Winds of change were blowing over Milan just two weeks ago when the results of the local elections showed that the Prime Minister’s People of Liberty party was losing support.
Runoffs were held on Sunday and Monday after clear winners failed to emerge from the first round of voting, but Italians didn’t change their minds and dealt an even more humiliating blow to the Prime Minister.
Further bad news for the Prime Minister arrived from Naples where the candidate of the anti-Berlusconi Italy of Principles party, Luigi De Magistris, scored 65% of the votes.
There are two important connections with style and fashion in these elections: first the aggressive and violent tones used by Berlusconi and his allies during the campaign.
The Prime Minister first tried to turn the ballot into a vote of confidence on his private life and his government, then, realising things weren’t working, Berlusconi & Co. changed style, passing onto a catastrophic strategy that ranged from defining honest citizens supporting Pisapia as brainless voters to spreading fears of a communist come back, peppering debates with Islamophobic slogans and warning the citizens that Milan under Pisapia would have turned into “zingaropoli” (gypsyland).
Pisapia and his supporters didn’t seem interested in answering back to these provocations: the reply to an Islamophobic poster by extremist right wing party Northern League came in the form of another poster with a quote by Bertolt Brecht inspired by Martin Niemöller's poem (“First they came for the gypsies and I was happy, for they were stealing; Then they came for the Jews and I remained silent, for I didn't like them; Then they came for the homosexuals and I was relieved, for they bothered me; Then they came for the communists and I didn't speak, for I wasn't one; One day they came to take me, but no one was left to complain.”).
There was also a different form of reaction from young people using social networks such as Facebook and Twitter who stirred debates, satirised the Prime Minister and shot videos and clips that made fun about the apocalyptic vision presented by Berlusconi & Co. of Milan under Pisapia's rule.
Italian papers highlighted this morning how these elections managed to attract many young people: their reaction and contribution to this campaign is actually vitally important since it marks a cultural rebirth after the ignorance and amnesia cult spread by Berlusconi and the Big Brother generation (in love with the mind-numbing reality programmes on his channels...).
Pisapia’s gentle ways also marked a new style and a return to a moderate language in politics, symbolised by a colour as well, orange, that turned into the main shade of his campaign and invaded the streets and squares of Milan and Naples yesterday night.
Yet fashion-wise there is something very important to note: Pisapia was supported by the enlightened middle-classes, united under the Comitato del 51% (51% Commitee) formed by Piero Bassetti (town councillor for the Municipality of Milan from 1956 to 1970; Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce of Milan between 1982 and 1997 and current chairman of an association that looks at "glocal" relationships).
Bassetti managed to convince many Milan-based professionals to support Pisapia: among the professionals who answered Bassetti's appeal there were architects, engineers, managers and lawyers, but no Milanese fashion designers were ever mentioned as part of the committee (so we don't have any "enlightened" fashion designers in Italy?).
Vogue Italia – a solid Moratti ally during her reign – turned throughout the weeks that preceded the campaign into the "Bible of Everything Superficial" with editor Franca Sozzani writing confusing posts on her redundant blog, attacking one day rich people who feel superior (“Belonging to a specific social class entitles many, who feel superior without a justification, to act disrespectfully, even humiliating others. As if being born into a certain category alone could justify discrimination. People are also judged on account of their clothes, and those who do not belong to a particular social class are excluded from economic power.”) and ridiculing the next Kate Middleton for shopping in High Street stores (“…she lives a totally different life and gets to meet people that all other girls her age will never meet. And she represents her country. In Buckingham Palace understatement is truly out of place. A totally respectable attitude, yet still out of place. Each situation and moment requires a suitable conduct (…) Of course, everyone is free to live as they please and make the choices they prefer. But coherently with their lifestyle.”).
This morning, while Milan woke up with a new mayor, a new colour and a new smile on its face, Franca felt very arty and decided to focus on the Venice Biennale in her post, avoiding any kind of reference to what's going around her (yes, denial is the best strategy in these cases...).
So while Berlusconi is licking his wounds and is currently back on trial for the usual range of financial and sex-related offences, Sozzani is probably planning to fill her wardrobe with enough dresses in the proper shade of orange from Jil Sander’s S/S 11 collection to secure the support of the new mayor in all the Vogue Italia projects that need some healthy squandering of public money.
In the meantime Dolce & Gabbana will have to find alternative locations for their exhibitions (hopefully no more city hall...), while tanned culturista and culture councillor Massimiliano Finazzer Flory will have to go back to his gym and can now finally stop pretending of being a fashion historian/an icon of style, stealing public money to organise exhibitions with high-profile fashion bloggers just to win the consensus of the international fashion media.
The orange shade? Bring it on, Milan (and the rest of Italy) desperately needs a bit of its energy.
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