How Fendi is Creating A New Generation of Traditional Artisans
A recent New York Times article entitled, “Teenagers, Forget Engineering. Your Future Is Craft”, delved deep into the youth crisis that now faces Italy, which has been bubbling under the surface for some time, and how luxury fashion houses intend to stave off the crisis.
To put it into context, the unemployment rate for youth in Italy between 15 and 24 years old was just over 30 percent in August, according to the national statistics agency, Istat. Eurostat, its European equivalent, also noted for August that the portion of young people between 20 and 34 neither in education nor training in 2017 was 29.5 percent in Italy (compared to 7.8 percent in Sweden).
But the fact is jobs do exist. The Italian luxury goods association, Altagamma reported that an estimated that some 50,000 people working in the luxury goods industry in Italy are close to retirement, with a limited prospect of qualified personnel available to fill those jobs.
So, what are luxury Italian goods companies doing to head off this impending shortage? Well, the Italian fashion house Fendi is attempting to address the Italian national youth unemployment crisis by luring a new generation into becoming traditional artisans.
Image courtesy: Gianni Cipriano for The New York Times
Roman high school students were recently welcomed into the grand Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana, the onetime monument to Mussolini’s fascist dream and now the Fendi headquarters. The purpose? An accelerated lesson in the employment potential of old-fashioned craftsmanship, moving from workstation to workstation, to watch Fendi artisans painstakingly make leather bags, shoes, couture gowns, furs, furniture and watches.
The problem has arisen as recent generations of Italian young people have increasingly veered away from traditional vocational handwork, opting instead for seemingly more contemporary sectors like engineering, and cooking. Yet Fendi views craftsmanship as an answer to the country’s youth unemployment crisis.
The initiative for Italian high schools hosted by Fendi as part of its Journées Particulières, is part of a larger event organised by its parent company LVMH, to showcase the inner workings of its many brands, which took place this month in 76 sites on four continents. Although for Fendi, the focus wasn’t just about opening up their private spaces to the outside world. It was about convincing young people to consider a future in traditional craftsmanship.
Image courtesy: A watchmaker at work | Gianni Cipriano for The New York Times
Put simply, if Italy’s luxury goods industry is to continue its successful ascension, it needs to seriously tackle the increasing decline of highly skilled craftspeople to satisfy demand for their products.
In fact, several fashion houses have bridged the growing gap with in-house training programs or more formal academies, including Tod’s, Brunello Cucinelli, Prada and Fendi.
During the Open Days, Caterina, a 21-year-tailor in Fendi’s ready-to-wear atelier, sewed microscopic bits of fur onto delicate tulle. She is also a recent graduate of the Accademia Massoli, a joint dressmaking project of Fendi and the couture workshop Sartoria Massoli.
Image courtesy: A young artisan at work | Gianni Cipriano for The New York Times
“I wanted to learn this craft because it’s disappearing, unfortunately, and needs a generational turnover,” said Caterina, who is looking forward to the day when she would be experienced enough to travel to fashion shows to see her creations on the runway. “Nothing is made by just one person. It’s a team effort, passing through many hands.”