A global view of a French fashion expert


Nicoletta Giusti on London Fashion Week 2020

The Greek philosopher Aristotle used to say that humans are social animals. To paraphrase his sentence, we could say Fashion is a Social Business. In more modern terms, the American Sociologist Diana Crane described Art and Fashion, like “global culture world” i.e. businesses,  in which “a small number of organizations from several countries dominates the global production and dissemination of a particular form of culture”. Here, “participants in global culture worlds congregate in international art or trade fairs where they develop a consensus about what they are doing and who is doing it best” (2000). Translated into our everyday language, the main point of a fashion week is to meet people and to exchange ideas, with the goal, I add,  to generate business.

It is true that in recent years and with the popularisation of social media, the exchange of ideas has taken different forms: design-based products, like fashion, cosmetics or food became the global stars of “visual” media, like Instagram or YouTube.

If “medium is the message”, fashion, already a very “visual” product, did not, indeed, take greatest advantage from the “instagrammation” of products. Yes, fashion shows went live on streaming, but luxury fashion design did not become the star. The itinerant fashion system kept on travelling all around the world, following the institutional path of the “Big 4”  - London, Milan, New York, Paris - tailored – except for the UK – to the largest markets for luxury goods.

New locations came and went, like Berlin or Barcelona for Street Fashion, others, like Shanghai and Beijing, raised highlighting the compelling rise of new luxury markets.

Fashion was still far from being only a visual business, people kept meeting and bringing economic value to the places where they meet. The Paris Fashion week, the oldest and more classical, with its around 400 fashion shows per year is said to generate a direct turnover of more than 10 billion euros and spill overs for 1,2 billion euros (Le journal du Luxe). Despite the fame of the Paris fashion, the fashion weeks creating more economic value are, by far, New York and London, that were said in 2017 to have generated respectively around 500 million and 250 million euros of income.

Global culture worlds must spin and professionals meeting in person in global cities, chatting, gossiping, rehearsing, touching, commenting and discretely observing each other are the invisible engine that makes these worlds spin.

That is why fashion weeks that recently took place in London, Milan and Paris, mainly a mix of physical  and digital events, looked more like “Davos in different shoes” than “Making the Cut”. Far from participating in a silent exhibition of dresses, experts and professionals were invited to exchange about main themes and trends of the business. Some fashion designers invited  beautifully dressed women to a glamorous venue to let them spend the day chatting, others showed limited collections, explaining they represented therapies from the lockdown, activists were speaking or performing in a huge “Ted Fashion” (The Guardian) that, surprisingly, gave professionals the possibility “to reconnect” in a more intimate way with designers.  A moment of self-reflection, leaving an important question unanswered so far: are orders coming?

This is an important question for each designer, for the survival of each single fashion house and therefore it is an important question for the survival of the system.

Anyway, in cultural industries system, based on creativity,  where we do not buy products for their utility but for beauty and self-expression, the main point is not the survival of the single, but the success of the system. From this point of view, London has always played an important role in selecting and launching talents carrying diversity in an industry that is based on conformity (i.e. fashion).

Not to mention the Punk movement and Dame Vivienne Westwood. Let’s just remember that two eccentrical British talents,  Alexander McQueen and John Galliano, coming from the London FW, became the leaders of the rebirth of French Haute Couture.

This talent selection may still happen online and on streaming.

What is harder to recreate, is the invisible part of the business, made of chats, meetings, parties and casual encounters that sparks the creativity of designers and allows the business negotiations to go on. All the side transactions, the “fuori salone” that creates economic value for the fashion industry and for the city that hosts the shows.

How long it will take to create the new normal is maybe a question for Dr. Fauci; what is certain is that the new normal will certainly not be online only.

A famous sentence of John Galliano from its first interviews at Givenchy was “I work hard, I party hard” and people in a global cultural world cannot be left to party online.

Dr Nicoletta Giusti

Clinical Professor,

Director of the MSc in Luxury Management and Guest Experience,

Glion Institute of Higher Education

Dr Nicoletta Giusti has more than two decades of research and teaching experience in the fields of luxury, fashion and design.

Nicoletta began her career in academia as an assistant professor at the University of Bologna, where she spent 18 years conducting research and delivering courses at both undergraduate and graduate level. She was granted tenure in 2010.

From 2014 to 2018, Nicoletta also served as Program Director of the MSc in Fashion, Design and Luxury Management at Grenoble Ecole de Management (GEM). In 2018, she was named Professor Ambassador for the INSIDE LVMH Program.

In addition to her academic experience, Nicoletta has worked as a consultant for several fashion firms. Her interest in luxury can be traced back to her family business, Giusti, a luxury menswear store founded in Bologna in 1887.

Nicoletta was appointed Clinical Professor and Director of the MSc in Luxury Management and Guest Experience at Glion Institute of Higher Education in November 2018.

She holds a PhD in Sociology from the University of Paris-Est Marne-la-Vallée, a DEA in Sociology from Sciences Po Paris and a Master in Political Science from the University of Bologna. A native speaker of Italian, Nicoletta also speaks fluent French and English.

Learn more about Glion here.

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