Ask anyone what Milan means when it comes to fashion and the answer is pretty much the same. “Milan has always been the more ‘serious’ and ‘traditional’ city for runway shows. It guarantees top quality from brands with the more independent designers being in the minority,” offers stylist Grace Lam, a former fashion editor at Vogue China. Her sentiment is re-iterated by Caren Downie, brand director and founder of Finery. “Milan has always been about the fashion houses sticking to their own look and style, everyone knows what to expect – even if it is to expect the unexpected at Prada. There is always the danger of becoming a little ‘stuck.’”
Gucci Women Fashion Show Ready to Wear Collection Spring Summer 2017 in Milan
That was until now. Of course Gucci is the big name to mention first, invoking a seismic shake-up last year – though perhaps before too long it, too, could become a victim of its own revolution. But elsewhere, following a continued move of creative directors from this house to that and the ascension of brands like MSGM, Vivetta, Arthur Arbesser, and Au Jour Le Jour into the spotlight, and things are changing.
“Milan has gone from really classic to quite funky hasn’t it?” observes GQ.COM Style Editor and freelance fashion reporter Max Berlinger. “I used to think of it as the Ferregamos and the Zegnas, with a deep history, very traditional – and beautifully made. Now, with Gucci, Marni, and Prada leading the way, there’s been a revitalisation of new ideas, of creating things that still have history but are more irreverent, playful, and unexpected. It’s an exciting time, I think, and the world is looking to Italy in a new way.”
Emilio Pucci Women Fashion Show Ready to Wear Collection Spring Summer 2017 in Milan
Indeed, last season, post shows it was Milan that everyone was raving about. And not Paris, for a change. And a case in point regarding this revitalisation can be seen where houses such as Emilio Pucci and Roberto Cavalli have appointed Milan’s design stars – Massimo Giorgetti of MSGM for the former and Peter Dundas (who was at Pucci) for the latter. Giorgetti, showed a bright and clean collection that began with dresses that packed a serious colour-contrasting punch, and ended with prints. It felt far away removed from the Pucci of Dundas, so much so that it felt like a completely different brand, but its roots in old archive Pucci could be felt somewhere. The issue now being how and where to locate either of them to make it a more streamlined proposition. Meanwhile Dundas is the perfect Cavalli fit, his own sexy design sensibilities amped up to Seventies proportions here – hippies walked out drenched in studded belts, patchwork and flares, waistcoats, Summer of Love style. It’s a full on look, alright, but in Dundas’ hands it works. And Italian style has never exactly been quiet. There’s never really ever been anything all that subtle about it.
Max Mara Women Fashion Show Ready to Wear Collection Spring Summer 2017 in Milan
Even the likes of MaxMara and Sportmax, which offer more office-appropriate, daywear, smart occasion-wear looks, make sure it’ll be noted. We had lemur fluffy jumpers and safari vibes at the former and gigantic Eighties proportion at the latter, pockets and waists ruched into shape.
Marni Women Fashion Show Ready to Wear Collection Spring Summer 2017 in Milan
At Marni, too, there was this use of surface movement to create texture. Consuelo Castiglioni showed off shoulders through dresses that draped and pulled here and there, and weighed her models down with the most practical and massive of pockets to act like bags. It was a more whimsical collection from her – softer, sweeter, less serious, and subversive – and worked because of it.
Because just as much as Milan has its traditional and classic brands, it has those that require a little more lateral thinking, such as Marni and Prada. They staunchly sit out on the calendar as being part of a very different fashion camp. We all know we look at Prada to go some way in setting the seasonal agenda. While fashion might have become instant and over-saturated to the point of “trends” being a thing of the past, it’s Prada, however, that you still look at to tick off old-school fashion things like hem length, style of skirt, how to wear your bag. It’s these style semantics that put you in the right season and give fashion kudos. And it’s a world away from some of the other wares on show that call to mind merely traditional, classic.
Dolce & Gabbana Women Fashion Show Ready to Wear Collection Spring Summer 2017 in Milan
But when it comes to classic, you can’t beat a bit of Dolce & Gabbana. A stalwart in the schedule, it’s always classic Dolce & Gabbana, what they do best, season on season. You’re essentially seeing the same show, such is the repertoire now so identifiably theirs; the dress shapes, the sleeves shapes; their utter adoring of Sicily. But you don’t want to miss a Dolce show, oh no. A brand synonymous with Italian style the world over, Spring/Summer saw them go all “Tropico Italiano” – which translated as a spontaneous dance troop taking to the catwalk and doing some breakdancing (why not?), before the models walked out in matador jackets rife with tassels and ruffles and flowers, while shoes boasted LED lights – Dolce is always playful and doing something semi trendy that will appeal to a younger audience. The brand proudly announced on its Instagram that the front row was full of the new millennials especially for the occasion.
“It always feels that the designers have very specific customers in mind and innovate accordingly,” notes Downie, hitting the nail on the head. What did said millennials make of the pasta prints, cocktail prints, bodices and bustiers and tiaras? Did they get the link? It would be intriguing to know.
But how does one go about attaining Italian, or Milan style, now? Because suddenly it doesn’t seem as easy to pigeonhole the city that for so long fashion insiders would so easily dismiss.
“I wish there was a formula, but there isn’t, at least not that I can tell. The best thing I think I could say is to buy traditional pieces and wear them in a nonchalant way. It’s classicism but approached with no pretense,” instructs Berlinger.