MILAN — When Alice Etro was a little girl, she used to spend hours after school with her father, Kean Etro, creative director of Etro menswear, playing with fabric swatches in the design studio of the fashion brand in which his grandfather Gimmo started. 1968. She creates clothes from scraps for her dolls and plays with the tubes of rolls of fabric.
“I loved everything,” she said. She remembers the thrill of watching a parade and walking alone with her parents. “I wanted to be him,” she added, of her designer dad. She was expected to follow in his footsteps and join the family business, just as he and his three siblings had followed their parents. As, indeed, has been the norm among many Italian fashion dynasties.
There is an expression in Italian – “capitalismo familiare” or family capitalism – which refers to the transmission of a private enterprise from one generation to the next, said Matteo Persivale, special correspondent for the Corriere della Sera newspaper. For decades, this has been the rule in fashion, where brand stewardship has been passed down like a well-kept saffron risotto recipe or a chalet in Cortina.
Angela, Luca and Vittorio Missoni took over from their parents, Rosita and Ottavio, the founders of Missoni, for example. Silvia Fendi is a third-generation Fendi, working in the company her grandparents Adele and Edoardo founded in 1925 (and her daughter, Delfina Delettrez Fendi, is artistic director of the jewelry today). James Ferragamo, third-generation descendant of Salvatore Ferragamo, the founder of Ferragamo, is director of brand, product and communications for the family business. And one of the fourth generation of Zegna, Edoardo Zegna, is in the running to take over the brand, created in 1910 by Ermenegildo Zegna.
Entering the family business was such a common practice, says Laudomia Pucci, the daughter of Emilio Pucci, that even when she worked for Hubert de Givenchy in the late 1980s in Paris, he always told her: “Soon you will come back home to take over your father’s business. She did, in 1989, and described the concept of taking on the mantle of the family business as “quite normal and organic.”
But a combination of the globalization of luxury, which has led many family businesses to sell stakes to conglomerates or become publicly traded entities to survive, and the blurring of lines between all creative disciplines, has changed the narrative.
Increasingly, the next generation of big luxury families – often called “figli d’arte”, a term referring to a child who inherits a parent’s profession, usually in the arts – is looking ahead. beyond the ancestral parapet, applying what she learned while growing up in one creative sector to work in another.
Ms. Etro, for example, 34, studied fashion design at Istituto Marangoni, one of Milan’s leading fashion schools, and spent around 10 years at another family sewing and textile business, Larusmiani. (where his uncle Guglielmo Miani is general manager).
But in 2019, rather than joining Etro as she had imagined, Ms Etro became the creative director of Westwing Italia, one of 11 national sites operated by a European interiors e-commerce retailer specializing in daily newsletters. offering a world of shopping. household items, from bed linen to dishes.
“I prefer mass over niche,” Ms. Etro said. “Luxury should be for everyone. It doesn’t have to be expensive and out of reach. Her family has been supportive of her decision to branch out, she continued, noting that these are times like the time she spent as a child in her grandmother Ghighi Miani’s atmospheric Milanese home, with its maximalist interiors, who ultimately perhaps inspired her the most.
Alessandro Marinella, 27, a fourth-generation member of the family that founded E. Marinella, the Neapolitan company known for making printed silk ties dear to President Barack Obama, is not only helping the brand grow in the field digital, but focuses on something he considers just as ingrained in the tradition of luxury as ties: food.
In 2019, Mr. Marinella co-founded Marchio Verificato, which produces, certifies and supplies Italian specialty foods. The company not only distributes some of the best Italian produce to shops and restaurants, but grows crops in the traditional way: for example, its Vesuvio Piennolo tomatoes are grown in volcanic soil, then strung on hemp threads, tied in circles and kept dry for months. .
“Eating well is important,” Mr. Marinella said, “but where and how also denotes a kind of social status.”
Technology too, according to Francesca Versace, 39, daughter of Santo Versace, brother of Donatella and founder of the Gianni brand. As a result, she traded her ready-to-wear birthright for the chance to start an NFT business.
“My love for fashion will never diminish; it’s in my heart,” she said of her family’s accomplishments. But she thinks the zeitgeist has changed.
“My gut tells me it’s time to move to the new space,” she said, referring to the metaverse. “It’s more of a cultural change than a technological one.
Later this spring, she and her partners plan to unveil Public Pressure, an NFT marketplace with an in-house NFT creative studio to help musicians, brands, and movie studios conceptualize NFT campaigns. The company – founded by Ms. Versace; Giulia Maresca, former designer of Christian Louboutin and Tod’s; Sergio Mottola, a blockchain entrepreneur; and music industry insider Alfredo Violante — is destined, Ms. Versace said, to recreate the Versace razzmatazz she remembers from her family’s fashion shows, but in the digital space.
Likewise, Larissa Castellano Pucci, 34, daughter of Laudomia and granddaughter of Emilio, thinks the future is virtual. She studied information science at Cornell University and worked as a 3D artist for Satore Studio, a creative company in London, rather than going into the family brand (which, anyway, was acquired by LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton in 2000). And in January, Ms. Pucci released her first collection on DressX, a digital-only clothing retail platform.
Called Marea, the collection included garments that shimmer like fish scales, seaweed-like billowing hems, and dresses produced from tiny digital seashells. It is now set to be part of Crypto Fashion Week, a week-long event in March dedicated to blockchain-powered digital fashion.
“It’s rare for someone so junior to have creative carte blanche,” Ms. Pucci said of the appeal of working with DressX, rather than a traditional atelier. In the real world, “it’s almost impossible to create something completely new as a young designer” because costs and small production runs hold you back.
This spring, FouLara, Ms. Pucci’s scarf brand, plans to launch an NFT minting service to allow users to design and mint custom NFT prints.
Laudomia Pucci said she was thrilled Larissa was trying something that resonated with her and her generation – and she thinks Emilio Pucci would have looked on with affection too. “It’s necessary in Italy,” she said. “We have to look to the future, not just to our great past.”
Her daughter agreed. “If you come from a background that has so many things, you follow in the footsteps or try to forge your own identity,” Ms. Pucci said. “Otherwise, it is abusive. I can only re-imagine my legacy; I can’t escape it.