“Within a generation the ‘Made in Italy’ label may be gone,” frets leading designer Ermanno Scervino. Having survived the country’s economic crisis relatively unscathed, Italian fashion, which generates a sizeable trade surplus, is contemplating its own extinction, simply because it is proving so hard to persuade young Italians to join the industry.
With youth unemployment running at 35% in Italy and annual net pay for a young leather-cutter starting at around €18,000, fashion firms ought to have applicants beating down their doors. Italians tend to look down on manual work, however skilled, and families prefer to push their children towards careers in the professions and the public sector. The education system, at all levels, generally provides a poor preparation for working life. Italian universities are full of youngsters studying subjects in which they are not interested but which their parents think are good, regardless of the job prospects.
A belief in status and hierarchy is essential in all aspects of Italian business and society. There is also tremendous respect for power and age. Bella Figura – The term Bella Figura is often used to describe the ability to present oneself well and behave with an air of demure and formality and is a key element in Italian business culture. Ensure that any advanced educational degrees and your full title are featured on your business card. Italians are known for using the most body language of all European nations. Eye contact should be direct. This is the way Italians show their interest.
Note that the right dress code is a priority amongst Italians. Your attire will be perceived as a reflection of your social standing and relative success, as well as your competence as an entrepreneur. Punctuality is not a priority. Be prepared to wait… However, you are expected to be on time. During business meetings in Italy it is common to express open disagreement and constructive conflict. Initial meetings are often informal opportunities for evaluating colleagues and establishing relationships, not for making business decisions. Business might be conducted over a long lunch, which can last up to three hours. Be patient and show appreciation for the good food!
Does Bellissimo describe your style when you turned up for a meeting in Italy?