Can we sell motorcycles without pin-ups? At the Eicma show in Milan, the hostesses in lycra costume and visible underwear are still there despite the criticisms.
The visitors to this great European motorcycle show, mostly men, are greeted by a hundred young women perched on the machines, in white suits very close to the body at Suzuki, leather mini-shorts and large boots at the Airoh helmets.
Martina, 20, is working for the second time as a hostess for the lubricants brand WD-40. The esthetician student, who did not wish to give her name, distributes gifts, in a blue and yellow jumpsuit with a wide neckline.
“It’s great to be in contact with the public, when they are respectful,” comments Martina, perched on (very) high heels. “And we like the uniform, it is well cut and very beautiful with its sequins”.
Giorgio, 45, a motorbike fan from Modena (North), asks him to get on a motorbike to take a picture of it with a friend. “With us, when you are passionate about motorcycles, you are also passionate about young women, that’s how it is,” he says, delighted.
Every year, Instagram pages like some media still publish compilations of Eicma’s “ragazze”.
– Tradition –
When questioned, several foreign visitors nevertheless show their astonishment. “We were told that it was typically Italian”, they proclaim in heart, stressing that the big German, French or British shows do not go so far.
On the auto show side, brands have also revised their styles in recent years, hiring mixed teams or consultants who explain the products.
“Tight-fitting suits are typical of the motorcycle world,” says Eleonora, 33. The hostess wears overalls at the Yamaha stand, near the bike of world champion Fabio Quartararo.
In motorcycle races, “umbrella girls” still shelter the drivers before the start, in tight suits and umbrellas in hand, while “grid girls” were banned from Formula 1 in 2019.
“It’s an Eicma tradition,” says Fabio Campanile, a spokesperson for Chinese scooter manufacturer Super Soco. “With us, they receive training and can answer questions about the products. But it is true that customers prefer to take pictures of the motorbike with a girl rather than with me ”.
Recruited via agencies, the hostesses earn between 80 and 120 euros per day, or about 500 euros over the 5 days of the show, according to them. “That’s more than most jobs,” and this important trade fair can lead to other contracts, says Martina at WD-40.
– ‘Wandering hands’ –
“There are sometimes wandering hands when there are a lot of people,” regrets the young woman, however, while the show opens Thursday to the general public. “Some men behave as if anything goes. I take my hand off and say it’s forbidden ”.
Visiting the Eicma on Wednesday, motorcycle influencer Emilia Dobrev exploded on her Instagram account against the use of these hostesses, “degrading for bikers”.
“Nobody rolls in a bra! », Launches this Corsican of 26 years. “Why are we still forced in 2021 to put women half naked to sell oil or motorcycles? And then the men complain that there are not enough women in this universe ”.
The MeToo movement has however made some waves: BMW like KTM, absent from the show this year, have stopped putting forward hostesses. Piaggio has also put stewards on its stand and most of the hostesses have more classic outfits.
“There is already an animal side to the bike. No need to hypersexualize! »Remarks Caroline Merville, a French thirty-something who launched a clothing brand for bikers, Eudoxie. “It’s astonishing to still play with these codes at a time when we talk about diversity everywhere”.
“It’s to attract non-enthusiasts”, wants to believe Emilia Dobrev. “A real biker just wants a nice motorcycle”.