Alessandra opens up…
I studied History and International Relations at the same time as working at the university. I began writing articles as a freelance journalist, and it was through this role that I first encountered the fur trade and well, the rest is history!
When it comes to fur, Italy is in a unique situation, firstly, do you agree, and secondly, would you like to expand on this?
In Italy, we are an association that is home to the entire supply chain. We are an organisation of representatives from the entire industry, from the farmers, the tanneries, and the craftsmen and women, to the wholesalers and manufactures, everything. This is something which is extremely rare and bares a lot of responsibility.
As you can imagine, this can often be complex as the needs and wants of so many different groups are often in conflict. But I find this one of the most interesting aspects of my role, uniting these groups as much as I can.
Alessandra and I share this thought, it must be very challenging indeed when confronted with many contrasting viewpoints. But the greater the challenge the greater the reward, a mantra I can only assume Alessandra works by.
In 1996, AIP created MiFur, the International Fur and Leather Fair. A great challenge and a great responsibility, but a unique possibility to promote the fur sector worldwide, as well. I really think we did a good job. Three years ago, following our Government’s request to create alliances among the fashion fairs, Mifur joined with Mipap, the pret-à-porter exhibition, giving birth to TheOneMilano, scheduled twice a year during Milano Fashion Weeks. This means our lives are busier than ever!
Alessandra and I chuckle as about where she finds the time (and energy!)
As this is a series dedicated to uplifting women in the fur trade, it didn’t take long before we addressed women in the fur trade. Alessandra’s account of the fur trade when she first joined was that there was a majority of men and not as many women, but this wasn’t a negative for Alessandra who was surrounded by supportive and chivalrous colleagues. In Fact, Alessandra states…
I didn’t notice any difference in gender, it comes down to work ethic, understanding of needs, and what you can bring to the table. I know in many sectors this happens…
(By “this” we mutually recognise Alessandra is nodding at the “Me Too” movement which uncovered the deep-rooted discrimination of women around the world in the work place and society more generally)
… but, working for the fur trade, I never felt I was considered less because I was a woman.
Alessandra reaffirms. Recognising how fundamental the level playing field she experienced, Alessandra confesses her equal opportunities meant she could, in her own words,
Flourish and support the next generation of female fur tradeswomen.
However, the fur trade has become familiar with attacks in other ways. Alessandra continues…
In these last months, there is unfortunately a more negative attitude towards fur. When some designers claimed they were going fur free, an interesting marketing tool for some of them and an easy way to get rid from animal rights attacks, this has created some problems. This is the real disguise we have to challenge: our product is absolutely sustainable, as many other natural ones, but we suffer for this bad communication that compares natural by-products to unethical destruction of natural resources, while is exactly the opposite! We must inform people in the correct and honest way, showing that we are transparent and reliable: it’s a long-term work, but unavoidable and I am confident it will bring results. Italy is a manufacturing country, with really ancient tradition as regards dressing and dyeing and craftsmanship. These are values that people recognize and appreciate: we have to make them sure that our trade acts responsibly, both at environmental and social level: this is our most important task for the future.
As Alessandra stated above, part of her job as Executive Director of AIP is engaging with politicians. What first seemed to be an uphill battle has now become an uphill war, but we can all be confident with Alessandra as our lead commander. The war wages on! But it’s not all doom and gloom, I’ll let Alessandra explain…
In Italy, we are going through a very delicate political situation, that economic problems make more difficult, no doubt. However, it’s some years that we are working very hard to build alliances for our sector and we obtained important results. We are part of the most important Confederations of the Trade and Fashion Industry, and we have very good relations with the Handicraft and Agriculture sectors. We will continue in this direction, because we really think that alliances and collaboration have plans for the future, this includes building alliances and shared strategies are the future for any sector, not only the fur one.
This proactive approach, one which focuses on building alliances, is something Alessandra, I, and many of the women of the Here Come the Girls series promote as the way forward. I salute Alessandra on sharing this message and on all of her hard work.
Things are changing, it’s impossible stand alone.
We agree with you Alessandra, continue to good fight.
With a career spanning more than two and a half decades, it’s impossible to pin-point Alessandra’s influence and legacy. But as I ask all my Here Come the Girls wonder women, I wanted to ask Alessandra what she wanted her fur trade legacy to be. And this is what she said…
While I will be leaving an association, which isn’t as big as when I arrived, I want to be remembered for leaving it well organised, strong and reliable, and ensuring it always maintained its institutional dignity. AIP is one association which has authority and dignity for all the fur trades people in Italy.
Well Alessandra, I speak on behalf of the entire fur trade when I say, thank you, you can be confident in that being your legacy.