MILAN — At the Tod’s men’s spring 2024 presentation, chairman and chief executive officer Diego Della Valle took the time to underscore the urgency of guaranteeing a future for Made in Italy craftsmanship.
“I will do all that is in my power to support and convince young people to become artisans, and we as entrepreneurs should ensure that our companies are attractive to them,” said Della Valle, speaking in the greenhouse at Milan’s Villa Necchi where creative director Walter Chiapponi unveiled his designs for the brand. By the pool, two artisans were working on Tod’s signature pebble-soled Gommino moccasins.
“It’s also a way to help them find a direction in life. The artisan’s is a Renaissance job, and working with your hands is conceptually liberating and independent. And there are so many companies seeking specialized artisans. We must talk about this and do anything possible to incentivize the younger generation.”
Della Valle said he has had conversations with Adolfo Urso, minister of enterprises and of Made in Italy, and with Gennaro Sangiuliano, minister of culture, who are “very involved” in this issue. He believes private companies and public institutions can work well together, recalling his experiences in building a shoe manufacturing plant in Italy’s Arquata del Tronto in 2017, a town hit by a deadly earthquake a year earlier, or the renovations of the Colosseum that Tod’s Group supported. “When there is a specific goal, we can do extraordinary things quickly. If we want to do it, we can do it,” contended Della Valle.
“Being artisans of the future is not diminishing, on the contrary, and we must act quickly,” he said, hoping the media will help spread the news.
Asked why he thought young people have not been drawn to this career, he said it was “a complex” answer. “For decades, they have been distracted by a life of show-off, but after the pandemic I see they are starting to rethink their future. Now the ball is in our field and it’s up to us to let them know that this is a good job and there is no need to emigrate. I know so many young lawyers that have a hard time getting a job and upholsterers that live like princes. These are jobs that are well-paid,” he said, adding that, for those who don’t believe this is a cool job, “cool means being proud of what you do.”
The group has its own training school, called “Bottega dei Mestieri,” as many Italian brands do, from Fendi and Bottega Veneta to Brunello Cucinelli and Prada, to name a few.
The generational handover in Italy has been an issue for some time and brands are working to ensure a future for the pipeline, even partnering on acquisitions, as Prada Group and the Ermenegildo Zegna Group have done, taking stakes in Filati Biagioli Modesto and in knitwear specialist Luigi Fedeli e Figlio, or Chanel and Brunello Cucinelli in acquiring shares in cashmere manufacturer Cariaggi Lanificio. Gruppo Florence and MinervaHub have emerged to safeguard the technical and cultural know-how of small and medium-sized family-owned Italian companies.