Brief Encounters: Alberto Scaccioni

PUBLISHED : Friday, 29 August, 2014, 10:28am
UPDATED : Friday, 29 August, 2014, 3:04pm

Alberto Scaccioni is the general secretary of Centro di Firenze, the group that owns the Pitti Immagine fashion trade fairs and Enta Moda Italiana export trade group. He has accidentally become something of a sartorial icon himself. Scaccione tells us about the role fashion plays in the Italian economy as well as about his days as a punk and leaving the world of academia behind.

"Pitti Immagine is focused on bringing the best in the world to Italy when it comes to fashion. We bring buyers and journalists, and show them the best that menswear, children's wear and yarn companies have to offer.

Enta Moda Italiana is focused on taking small and medium-sized Italian fashion companies out into the world to find new markets. So we have two ways of helping our industry.

Fashion is still very big in Italy; we still have thousands of manufacturers here. There are tens of thousands of workers in the industry. The big difference between Italy and France is that we have a lot of manufacturing, and the French don't.

They have lost everything, like England has. As they have lost everything all they can do, let's say, is sell is the glamour. But 'Made in Italy' is still a reality, there are real people making things here.

The culture of Pitti, if you want to call it that, is very important, but it is spontaneous. It's not like other fashion weeks, at least those that I've seen. First of all, it's all on one site, and secondly, it's only menswear. If you think about the strongest fashion weeks, they are always womenswear related.

So they are different to Pitti, as everything is catwalk and high fashion, with superstar designers. At Pitti, it is more a matter of individual style, the sharing of our style. We are not afraid to imitate, to steal ideas, to replicate, to modify style. There is less wow factor, perhaps, but we have a simplicity. People have simpler interactions.

Pitti is a very strong global brand, but we won't ever franchise it around the world for the sake of Italy. Italy is covered in small towns, you don't have a big black hole like Paris that attracts all of the light. So we need to work hard to bring people here, to Florence.

I'm not pushing for one brand, or one product. I'm pushing for the whole country
Alberto Scaccioni

If we go international, the world might not feel the same need to come here. And also, to understand Italian fashion as a product, you have to also understand the Italian lifestyle.

So you need to see that we are lazy, but not too much. We are loud, but not too much. You have to spend some time here to understand us and our products.

I was born in Florence, but I'm in love with the English. The English language, English music, English culture. Also American culture. I love vintage things, and British and American things are the best.

When I was a teenager, I was in love with the music of the late 1970s, as so many trends were coming from the UK. Mods, skinheads, ska, punk; it was so different to Italy, we couldn't find many things here like records, clothes and magazines.

We would visit London to buy Dr Martens, and that sort of thing. I really wanted to know what the lyrics to my favourite songs were about, so I learned English quickly. If you don't have good English, you don't have access to the world.

I had the chance to move away from Italy, but I began my PhD and began to teach at university. It was a PhD in sociology, so most of the books were in English.

I moved into the world of fashion by chance, I guess, although I don't really believe in chance. My life is fashion now, but I miss academia. I mean, you cannot fake it in that. In business, if you are smart enough, you can bluff your way.

Our business is very important for Italy. We are a small country in a weak and tricky situation.

What I like about my job is that I'm not pushing for one brand, or one product; I'm pushing for the country, for the whole country. I'm pushing for everybody."

As told to Abid Rahman