Europe on the Brink: The Industry's Prescription

WWD has turned to fashion-industry leaders to hear what their solutions to the economic and financial crisis would be.

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Sidney Toledano

Photo By Max Avdeev

Gildo Zegna

Photo By Courtesy Photo

Gildo Zegna, ceo of the Ermenegildo Zegna Group:
“The euro will remain, and politicians will find a solution. We have the advantage of a weak euro, which helps grow our exports. I am optimistic that the European Union will remain, and we are tied to the euro. Newspapers contribute to the depression, but after all, the sector is holding up, and tourists compensate the weaker markets. That said, we must always be on the watch.”

Eric Maréchalle, Kenzo ceo:
“Europe needs to become a real federation, with economic equality and democracy. People will become aware of this gradually. Only five years ago, there was no talk of this. People need something new to be enthusiastic about. Europeans are so scared of losing what they already have. I’m optimistic. In the short term, we need to associate a new capacity to find funding with a federal government.”

Sidney Toledano, Christian Dior ceo:
“The debt problem needs to be resolved, because when we are in debt we cannot move forward.”

Peter Kriemler, ceo, Akris:
“Europe is not concerned enough about unemployment. In the United States, where unemployment is about 8 percent, this is the main subject among business leaders and workers. I feel better about the American situation, and I think they have a clear plan how to work out a long-term strategy, even if it will take many years. It might impose higher inflation for the future, and for the moment there will be more debt. In Europe, we have about 12 percent unemployment, and it will grow further, and yet we are still focused on debt reduction and austerity. Without some attention given to job creation, I don’t think we can get out of this situation very quickly.

“I fear we face many years of nongrowth and additional political and social problems. I’ve not yet seen a government address the fact that salary levels may need to be lowered as a measure to make European countries more competitive in a global, open marketplace. Somehow, we need to bring back the work. I suppose this can happen only with a major devaluation of the euro against the dollar or with an exit of the problem countries.”

Umberto Angeloni, ceo, Caruso:
“There cannot be, at the moment, fiscal unification, because that would take years and years and years, so there should be at least financial unification immediately. By that, I mean that there should be a common authority to oversee banks, to save banks, to ensure depositors of banks over the euro zone....That would stop a run on the banks and would take away from the single governments the task of saving their banks. So there should be a central authority that not only supervises but also supports and even buys, if necessary, banks. Secondly, there should be some sort of unification of debt….All of a sudden European debt would be the least risky.”

Christophe Navarre, ceo of Moët Hennessy:
“As a Belgian, in terms of both my upbringing and my convictions, I am a dedicated European. Like France and Germany, Belgium was one of the founders of what is now the European Union. There is no alternative than to find solutions to the current situation, in the sense that there is no possibility of going backwards. And that concerns both the euro and Europe itself.”

Franco Pené, chairman of Gibò SpA:
“To change the mood of the people is just as important as any other measure. If the consumer mood does not change, it will be a nightmare for many years. The southern part of Europe is, of course, in the worst situation, including Italy, but I think the problem today is affecting everybody, including Germany. [The outcome of the June 29 European Summit] is exactly what everybody was waiting for — you can tell from the reaction of the stock exchange.…The only way to find remedies is to move forward with a real European community.”

Jean-Claude Biver, ceo, Hublot:
“I believe in education. If you have a very powerful high-level educational system, you can develop imagination and creativity….People need to be instructed. This is true [in the U.S. and] in Europe, in every country where there is a high level of GDP.”

Bruno Sälzer, ceo, Escada:
“The key for me to improve the situation, or at least to be more sure about the future, requires a much more consistent way of communicating the ways in which to deal with the crisis. Right now, the plans change every two weeks. New information and new instruments are coming up constantly. People are first confused, but by the end of the day, they’re completely frustrated, which is worse. To overcome frustration with the crisis, what is said today has to match much more closely with what was said yesterday. People are looking for stability.”

Enrico Ceccato, ceo, Perfume Holding:
“In Europe, we need to work on the financial spread….Every country has its problems. Italy has structural problems: It’s composed of many small and medium-sized businesses, many of which don’t have succession plans and are not international enough to compete effectively. And unfortunately, many of those who run these businesses don’t support the political groups who would most benefit them.”

Celso Fadelli, ceo of Intertrade Europe, which creates market strategies for high-end artistic fragrance brands such as Eight & Bob, Agonist, Blood Concept, Byredo and Nasomatto:
“If Europe can’t learn to govern itself with unified political, fiscal and labor regulations, it will not be able to start developing again. Those who thought that a single currency and the expansion of the number of member countries were all that was needed had to reexamine their thinking at the first financial crisis. If Europe doesn’t become an integrated system of “united states” in short order — and not of related countries that behave with distrust, conflict, and opportunism — unfortunately, it won’t carry much weight in the long-term future, which needs a three-block scenario composed of Asia, America, Europe….The measures taken by some countries, including Italy, to invert [the crisis] have been too focused on the recovery of financial resources instead of on lightening the cost of government systems, which for years and years handed out jobs and raised public spending in exchange for votes and non-collective interests. I see the long-term scenario for Europe as worrisome, also keeping in mind the lack of dynamism in the “Old Continent,” that has never revealed the ability to react. For instance, the United States is always quick and open to major changes, when necessary, in a short amount of time.”

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