Suzy Menkes receiving her “Fiorino d’Oro” from the then Mayor and now current Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. Florence, January 2013. The first time I met Matteo Renzi, he was mayor of Florence and giving me an award for which I am particularly proud
The Fiorino d’Oro is a tiny gold coin bestowed for a contribution to culture and arts in the city. Although I cannot claim to be, as a fashion writer, a major contributor to the world of the arts, it was a memorable and emotional moment in Florence’s Palazzo Vecchio.
Renzi the Italian Prime Minister speaking at the opening ceremony of Pitti Immagine Uomo
I found myself back in that historic building with Matteo Renzi as Prime Minister this week. But this time we were in the Sala dei Cinquecento with its battle scene paintings by Giorgio Vasari. It was a full house, including the new mayor, Dario Nardella and other financial and local dignitaries celebrating fashion in Florence.
The new mayor of Florence Dario Nardella speaks at the opening
Being Prime Minister did not seem to have changed Matteo Renzi: he was still passionate, enthusiastic and vocal, talking without notes about Italy’s fashion industry. He seemed deeply engaged in an area often seen in the political world as frivolous.
Saying that Italy is the only country in Europe that haspreserved its manufacturing skills, the Prime Minister did more than pay lip service to the current celebration in Florence of 60 years of Italian fashion. He talked about the renewal of the entire industry.
The historic Sala dei Cinquecento in Florence’s Palazzo Vecchio
"The most beautiful pages are yet to be written," he said. "Beyond our borders, there is an enormous appetite for Italy and the Italian way of life, which we often underestimate. Fashion ought to be a central part of our economy."
A solid investment for Pitti Imagine of 1.6 million euros from the government is a positive start. And according to the various speakers, a troubled period for Italian fashion is now over, with increases in most sectors. That includes the textile area, challenged by Chinese competitors, but now back in profit.