In Italy the coronavirus outbreak began on February 21st—the day of my Fall 2020 MSGM show. It’s a day I will never forget. From that moment, the situation here in Milan has dramatically escalated in an unprecedented way—only a few weeks ago we would’ve never thought it possible.
The death toll so far has reached an incredibly shocking peak. Listening to the news—or shall we call them bulletins from a war zone?—I often feel a pang of despair. It is disheartening—and very, very scary. Last night, the government announced that all the factories producing unnecessary goods will be closed, including factories producing fashion. I always try to keep the spirits up, being positive and working with my team to find solutions for what will await us in the coming months—which will be challenging to say the least. I’m an optimist by nature. But now I seriously worry—and I think that it’s healthy to worry, it’s healthy to be serious and responsible, to be aware more than ever of the consequences of our actions. I feel fortunate to be in good health, that my husband Mattia, my family, and my friends are all fine. This is what matters most to me.
Bad news is bombarding us and it’s very stressful. Of course we have to keep informed, but I feel that we also have to protect ourselves. I find the information overload coming from social media truly appalling. I understand that staying home isn’t always pleasant; living glued together under the same roof can be difficult for a lot of people. And our need to stay in touch, our craving for affection and companionship, it’s touching. So I welcome chats and every possible digital connection that keeps us together.
But what I find annoying—if not downright wrong now—is picturing quarantine as a sort of self-promoting show. This unfortunately applies also to some fashion brands, small or big as they may be. It would’ve been easy for me to get a bunch of likes posting a video on my Insta, say, doing the dishes wearing an MSGM logo-ed apron! But it would’ve felt gross and disrespectful—even if I’ve actually had many Mrs. Doubtfire quarantine moments recently! I vacuum cleaned, did the laundry, and even cooked vegetarian meals—I’ve found household chores to be a very noble occupation in this moment. Tidying up our home helps tidying up ourselves. It gives you time to think and to be within yourself—much more crucial today than living a virtual life on Instagram like idiotic avatars.
I’m taking advantage of this sometimes surreal quarantine to set my personal and professional priorities—to tidy up my label as well. I’m not only a creative director, but also an entrepreneur—I feel a deep sense of responsibility towards my company, my employees, my partners. (Two years ago I sold 30% of MSGM to Style Capital, a private equity fund, while I still retain 20% of the label; the rest is owned by the Paoloni Group, fashion manufacturers based in the Marche region). I’m still very hands-on and I oversee every single detail—as soon as the outbreak exploded, I ordered the right latex gloves and the best protective medical masks we could find to keep my team safe.
We’re quite a small team actually, 10 people in the women’s design studio and six people in the men’s; we’ve been constantly on the phone for the last couple of weeks, trying to get things going. It’s hard and exhausting. The office was shut down more than a week ago—it’ll be closed at least until April 3rd, I’m afraid, seeing how the circumstances have changed dramatically after last night’s decree. The situation is in constant flux, which is rather anxiety-inducing. We’re trying to get resort ready for June, but we really don’t know how things will evolve here. We’ll try our best.
I think what’s important now is that we ask ourselves not only if we’ll be able to get the collection ready on time. What we’re asking ourselves is: What kind of collection would we like to propose? What will be its substance, its quality, its value? What message would we like to convey? It’ll probably be a smaller, more compact offering. And obviously it’ll be completely Made in Italy—especially now, we’ll do whatever it takes to support our wonderful country, the factories, all the fashion system. We’re putting a lot of thinking into the design process, a lot of care. And emotion and affection. A lot of love. We’d like our customers to feel all the respect we have for them.
It’ll be interesting to see how the collections will look and how the brands will resume their business once this ordeal is over. Will there still be an appetite for shopping? And which style will prevail, which look will be appealing to customers? Will it be a pared down, stark minimalism, with an emphasis on stay-at-home comfort or will it be a triumph of escapism? Will customers want glamour and fun, a respite from the gloom?
I don’t know… every collection we’ll see in June will represent a unique, very personal answer to the terrible challenge we’ve been called to face today. Yet beyond the practical problems we all have now as designers to get our collections produced, I’m sure the question on everyone’s mind is why were we running so damn fast? Where did we think we were going? Isn’t it time to change the rules of the game?
As many Italian fashion brands have done, at MSGM we’ve made donations to hospitals in Bergamo, Milano, and Ancona. As we all know, our national health system, usually extremely efficient and utterly democratic, is under a terrible strain. Listening to what happens in medical facilities is heartbreaking, so of course we wanted to lend a hand and do our duty. We decided to keep the donations anonymous—we’re strongly against using this situation as a marketing opportunity. Of course I respect everyone’s decision—what’s crucial now is that we all rise to the challenge and help our country get back on track. Hopefully it’ll be soon. As much as quarantine has taught me to embrace my fondness for vacuum cleaning, I’d rather prefer not spend the rest of my life as Mrs. Doubtfire!
From Vogue US