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MILAN – Mila Schön, the designer credited with having invented “double-layer” fabrics, died on Thursday night of old age in her country home near Alessandria, in Piedmont.
She was 91. A date for the funeral has not been set.
Schön — whose clients included Jackie Kennedy, Farah Diba, Lee Radziwill and Ira von Furstenberg — built her fashion reputation on restrained and timeless elegance that displayed a penchant for precision-cut tailoring and the extensive use of “double” fabrics, or two layers of the same material hand-stitched together. Developed with the high-end Agnona mill, Schön used her luxe double fabrics for A-line coats, suits and dresses.
Schön was among the first generation of Italian fashion houses — which also included Pucci, Missoni and Krizia — to show its collections in Florence, at Palazzo Pitti in the mid-Sixties.
“I’ve always nurtured great respect for Mila Schön, a talented woman of incredible elegance, even on a personal level,” said Giorgio Armani. “Her style was essential and lean, harbingered on shape and on the use of luxurious fabrics such as the ‘double’ that allowed her an extreme care even in the more invisible parts of a dress. She was fundamental to ready-to-wear and even more so to couture, which was elegant yet discreet. Her fashion sense was very ‘Milanese.’
“She lived close to me on Via Borguonovo and always looked impeccable when she saluted me affectionately when we met. It makes me think back to when I was young and longed to be part of those circles where she presented her fashion.”
“I’m very upset,” said Rosita Missoni. “Tai [Missoni] and Schön had in common that they were both Dalmatian and enjoyed talking about their origins. We recently saw her at a dinner and couldn’t help commenting on her innate and simple elegance that reflected the clothes she made.”
Color, chevron textures, intarsia and wave motifs are hallmarks of her work, which was always heavily influenced by contemporary art and artists like Gustav Klimt, Gio’ Fontana, Mondrian and Jackson Pollock.
To that end, Schön was elated when in 1989, a dress from her 1968 couture collection was showcased at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York as part of the “Cubism and Fashion” exhibition.
A 50th anniversary retrospective of the designer’s work will kick off on Sept. 19 at Milan’s Palazzo Reale.
Maria Carmen Nutrizio nee Schön, was born in Trau, Dalmatia, to wealthy Italian aristocrats, who relocated to Italy when she was a child. Her admiration for Cristóbal Balenciaga’s confections, which she regularly donned, pushed her to enter the fashion world.
After World War II, she wed Aurelio Schön and, in 1958, set up a small haute couture atelier in Milan, from where she built a brand that includes fragrances, men’s wear, accessories, fur, eyewear and even tiles. She also created airline uniforms for Alitalia in 1969 and for Iran Air in 1972.
In 1965, she showed her first collection in Florence, garnering critical acclaim from top U.S. department stores. A year later, she cut the ribbon to her first boutique on Milan’s Via Montenapoleone.
Schön also pioneered the way for Italian designers in Japan in the early Seventies and her links with that market deepened in 1992 when she sold the company to Itochu Group.
“They [Itochu] are giving me a lot of space to continue to express myself despite this difficult moment. They are by my side with tremendous support,” said Schön at the time.
In 1999, Mariella Burani Fashion Group acquired the brand from Japanese groups Itochu and Coronet. Schön then stepped out of the limelight, but continued to offer artistic advice to the design team in her role of honorary chairman.
She is survived by her son, Giorgio Schön, and his children.