Milano and Beyond

Carlo Capasa, chairman of Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana, discusses MFW and the future of fashion

Prada AW22

Apolitical and not-for-profit, the aims of Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana (CNMI) have remained largely the same since its inception in 1958: to “represent the highest values of Italian fashion, and to protect, co-ordinate and strengthen the image of Italian fashion in Italy and abroad, as well as the technical, artistic and economic interests of its Associates”. Representing more than 200 companies across the sector, it plays a vital and global role in setting the fashion agenda, most visibly through Milan Fashion Week. January’s menswear offering remained on tenterhooks, unsure whether it would even be able to go ahead three days before launch, but in the end delivering 23 shows and 47 brand presentations. It was a week of Italian staples expressing themselves confidently – Prada, Zegna, Brioni and Fendi deserve special mention – as well as striking debuts, with brands like JW Anderson and 1017 ALYX 9SM presenting for the first time in the calendar of shows.

Conducting such an orchestra year on year (and through a pandemic) would shave years off my life, I confessed to Carlo Capasa, the charismatic chairman of CNMI. Capasa is simply too busy (and optimistic) to worry, and caught up with Port to discuss the association’s active work in upskilling Italian workers, fostering greater diversity and inclusion, and how covid has accelerated its digital capabilities.

Carlo Capasa

Congratulations on a fantastic week, have you had a moment to relax or is it onto the next thing?

We’re deep into, of course, the next fashion week! Women’s is complex to organise because there’s more brands, more presentations, but we’re hoping the covid situation in Europe will have improved slightly. Men’s was very successful, but it was stressful not knowing whether it was going to go ahead three days before we started… We are excited for February and hope we can deliver an even better week this time.

Before any of the shows, you started with a tribute to Giovanni Gastel, the photography legend who sadly passed away. This felt like a personal and moving way to begin.

He was an incredible, brilliant man. Charming, creative, unique. He was not only part of the Italian community, but to the global fashion community. Not only a great artist, but a great person. I thought it was quite natural to celebrate the first fashion week without him, with him. He was a friend of mine, and really a friend of everyones. We started with the heart.

Fendi, Brioni, Zegna and Prada in particular delivered striking collections, were there any others that surprised you?

All collections this season were particularly creative. During this crisis fashion has reacted with creativity, trying to break out of the pandemic and the restrictions it brings. Taking all this pressure and turning out something fresh, a new dream, new feeling, some positivity. I think it was one of the strongest collections in a creative sense, and I appreciate this approach, this attitude everybody brought.

Brioni AW22

Pressure makes diamonds. There definitely seemed to be a note of elegance, people being keen to dress up, go out, feel luxurious. I suppose it is only natural after what we’ve gone through.

Yes, it is an appropriate reaction to the time we are living through, where many are confined to their homes…

In the same trousers, every day…

Yes, let’s take it to the next level, capture that energy of going out, of feeling good!

‘I gioielli della fantasia’ exhibition of the late photographer Giovanni Gastel

Throughout the last couple of years, MFW has been recognised as an industry standard, how have you found navigating this new terrain and making sure people are protected, whilst still showcasing what’s next?

We were forced to be very resilient, to react and adapt very quickly to any situation. There were weeks where we were almost 90% digital, which was completely new. In February 2020, we organized, in a few days, a new idea for a digital platform exclusively for China showcasing all that would happen in Milan. We made a deal with Tencent – allowing for direct streaming, essentially 24 hours of digital communication – and immediately hit 18 million people watching the week. Since then we’ve understood that the digital side of our offering was just as important as the physical. Last September, we had 56 million people watching and these dual tracks will remain, even when we’re out of the pandemic. Because although the experience of seeing a fashion show in the flesh is something you cannot miss – meeting other people, talking to the designers – with strong digital organisation, we are able to bring another kind of experience to everyone in the world, enlarging our community. With travel impossible, we found a way to travel, as it were. This idea of digital was already there, dormant, but was accelerated, meaning we gained five years of growth in six months. We’ve caught up on virtual collections, 3D pattern-making and printing, all these new frontiers that impact the production chain, in such a short time.

Ardusse AW22

I know making sustainable changes to the industry and supporting young Italian talent is a focus area for CNMI, could you expand on this a little?

For many years we’ve been asking, what do we really need? Does fashion need to be so fast? The consciousness of people has been growing over the past two years, especially in the first year of the pandemic. Should there be limited production for some collections, so we’re not over producing, trying to be closer to actual consumer demand? Do we need constant sales, over consumption? Let’s change the idea of fashion, whether that’s a better understanding of recycling, reusing or renting vintage, using less plastic, having a say in the chemicals used in our industry. Beyond building a more circular economy, we’re trying to push a greater understanding on the human, social element. We’re talking to our community about rules and values, because we cannot ignore the people and hands that produce our garments. We’re therefore controlling more of our production chain and have just conducted an important survey to analyse the wages and work conditions of fashion workers in Italy, so we improve their conditions. All the brands we work with have embraced these recommendations, and we are proud to say we very recently signed an agreement with the ministry of labour and social policies, allowing us to digitally upskill and retrain 40,000 workers in the industry over the next five years. Amidst change, we want to make sure no one is left behind.

JW Anderson AW22

You have also been looking to encourage greater diversity and inclusion?

The fashion community has the opportunity to communicate at a high level some of these values, in some cases more so than the government can. It is an incredible responsibility because incredible change is needed, but we cannot hide. We have to stand up for what we think matters, and diversity is a value. I would like to think that fashion is open, that we do not judge by culture, religion, sexuality, race. For me, fashion was always a place where you could be a little more accepted, whoever you were. But, we have work to do. We published our manifesto on inclusiveness in 2019, following a great many roundtables with Bottega Veneta, Brioni, Dolce and Gabbana, Gucci, Zegna, Fendi, Armani, Moschino, Prada, Salvatore Ferragamo, Valentino and Versace, among others, all working together to layout structural and concrete changes needed. Whether that’s ensuring proper stylists can treat different hair textures before the runway, or working with charities such as Mygrants, a platform providing free training for refugees. Many of the those participants now have full time work. Fashion, by definition, is projected into and concerned with the future. So we are responsible in shaping and contributing to that future through diversity, which is the natural balance of things. The planet, our ecosystem, is rooted in it. Diversity is the beauty of difference. Unfortunately that is sometimes not obvious to our society.

What role do you think the pandemic will continue to play in your world?

As mentioned, fashion is always presenting what is next, in some way, always looking forward. Designers think about next seasons, new possibilities, and projected timelines. They are always putting hope that we are the end of the tunnel, that something will change. That we are emerging into something new. They think beyond lockdowns and try to capture another mood. This is the visionary side of fashion: anticipating wishes, our dreams of tomorrow.

Milano Fashion Week Women’s takes place 22nd-28th February, 2022

Milan Fashion Week 2018

Port‘s fashion editor picks the best looks from Milan’s Spring Summer 2019 show

There was as much talk about the mosquitos as there was about fashion this year in Milan, which suggests the agenda and collections were perhaps not as engaging as they have been. Yet, as a relative newcomer to the Milan schedule, I still got my kicks, with Neil Barrett and Ermenegildo Zegna being particular favourites. For me, these two shows are up in the highlights of season that, in Milan, was characterised by the use of yellow, a sophisticated backlash to street-wear, and Zegna’s ‘new suit’.

Neil Barrett – LOOK 26

A pioneer of sports-luxe and the go-to for directional tailoring, Neil Barrett this season moved away from his predominately monochrome shows of the past to explore ‘Sea/Flowers’ in a precise collection that was punchy with yellow and print. The colour play was apparent from the start as guests entered the space through yellow rubber strips hung from the ceiling, diffusing the light in the industrial space and creating a sensation of being underwater. Florals were managed in a modern and masculine way – some printed as if medals and here magnified to create an all over-print on this beautifully laid-back coat. 


Taking the mundane and making it desirable, Prada played its card for the reserved rather than the flash-pack this season. Sat on inflatable cubes that were lit with futuristic purple hue, guests saw an army of nerds descend. This zipped knit – reminiscent of retro skiwear and alpine adventures – was paired with the collection’s signature high-waisted belted trousers in vivid yellow and an oversized trapper hat, and perfectly captures Miuccia Prada’s playful exploration of both character and form. 


Blurring the line between sophistication and streetwear, Ermenegildo Zegna reached out to the post-millennials without leaving its core audience behind. Set against the often-overlooked grandeur of Palazzo Mondadori – conceived by Brazilian architect Oscar Nieymar – both collection and setting told the story of how sharpness could be married with functional ease. Alessandro Satori’s cuffed trousers were once again present, paired here with a printed boxy shirt over a hardly-there mesh top, giving the sense of weightlessness that Satori desired. 


Proving he is a veteran designer who will not be deterred by the banging of the trend drum for streetwear or influencer-friendly clothes, Giorgio Armani delivered a simple yet fluid collection, which was easy to understand and trust. Taking place in the familiar setting of the Armani Silos, on the usual cast of statuesque models, we saw the return of the double-breasted jacket and a perfect wardrobe for modern nomads, including this relaxed ethnic-printed silk shirt and easy to wear board shorts. 


Maintaining their maverick reputation, the Caten Twins combined an unlikely mix of athleisure, military and undone corsetry to create a collection that felt both very on-trend and very them. Set in industrial warehouse space, with it’s ominous red-light runway, it were as if we had been transported to the heart of clubland in some dystopian future, watching the club kids walk by in their heavily layered attire. More subtle looks such as this oversized track-top and pants in heritage checks (which would usually be reserved for tailoring) with highlighter neon stripes, made it both interesting and wearable. 

New Talent

For years Milan has been resolutely focused on the established fashion houses, with fresh graduates in the city being encouraged to quickly join the most esteemed brand they can find. So it was satisfying to see the capital of luxury fashion begin to offer support for emerging talent through initiatives set up to nurture new designers and their labels. There is a new spirit of youth in the city. 

One such initiative is the Camera Nazionale della Moda prize, now in it’s fourth year. This season Port sat on the judging panel alongside leading industry figures – including Diesel founder and chairman of OTB Renzo Rossi, Angela Missoni, the creative director of Missoni, and Sara Sozzani Maino, deputy editor-in-chief of Vogue Italia – to decide that Mauro Muzio Medaglia of Accademia Costume and Moda was to receive the mentorship scheme and 10,000€ towards his brand. 

“The prize I received took me by surprise,” Medaglia said after the presentation. “It has been an honour to receive it and I will work to transform this opportunity in a solid base for my future. The support I received from Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana was very important, not only because it helped me in the development of my collection, but also because it is an endorsement for my career.”

Medaglia’s sculptural touch and attention to tailoring swung the decision in his favour. A palette of soft-hues in contrasting fabrics were delicately layered with a finesse the excels the experience of this designer, and the silhouettes, with their exaggerated form, added the final contemporary note to the collection. 

“Growing new talents is part of the mission of the Association and this event has a key role to confer visibility to the work and talent of the future generations,” said president of the Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana, Carlo Capasa. “This year the CNMI celebrated the 4th edition of Milano Moda Graduate and had the privilege to open the Men’s Fashion Week. With this, we wanted to underline the importance of supporting new talents, promoting the creativity and capacity of the most merit-worthy students in the Italian fashion schools that are the future of fashion. The event fulfils the CNMI’s desire to stimulate a dialogue between the most important luxury brands and the new generation of designers, who bring fresh perspectives to the fashion system. “

Runway illustrations Jayma Sacco