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“My mother and father were both interned in concentration camps. So I was born with a strong survival instinct. The situation is now dramatic and has changed radically. But from all this we can learn something, we must get to work immediately ». So Emanuela Schmeidler tells me when I reach her on March 22nd, obviously with a video call. Schmeidler founded the public relations agency that bears his name in 1999, after 14 years with Versace. His shrewd presence and solid advice have been an integral part of the success and expansion of Italian brands including Schiaparelli and Moncler, as well as Vogue Italia, which together with The man and other Condé Nast Italia titles have long collaborated with his agency. Nobody in Milan is in a better position to outline the challenges and opportunities that await us in the field of communication and fashion strategy.
How would you sum up this radical change?
I think the first and most radical change is the transition from “I” to “we”. In Italy, and especially in fashion, there was always talk of “I”: “I am the talent, I know the streets, I am the best, me and my selfie, me and what I wear”. Switching to “us” can strengthen the system. At the same time, it would help slightly weaker brands improve. But all this must take place within a few weeks.
What, who, drives this change?
The consumer: he is the same as before, but now he has a completely different point of view and wants a different message.
How does this “we” manifest itself in public relations and communication?
We have to think that when we go out again, maybe to shop, it will mean that we are still alive and well. All brands must work in this direction and develop an adequate narrative. Because they have the opportunity to become stronger alongside their customers. Shopping will be the victory. And everyone will want to celebrate the victory. So the first pair of shoes that we buy, or the first bag, will be our victory over what’s going on today.
And how do the mechanisms of our system change in the New World?
I am very rational. Right now we are in limbo, and it is difficult to move in such a territory, especially in the world of fashion where everything was organized: you already knew when it was your show when it was the collection, the sales, the events … Now what you need to do is think day by day. So you need great rationality. I think the experience is again something very important. This is the true value, and it is something that we had lost a bit because it was enough to be millennial and young to be trendy and cool. I believe that it is now necessary to have some experience, and not to exclude anyone.
He mentioned the narrative. What are the stories that need to be told?
Information is crucial and brands must explain the stories that concern them. Two months ago nobody thought that the journalist’s work was important anymore, but now we need journalists, we need precise and widespread communication, because it is vital. To stop communicating in this historical moment, for me, is the worst mistake one can make.
Would it be a kind of defeatism?
Yup. But I will say more: we must not feel guilty in telling beautiful stories. And we must not feel guilty if the others are not as lucky as we are – it being understood that we must respect and include them. Looking at my daughter and her generation, I realized that they were not prepared for what happened, but that they are ready to learn something new. Before, perhaps, they were bored with what they had. While now they feel important, in a good way: they feel useful. They watch TV, read newspapers, want to be informed.
So after all, we are also talking about a positive change.
Yup. Pretending not to change is now impossible, because we have all changed. Also, I think everyone wants a win in their life, and this will be a great win to take part in. Of course, for some brands it will be tough, for others less, but I think that the evolution from “me” to “us” will help the little ones and the real talent. Sometimes it is necessary to rebuild the system, and this is an opportunity.
Opening: a portrait of Emanuela Schmeidler. After 14 years in the Versace team, in 1999 he created the communication agency that bears his name. Today he deals with many realities of the fashion system, including also Vogue Italia is The man.