MILAN - A new crop of young Italian fashion designers are managing to break through despite a crippling economic crisis, and precious little help from the state or the banks.
"It's about passion and sacrifice," said Alexander Flagella, 27, a finalist in Vogue Italia's "Who is On Next?" competition, showing off his first-ever collection with a sophisticated and elegant 1930s look.
Fellow finalist Matteo Gioli said he started his handmade hat company superduperhats.com with two other designers, sisters Ilaria and Veronica Cornacchini, in 2010 with just 3,000 euros ($5,065) of their own money.
Now they make most of their sales in foreign markets like France or Japan.
"There's very little help for young companies, especially ones like ours that started from scratch and are not family businesses," said the thickly-bearded Gioli, 27, who wore a grey flatcap from his own collection.
Flagella, Gioli and other young designers attended a party hosted by Vogue Italia and French luxury giant Kering, owner of Gucci among other top brands.
"Attracting, retaining and developing talent is a priority for Kering," Francois-Henri Pinault, the company's chairman and CEO, said at the event.
Vogue Italia editor Franca Sozzani said that helping a new generation of designers was "crucial for the future of the entire fashion system".
The economic climate is hardly a conducive one for young entrepreneurs.
Unemployment in Italy is at 40 per cent for young people who are not studying, state coffers are badly in the red and start-ups complain they still face a mountain of bureaucracy despite reforms to cut the red tape.