We save fresh ideas. Riccardo Grassi’s opinion on showrooms
“In a month we will begin to see the first lightened, even if the storm will completely calm only between September and October”, suggests a fashion sea dog like Riccardo Grassi, founder of the homonymous showroom in via Piranesi in Milan, considered – thanks to a large team of emerging brands and a network of two thousand retailers scattered around the globe – one of the most influential in the world. «In our industry, showrooms were the first to be affected by the Covid-19 crisis, already during the February fashion week, deserted by Asian buyers. We did not lose heart, however, but immediately equipped to work remotely, and we continued to place orders online, “he says. «Of course, it is not the same thing: ours is a profession that thrives on passionate talks face to face in front of the goods, and the possibility of making it touch with your hand. But to survive these critical weeks, with unprecedented movement restrictions, the technology available – from WeChat to videoconference sales simulations – is proving to be more than enough ».
More than the collapse in the physical presence of buyers, Grassi worries about another thing: the stability of the weaker part of the Italian fashion system. “The big fish will struggle for a while, but they will save themselves,” he predicts. «During the crises of the past, our most consolidated companies have shown great resilience, they have reacted to the telluric waves of the market by flexing, without ever breaking. In fact, they have sufficient organizational power to deal with emergencies and, if required, to deliver samples in record time, working day and night ».
Different, however, the case of the many young designers who have just entered the market with small independent brands. «Among a thousand difficulties, they were taking their first, timid steps in our ecosystem, counting, for their survival, on a lot of optimism and a normal economic situation. What will become of them? If they don’t get help, we risk seeing a massacre in the coming months. ” Grassi emphasizes that not only institutions, but also industry must lend a hand, starting with showroom owners and buyers, to whom it appeals.
«It is understandable that in a period of crisis there is a tendency to want to risk less, focusing on established brands, which are considered rightly safer. But be careful: in this critical situation we all find ourselves, none excluded, before the historical responsibility of saving the new generations of stylists. If we lose them, we all lose: consumers, retailers, and even big brands ». A fashion system depleted of their vitality – invites Grassi to reflect – would risk waking up, after a crisis, aged at one stroke, and unable to make people dream. “In a historical moment like the present one, in which the offer of the big ones is rather homologated, the small emerging brands make the difference on a creative level; they are the ones who inject lifeblood, with fresh and new ideas, into a system that has long had great difficulty in arousing desire in the final consumer. If, to play safely, we forget the importance of emotions in our world, we not only hoe ourselves on the feet: we forget what fashion is “.
In the meantime, the recovery winds blowing from China give hope, where the storm – assures the Milanese entrepreneur in the hand – is subsiding and commercial life is returning to normal. «In Asia, order volumes are growing again, but the sensitivity of consumers is profoundly changed. Analyzing the data of online sales in March, we found a new way of approaching clothing, based on “value for money”, that is, the desire to buy items that are needed, with a good value for money. Those who know the market systems know that this method of purchase is typical of the post-war period: consumers, still dazed, do not immediately return “to dance on the tables”, but look for useful items. Which does not necessarily mean flattening or a sterile vision of style: just think of the extraordinary coats and suits that, from Dior to Chanel, accompanied with their beautiful combination of practicality and aesthetics the rebirth of fashion between the late 1940s and the beginning of the 1950s. If anything, it gives us further confirmation that the period we are going through, even if the bombs do not fall, is perceived by the market as a real war “.
Opening: Riccardo Grassi, buyer and talent scout, since 2011 has owned the eponymous showroom in via Piranesi in Milan, 3000 square meters in a former industrial structure that boasts a portfolio of international brands. Born in Carrara, Milanese by adoption, he opened the first showroom in Florence in 1988.