the national industry. If the French brands, even when older, have been able to seize the opportunities offered by this transformation, in our country it is very difficult to let the younger members of the family take companies into the future – if not already in the present.
‘The company loses part of its DNA, of its soul, and is projected into a stringent financial logic,
that can lead you to neglect important aspects related, for example, to value and quality.’
The Fashion | Generational Transition combination takes on increasingly clearer outlines on the one hand, and on the other they are quite unsteady, as it is linked both to the pure entrepreneurial question and to ontological issues. Fashion, on the other hand, understood as a metaphor for the representation of the self, the subjective need or the recognisability of individuals within a group – or outside it – is able to outline the path that is, in fact, an anthropological, aesthetic and sociological expression of the deeper meaning of the intergenerational transition. The mixture of past and future, within a present focusing on desires and fantasies through which to externalise an identity choice is the crucial issue concerning Fashion and fashions. The entrepreneurial succession, but also the passing on of tastes, needs, experiments and risks, has always accompanied fashion and, as such, it has a leading role within the great language of human civilisation.
Fashion investigates its time, anticipates its requests, dictates its rules – think of the fashion calendars that anticipate the seasons, showing, almost magically, the future -.
Fashion is itself a Generational Transition, it is outside and inside time, it is beyond everything, even beyond the so called hic and nunc (here and now). It is an alchemical and mysterious prediction of what it will be, even though it sometimes entrusts its own revival to choices and symbols of the past.
‘Being fashionable’ means, rather than following the trend of the moment, knowing how to perceive, here and now, the spark of the furor that will happen, exactly how it happens with enlightened entrepreneurs. Without ever abandoning the achievements and successes of the past –which is a true identity contribution – it is equally wise to leave the reins of a past time and ensure that growth continues.
Fashion is capable of overturning and revolutionising the past to retrace its steps with a new vital nymph. It creates new inheritance not on the ashes of an extinct heritage, but in the folds of its evolutions, knowing how to seize new light, new impulses and having the ability to predict what we did not yet know we needed.
It can be said that Fashion is superfluous, accessory; its history teaches us exactly the opposite. Although we have not been exhaustive here, it is important to emphasise how much fashion brings, namely the will to move forward and never stop. As such, the parallelism with the Generational Transition is inherent and very close. To change is to grow, whatever the path you need to take, even on heel 12.
‘My favourite garment is the one I invent for a life that does not yet exist, the world of tomorrow/’