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ITALIAN ELECTIONS

Milan’s fashion world mobilises for Italy vote

Go out and vote to protect your rights, top Italian designers urged compatriots this week as the Milan shows coincided with elections predicted to see a far-right government take power in Rome.

donatella versace in milan
Italian fashion designer Donatella Versace pictured after the presentation of Versace's Women's Spring Summer 2023 fashion collection on September 23, 2022 at Milan Fashion Week. Versace has urged people to vote in Sunday's election. Photo: Miguel MEDINA / AFP

From Donatella Versace to Valentino’s Pierpaolo Piccioli, calls to mobilise have been everywhere at Milan Fashion Week. Houses such as Gucci and Fendi are actively helping their employees cast their ballots in Sunday’s general elections.

“Go out and vote, these elections are so important for our country!” Versace said on Instagram ahead of her fashion house’s Friday show.

“On September 25 vote to protect rights already acquired, thinking about progress and with an eye on the future,” she posted.

“Never look back.”

Left-wing activists fear the ascent to power of far-right leader Giorgia Meloni, who is leading opinion polls, will lead to a step backward for rights in Catholic-majority Italy.

READ ALSO: Giorgia Meloni’s party will likely win the elections – but will it last?

Meloni and her main ally, League party leader Matteo Salvini, advocate traditional Catholic family values and rail against what she calls “LGBT lobbies”.

Meloni says she would not change the law legalising abortion, but says she wants to give mothers “the choice” not to terminate.

Piccioli, creative director at Valentino, published a lengthy post on Instagram in defence of tolerance, under the title, “A man of the left”.

‘Afraid of the consequences’ 

“The idea that there are people, human beings, who at this moment may be afraid of the consequences of this election fills me with rage,” he wrote.

He called on young people in particular to go and vote, because “we must not step back a millimetre on rights we have, and in fact the time is right to acquire new and fundamental ones”.

Influencer and fashion entrepreneur Chiara Ferragni has also called on her 28 million Instagram followers to defend LGBTQ and abortion rights.

READ ALSO: Your ultimate guide to Italy’s crucial elections on Sunday

While accepting that many people might feel unhappy about the choices on offer, she warned that not voting “is only to delegate to others what is up to us to decide”.

For millions of Italians, however, taking part in elections is not straightforward.

Postal voting is not available except for those living abroad, meaning they must physically return to their legal place of residence to cast a ballot.

And here again designers in Milan are getting involved.

READ ALSO: TIMELINE: What happens on election day and when do we get the results?

Giacomo, a member of staff for Gucci based in Rome who did not give his last name, said the fashion giant “has completely reorganised the work to allow us to go home to vote”.

Like the rest of his team, he is in Milan for the spring/summer 2023 catwalk shows that run until Monday.

Paying for travel home

“We organised a lot of things to finish up on Saturday — we’re on our knees but reassured to be able to go and vote,” he told AFP.

“Some of us will go back to Milan on Sunday evening or Monday to continue the post-show work, and everything is taken care of by Gucci.”

From designers and stylists to production and marketing staff, about 80 percent of the teams of fashion houses are mobilised to Milan both for the show and, afterwards, sales.

Serge Brunschwig, head of Fendi, which had its show here on Wednesday, said its Milan showroom would close on election day on Sunday.

“We are paying for the travel of our Italian teams so they can go to their polling stations and return to Milan on Monday or Tuesday,” he said.

With turnout predicted to be historically low, below 70 percent, many here feel that if they can get back to vote, then they should.

READ ALSO: INTERVIEW: What’s behind the decline in Italian voter turnout?

“Some of us have to go and vote in Puglia, in Sicily, in Sardinia,” said Roberto Strino, 39,  who works for Giorgio Armani, railing against the lack of a technological alternative.

“I will do it, because the elections are very important and we must take a stand against the far-right.”

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POLITICS

Italy’s government to continue sending weapons to Ukraine in 2023

Italy's new government issued a decree on Thursday to continue sending weapons to Ukraine through 2023, continuing the previous administration's policy of support to Kyiv.

Italy's government to continue sending weapons to Ukraine in 2023

The decree extends to December 31, 2023 an existing authorisation for “the transfer of military means, materials and equipment to the government authorities of Ukraine,” according to a government statement.

Since taking office in October, Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has repeatedly voiced her support for Kyiv while underlying the importance of the Atlantic alliance.

In her first speech to parliament, the leader of the Brothers of Italy party pledged to “continue to be a reliable partner of NATO in supporting Ukraine.”

Her predecessor Mario Draghi was a staunch supporter of Kyiv, but the issue of sending arms to Ukraine split the biggest party in parliament during his coalition government, the Five Star Movement.

That friction led to the early elections that brought Meloni to power.

Parliament now has 60 days to vote the decree into law.

READ ALSO: Outcry in Italy after Berlusconi defends Putin’s invasion of Ukraine

Despite Meloni’s efforts to reassure her Western allies of Italy’s support for the EU’s and NATO’s Ukraine strategy, including sanctions on Russia, the close ties to Russia of her two coalition partners have come under scrutiny.

Both Matteo Salvini of the League party and former premier Silvio Berlusconi, who leads Forza Italia, have long enjoyed warm relations with Russia.

In October, an audio tape of Berlusconi was leaked to the media in which the former premier described how he had received a birthday present of vodka from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In the tape, he also expressed concerns about sending weapons and cash to Kyiv and appeared to blame the war on Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky.

Berlusconi later issued a statement saying his personal position on Ukraine “does not deviate” from that of Italy and the EU.

Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, Salvini, too, has come under fire for his relations with Moscow, including a report that he dined with Russia’s ambassador to Rome just days after that country’s invasion of Ukraine.

Salvini, who has criticised EU sanctions as ineffective, has long admired Putin, even wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the Russian leader’s face.

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