By ELIZABETH PATON
As the fashion shows move from London to Milan so, too, does the debate around Britain’s departure from the European Union (and the rain). But among the Italian fashion folk, the reaction to “Brexit” has a somewhat more glittering lamé lining.
Several major houses, including Prada, are reporting that the weakened pound has bolstered sales in Britain, with their wares now cheaper for the tourists who shop there.
“The decision to Brexit is having an impact on Tod’s business,” said its president and chief executive, Diego Della Valle, during a trip to London last week, “but in a positive way.”
“In the latest quarter, sales in our British stores showed steady growth, probably because the local currency had lost so much of its value,” he said.
“For Italians in the industry I would say that the long-term impact will not be drastic,” he continued. “The situation probably won’t change at all. I don’t think we will have to implement or adopt any special new strategies.”
Riccardo Sciutto, chief executive of the luxury shoe brand Sergio Rossi, concurred with Mr. Della Valle — and then went a bit further, suggesting there might be opportunity to gain market share as British companies grapple with the effects of the vote.
“As with all great changes, Brexit will represent an opportunity for those Italian companies that are quick, proactive and dynamic enough, in face of this evolving scenario,” Mr. Sciutto said.
Even Federico Marchetti, chief executive of the Yoox Net-a-Porter Group, which is listed on the Milan stock exchange with its headquarters split between Italy (Yoox) and England (Net-a-Porter), acknowledged that there was an upside for his company. “The structure of our expenses and our revenues is such that the decline of the pound strengthens our margins,” he said, adding that the group had seen a dip in sales across Europe, including Britain, immediately after the vote to leave, but that they had since rebounded.
“Most importantly, our mood remains resolutely confident,” he said.
But beyond the major brands, a less glossy, but enormously important, part of the Italian fashion industry is not so convinced. A potential loss of access to the European single market for British brands is a major concern for the Italian manufacturers who supply many British luxury brands like Burberry. According to Luca Solca, luxury goods analyst at Exane BNP Paribas, Burberry makes a majority of its leather goods and almost all its clothing in Italy. And according to research by Sanford C. Bernstein, the investment management company, 65 percent of the cost of Burberry’s goods is incurred in euros.
A drop in value of the pound makes it more expensive for those companies to buy raw materials and to pay for production. Last week, after her London Fashion Week show, Anya Hindmarch, the British handbag designer, told Reuters that her greatest concern in the wake of the vote to leave the bloc was her nervous Italian suppliers.
Carlo Capasa, president of the Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana, the Italian fashion industry’s governing body, said that if Britain left the single market, then a reduction in exports from Italy was likely, as well as a possible decline in Italian fashion sales if British import duties increased.
“We hope that what has happened with Britain is a warning for Europe to have a less stringent politics and to be more respectful of the weaker sectors of the population,” he said.
In the end, however, Brunello Cucinelli, the billionaire founder of his own brand with a humanist bent, said perhaps the right reaction was neither rubbing one’s hands nor wringing them, but taking an altogether more philosophical approach.
“Throughout the centuries, man has always proved the ability to adapt to changes in the world,” Mr. Cucinelli said. “Voltaire says if you don’t accept the changes in your time, maybe you will get the worst part of it.”