Despite an Uncertain Future, Cristina Egger Forges Ahead with Hope, Vitality, and Passion

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In case you haven’t heard, the COVID-19 pandemic is still having a deleterious effect on many global industries and markets. New COVID-19 variants are coming out of India and other countries. And just when we thought we might have this pandemic under control, something else happens.

Still, the fashion industry perseveres. Cristina Egger is one of those stalwart fashion industry professionals that won’t give up. Maybe it is because of love of beauty and creativity continues to feed her soul.

Whatever the reason, Cristina is primed and ready to go despite the setbacks from the global health pandemic. Always hopeful and full of joy, Cristina Egger is focused on the future and tirelessly working bring vitality back to the European fashion market. And she sees that future in the many young emerging designers she has mentored and supported.

Fashion Reverie was privileged to have a conversation with Cristina Egger about her love of fashion, her experience working with legacy Italian fashion houses and her mentorship of young fashion talent.

Fashion Reverie: You have an extensive career working in fashion. Was working in fashion always something you want to do?

Cris Egger:  I started working in fashion as a fashion model when I was 18. I worked for Valentino Garavani and other designers. I was always passionate about fashion and beauty. I love art and music as well; everything that is beautiful to see and hear is my passion. Later, I worked for Versace in VIP sales. After that, I was senior consultant for a foundation in Holland, helping to recruit and mentor young design talent.

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FR: Now, let’s go back a bit. In your early 20s you were working with Gianni Versace. Could you talk about that?

Cris Egger:  Gianni Versace was extremely creative in every aspect. He could change an entire collection in as little as two days before a fashion show. His shows were a huge event with big stars and celebrities. He also gave very big parties. He was one of the first fashion designers that used the big supermodels of the 1980s and 90s, all in one show. He really helped launch the careers of some of those supermodels. It was great to be a part of his team and see how Versace could create something from nothing and turning nothing into something wonderful.

One of my favorite clients when I worked for Versace in the mid-90s was the Sheik of Oman, who adored Versace and brought so many garments. I also had many Japanese VIP clients that bought a lot of Versace.

FR: Now, you also worked for Gucci and Etro in VIP sales. What was that experience like and was your experience working for those brands different than working for Versace?

Cris Egger:  Gucci and Etro’s philosophy was totally different than Versace. Etro was a very sophisticated brand to work for when I worked for them around 1996 and 1997. The focus was really on sourcing interesting fabrics and textiles. The brand wanted to give consumers high quality fabrics and they kind of brought back the paisley design aesthetic. At that time, Etro was dressing very refined ladies from Milan, concentrating on a very English countryside aesthetic.

Also, the Etro showroom was brown and green with lots of wood fixtures and always smelled of jasmine, patchouli, and other Asian fragrances. These effects made the showroom seem a little dated and old fashioned. The brand is much more youthful now, as many other European fashion houses are attempting to attract a younger consumer.

As we know, Gucci is all about comfort. When I worked for Gucci in the late 90s, Tom Ford really invigorating the brand. I never saw Tom Ford without a suit on. He brought sex and desire to the brand evidenced in the campaigns. The consumers that were purchasing Gucci wanted to be the sexy man or woman in the campaigns.

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FR: When you reflect on the sexiness of the Gucci campaigns of over 20 years ago, do you think that major fashion houses campaigns are currently alluring and exciting?

Cris Egger: Fashion and life in general is so different now. One of the current challenges on the fashion landscape is there are too many fashion brands. The market is oversaturated. In the 90s, there were far fewer brands and consumers could focus on those brands because consumers were confident that those brands would appeal to their individual tastes.

I currently work as a fashion talent scout and I work with very talented emerging designers. However, some of the younger, emerging brands are just creating a copy of a copy of something that was done two decades ago from a very important fashion house. Sometimes, they are not creating new ideas that showcase their own taste or identity. Something can be sexy one time, but after you see that image or style from so many brands time again, the excitement diminishes.

Also, consider that some of the legacy brands are making a lot of red-carpet gowns and special event garments that are not selling because most everyone was quarantined during this pandemic. Some of garments were very sexy, but where were you going to wear it.

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FR: Speaking of fashion during this pandemic, what is the state of fashion in Europe now?

Cris Egger:  There were over 183 billion garments created in 2020. I don’t know what happened to all these clothes because consumers certainly were not buying.  People were not going out, a lot of people were working from home, there were quarantines everywhere, etc.  So, what happened to those clothes, were the garments burned or recycled, who knows?

Now we have 7.8 billion people of this planet and only about 4 billion can afford to spend money on clothes. And most of that 4 billion can only afford very inexpensive clothes or low-priced fast fashion. Still, to properly clothe everyone globally, we need about 15 billion garments, new, recycled, used, sustainable, whatever.

If consumers shop fast fashion, because that is what they can afford, the garments don’t last long and they most buy more clothes, and ultimately that is bad for the planet. That said, the future is going to be more sustainable because everything else is disastrous. And honestly, most young people in Europe cannot afford clothing from the legacy fashion houses. To that effect, most young Europeans are not even attached to the legacy fashion houses, the clothes are simply outside of their budget. European youth are going vintage, purchasing lesser-priced garments and they are happy. If they spend a significant amount of money, they spend it on accessories.

FR: You transitioned from working from legacy European fashion houses to working with young emerging fashion talents through a Dutch foundation. Could you talk about that transition and how you have been able to encourage and support young fashion talent?

Cris Egger: I learned a lot working for the big European fashion houses, but I needed a change and I wanted something more in life. I felt with the European big fashion houses I had acquired a lot of knowledge, and I could use that knowledge to support emerging fashion designers. I knew I could use my knowledge to help them understand how to create a collection, source great fabrics, and manage production and budgets.

I knew in this new phase of my life I would be giving back to a community I loved so much. In the eight years that I worked with the Dutch foundation, I helped young fashion talent create collections, present at Milan Fashion Week and Paris Fashion Week. I also organized the Dutch Fashion Awards for eight years of which Mercedes Benz was the sponsor. The best designer of the year received $50,000 euros.

The foundation helped over 50 fashion designers and this endeavor was all supported by the Dutch government. I was really honored to help these designers and impart any knowledge I had to them.

FR: What would you say is the biggest challenge for young European designers?

Cris Egger:  The current challenge for all fashion designers is the COVID-19 crisis. The COVID-19 crisis is totally unprecedented, and it is killing motivation, creativity, and the European fashion community has been shut down with some small movement in the last three months, but nothing substantial.

There was a small restart in September of 2020, but we had to close again in October of 2020. Now, the fashion industry in Italy, where I live, is mostly defunct. There were a few shows during Milan Fashion Week, but for the most part everything was digital.

I believe moving to digital platforms, though out of necessity, is not helping the fashion industry. Fashion is something that must be touched and experienced live. And the same is for accessories. If you are a buyer, it is very difficult to work with pictures and videos to get a sense of the collections or garments that you want to put in the stores.

If the COVID-19 crisis doesn’t end soon, it will destroy the fashion industry, as well as many other industries. People are tired of this pandemic and weary of not celebrating life. Currently, a lot of restaurants in Europe are still not open after 6pm. There is very little theatre and events to go to, so why purchase new garments, there are very few places to go.

FR: What is the most rewarding aspect of mentoring young talent?

Cris Egger: When I witness young fashion designers’ growth and I see their collections are being picked up by stores and the garments are selling, I know I have done my job. This is very rewarding. Also, when I see their joy, this is the best gift I could ever receive. When you give knowledge to someone and you direct all your positive energy, it is so fantastic to see them smile and witness their collections on display, I can go to bed and be content.

FR: Sustainable fashion is beginning to get a lot of traction in the US. Is that also happening in Europe, and if so, why?

Cris Egger:  The first European designers that were talking about sustainable fashion were fashion designers in Denmark. They developed a fashion week that only presented sustainable fashion. I attended this fashion week and it was very interesting.

Currently, the northern European countries seem to be more attracted to sustainable fashion than the rest of Europe. The Nordic countries are far more commented to the environment, being socially conscious, and creating industries that are aligned with sustainable goals.

Now, we see more multinational companies like Nike and H&M turning toward creating more sustainable items. Sustainability is gaining market traction in Europe, but not as fast as it should be in France and Italy.

I have some sustainable boots made from vegetable peelings, and they feel like silk. I have supported a designer that using onions to dye her fabrics and the colors are just glorious.

Image courtesy of Iris van Helpern

FR: Is there any new fashion talent that you’ve discovered that the US market should be aware of?

Cris Egger: When I was working for the Dutch foundation, we launched Iris van Helpern. She was a student of Alexander McQueen. She was the most successful designer that I was involved with that has achieved global success. Mario Dice is a very important Italian designer that should be on American consumers’ radar.

FR: What’s next for you?

Cris Egger:  I am organized a small event, a little restart, you might call it in February. This event showcased some new fashion talent and we will see what happens next.

—William S. Gooch









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