MILAN — On the inaugural day of Milan Fashion Week, LVMH Métiers d’Excellence and Fendi hosted the first award ceremony of the “Maestri d’Eccellenza Prize” craftsmanship competition, dedicated to Italian master artisans.
Launched earlier this year and developed with Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana and the Confartigianato association, the initiative is aimed at raising awareness around the importance of local craftsmanship and its preservation; attracting media attention to the cause, and offering financial aid to some of its exponents.
As reported, the project was first teased last year when LVMH hosted the Show Me event here and said that each year a different group brand will partner with the Italian fashion chamber to acknowledge three master artisans, starting with Fendi. On Tuesday, it was revealed that the sophomore edition will see the Roman fashion house passing the baton to Loro Piana.
In particular, the prize aims to celebrate artisans from all backgrounds across three categories: honoring experienced talents who have distinguished themselves for the quality of their work throughout their career; emerging artisans developing a promising and ongoing project; as well as professionals who have distinguished themselves with their capacity for innovation, preserving historical knowledge and skills while reinterpreting them in a modern way.
Selected from among nine finalists, the three winners in these categories were Fabio Ottaviano, Ilaria Soncini and the Verabuccia brand, respectively.
Specialized in the ancient art of cameo engraving, Ottaviano stood out for the variety of materials used in his craft, encompassing shell, mother-of-pearl and semiprecious stones. A milliner, Soncini founded her brand Ilariusss in 2013 with the desire to create new concepts of headgear while rediscovering this artisanal tradition.
Verbuccia was founded in 2020 by Francesca Nori and Fabrizio Moiani with the goal of rethinking and repurposing unused and inedible organic waste, turning food byproduct into resources for other sectors, like pineapple peel into a fabric for the fashion industry.
Each winner received a monetary prize of 10,000 euros to reinvest in their companies, as well as mentoring sessions with experts from Fendi.
The international jury to pick the winners included Toni Belloni, group managing director at LVMH; Fendi’s artistic director for accessories and menswear Silvia Venturini Fendi; Fendi’s chief executive officer Serge Brunschwig; Chantal Gaemperle, executive vice president human resources and synergies at LVMH; Francesco Pellerano, worldwide industrial director at Fendi, and Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana’s president Carlo Capasa, among others.
“The name of the initiative itself speaks already of the nobility of these jobs,” said Belloni, before revealing the winners.
He underscored that the project embodies the coordinated effort of different players in the industry. “On one side there are small to medium-sized companies, often family-run, but with a unique know-how built over time, which makes them a competitive and peculiar asset of this country,” Belloni said. “On the other, there’s the role of a big company. We have access to customers from all over the world and we are devoted to constant innovation in order to offer them products that are desirable and make them dream.”
In Italy, LVMH employs more than 13,000 people — including 7,000 working in Métiers d’Excellence — counts 258 stores and 35 manufacturing sites. These add to an ecosystem of partners involving around 5,000 small to medium-sized companies and 200,000 people.
“We rely on this network of excellence,” Belloni continued. “Together we invent new shapes, assemble new materials and colors. And we are very demanding: everything needs to be done for yesterday, in high quantities, with an ever-increasing quality, while we require high environmental and social standards from our partners. This collaboration makes this ecosystem virtuous,” he added, stressing the importance of continuing to improve the efforts in order to scale them up and safeguard them.
“We hope that celebrating these crafts today would be of inspiration to attract many young people to these jobs that are so noble and creative,” Belloni concluded.
Brunschwig underscored the relevance of the project from a communication point of view, highlighting the need for publicly acknowledging these crafts.
“The emergency is to find a new generation of artisans. We need to motivate people. We as Fendi have a name [that can help] but for all those smaller businesses, motivating people can be a challenge,” the executive noted.
Fendi’s commitment to shine a light on and amplify craftsmanship is not new, as the brand has previously implemented the “Hand in Hand” initiative, for one. Launched in 2020, the project has the brand tapping local artisans to reinvent the iconic Baguette bag that Venturini Fendi designed in 1997, with activations and a dedicated tome further spotlighting the collaborations.