MILAN — The first signs of a recovery in the Italian economy, the fashion industry’s choral efforts to bring luster back to Milan Fashion Week and a crop of new young designers leaving their mark on the scene contributed to an effervescent season that left retailers excited.
“Milan is clearly taking big strides to compete on the global world. The city is alive and continues to reinvent itself both culturally and architecturally along with the fashion industry,” said Barbara Atkin, vice president, fashion direction, at Toronto-based Holt Renfrew.
She lauded the high levels of craftsmanship, “elevating luxury to those customers that can afford it. On the other hand, Milan has been clever in understanding that more accessible price points are important to the future of their brands and as a result we are seeing an entire new level of offering with more democratic pricing.”
She cited MSGM as a good example a contemporary label with affordable fashions.
“It’s clear that the Italian Chamber of Fashion is shaking things up,” said Tancrède de Lalun, general merchandise manager of women’s and men’s apparel at Printemps in Paris. “There is a sudden energy in Milan, which was dozing off, as witnessed by extra catwalk shows and a slew of evening events like store openings and parties.”
Ken Downing, senior vice president and fashion director at Neiman Marcus, praised the steps taken to bring more excitement to Milan Fashion Week. “Is it there yet? No, but it’s a process and at least there is the conversation and people are interested,” he said. “There have certainly been more parties than a person can count this week, and many store openings. It’s nice to know that Milan Fashion Week and the [Camera Nazionale della] Moda realize there is a need to celebrate young talent. I am glad to see there is an openness and a realization that there needs to be more rev brought to this week. I am sensing it beginning to happen.”
Balmy end-of-summer days helped lift the mood and retailers praised designs that highlighted Italian craftsmanship, enriched with luxury embellishments, a sophisticated sportswear look and soft constructions.
“The most important message was the luxe sportif trend that permeated many of the collections,” said Jennifer Wheeler, vice president, women’s designer apparel, at Nordstrom. “It speaks to how our customers live and the need for ease in dressing.”
Colleen Sherin, senior fashion director, Saks Fifth Avenue, said key trends include “midi-length skirts and dresses and cropped pants, tribal and painterly inspirations for beadwork and print design, and sheer layers. Athletic influences were everywhere, proving to be one of the biggest trends of the season thus far, with luxe updates to hoodies, bomber jackets, jogging shorts, track pants and sweatshirts. Plenty of ornamentation in the form of fringe, beads, sequins, appliqués and embroideries will give our customer something to get excited about.” RELATED STORY: Spring 2014 Collections — Milan's New Guard >>
Here’s what retailers had to say:
Jennifer Wheeler, vice president, women’s designer apparel, Nordstrom: Trend spotting: “Sportswear with new shapes and lengths in both skirts and pants, cropped tops, the relaxed baseball/bomber jacket and the sport sandals seen everywhere will all be fresh new updates for our customers’ wardrobes.” Favorite collections: Prada, Jil Sander, Marni and MSGM. Sound off: “We have some very big commercially important businesses out of Milan. In many cases, the designers’ runway presentation is a heightened vision of what we ultimately buy and what our customers love and appreciate from the Italian designers. The commercial and more salable versions we will find in the showrooms are key here.” On Milan: “The show calendar is too long and would best be served by tightening up the schedule by a few days. There should be at least three to four major shows a day, which would help eliminate gaps in between shows.”
Jennifer Cuvillier, style director,Le Bon Marché, Paris: Trend spotting: “Milan was very exciting this season with a great emphasis on Italian craftsmanship in the use of fur, leather and embroidery. The season was rich in novelty, with a focus on luxurious comfort for a powerful woman. Sporty details or silhouettes, and soft constructions of layers and materials, were the hallmarks of Milan Fashion Week.” Favorite collections: Marni, Fendi and Prada. Business outlook: “We are open to new brands and we feel confident for the coming season, given the strong collections seen on the market so far.”
Linda Fargo, senior vice president fashion office and store presentation, Bergdorf Goodman: Trend spotting: “Luxury, artistry and best-of-class craftsmanship are alive and well in Milan. Trends which registered here included ultraluxe sportif, shirt dressing, the newer longer lengths, fall-for-spring colors, as well as the popular pale pastels, florals and tropicalia in prints and appliqué. ” Favorite collections: “Prada gave us an unparalleled collection and memorable ‘fashion moment.’ Fendi was both forward-looking and sophisticated, and pushed their DNA for innovative materials beyond known limits. Jil Sander is clearly on her game. The rich hippie lived beautifully at Cavalli and Etro. Fausto Puglisi impressed and rocked the house.” Sound off: “We’re still looking for new voices to emerge here, especially given all the know-how and resources, which are clearly in abundance in Italy. The sun and full moon smiled on us!”
Cindy Ho, fashion director, 360 Style, Kuwait: Trend spotting: “The season is generally fine. Some brands are playing safe and some are very bold. Some take simplicity as modernity these days. Some take craftsmanship strongly as the uniqueness of the brand. It depends on the customer need and the value they think of. It is a mixed seasonal message.” Favorite collections: Bottega Veneta, Marni and Prada. “They all have done a unique and yet beautiful collection. The sporty touch at Prada and Marni will definitely draw a younger crowd of clientele. Not to mention the craftsmanship, such as the embellishment origami effect on the PC, which is stunning. Yes, I think the week is working well.”
Brooke Jaffe, operating vice president and fashion director, women’s ready-to-wear, Bloomingdale’s: Trend spotting: “Longer lengths in both skirts and dresses, embellishment, artist prints, a continuation of the white story and the mandatory foot-bed sandal.” Favorite collections: Fendi, Prada, No. 21 and Versace. Sound off: “This was a good season. Milan felt celebratory and filled with artistic whimsy. There was lots of excitement as new flagship boutiques were unveiled and the 30th birthday of the Moschino brand was feted. A true belief in artistry, craft and the use of luxe fabrics felt like its own celebration. Milan moments included the whimsy and interesting juxtapositions. At Prada, fashion became theater and this was exciting as you truly felt you didn’t know what would be next. It was a magical show; the murals were fantastic.
“Fendi was simply gorgeous. The tiered dresses and the delicacy in design was divine. I loved the mesh dresses at the conclusion of the Versace show. There was such incredible energy at the show it made you forget you were at the last show of the day. Other highlights included Gloria Gaynor’s live performance at Moschino’s 30th anniversary party.” On Milan: “There was a lot do and see, but the schedule felt very efficient this season.”
Justin O’Shea, buying director, Mytheresa.com: Trend spotting: “I don’t feel there are any overriding trends from Milan this season. Everyone was kind of doing their own thing, almost solidifying what their label represents.” Favorite collections: Prada and Roberto Cavalli Sound off: “I am focusing on brands that have a strong, individual identity. Seasonal trends are coming out on the high street faster than the collections can deliver, so the luxury customer wants to have something authentic and original.” Business outlook: “We are increasing our budgets. We have a particularly strong sales performance currently from our Italian brands, such as Fendi, Bottega Veneta, Dolce & Gabbana, Roberto Cavalli, Etro, Jil Sander and Emilio Pucci. So I am excited to continue growing these brands on Mytheresa.com.” On Milan: “I think Milan Fashion Week is just in a transitional phase. My business is increasing significantly, so performance is not the issue. It’s just the competitive fashion weeks, London and Paris specifically, are offering more influential collections. However, fashion is all about ‘cycles,’ and I believe Milan is not far from making a comeback.”
Helen David, head of women’s wearand fine jewelry, Harrods: Trend spotting: “The following trends were all prominent: boho luxe, luxe sports, feminism-ladylike and color.” Favorite collections: Bottega Veneta, Roberto Cavalli and Emilio Pucci. Sound off: “Milan is known for its commerciality and this season it didn’t disappoint. The collections were upbeat and feminine with strong colors and wearable silhouettes.” Business outlook: “As our business continues to grow, so do our budgets. The developments across women’s wear over the last few years have had a very positive impact on our trade growth, and all categories will see budget increases whilst the strategy continues to be about beautifully crafted collections and a point of difference.” On Milan: “With many of our mainstay large commercial brands based in Milan, it is always a week I look forward to, and I enjoy building on our strategy with our key partners at the brands.”
Ken Downing, senior vice presidentand fashion director, Neiman Marcus: Trend spotting: “White everywhere, especially the little white dress, the importance of that white shirt and shirt-dresses. Certainly, there is a whole play on the 1990s that is in the air, and interesting tropical prints. This idea of a deeper, moodier, more autumnal palette has also become very important in Milan, and my sense is that it will probably move forward as we go into Paris.” Favorite collections: Fendi, Prada, Jil Sander and Fausto Puglisi. Sound off: “The calendar is so sporadic because it’s all or nothing, feast or famine. We go from New York, which is overbooked; London moves at a pretty good clip, and we get to Milan and there are two shows, three shows a day. We like the idea of a constant amount of shows that is stimulating and exciting us, so we can see want we need to see. I would like to see Fausto Puglisi move to the beginning of the week, to have that new fresh talent really kick the week off in a very robust way.”
Tiziana Cardini, fashion director, La Rinascente, Italy: Trend spotting: “There are two well-defined and clearly evident approaches in Milan, either a very conceptual one, linked to art, such as in Prada, Jil Sander, Marni, Bottega Veneta and Antonio Marras, or a sexy, sensual one with a strong erotic message, with Emilio Pucci, Roberto Cavalli, Fausto Puglisi, Versace and Dolce & Gabbana.” Favorite collections: Prada, Marni, Roberto Cavalli and Jil Sander. Sound off: “There is more buzz around young designers, which is very positive, as the problem in Milan for some time has been the lack of new talent, and there are names that are showing a certain consistency, but they will need to be supported. Fausto Puglisi, Andrea Incontri, Marco de Vincenzo, Alexis Martial at Iceberg are all promising.” On Milan: “Yes, there is a new energy and effort, more involvement of press, retailers and institutions. It’s a good start for a richer future. The La Scala event was fantastic, a good example of those events and cultural presentations in sync with the city.”
Tancrède de Lalun, general merchandise manager of women’s and men’s apparel, Printemps, Paris: Trend spotting: “Sophistication and embellishment were key to justifying product and making it desirable. The poor weather last spring has had no impact — we definitely saw a very fresh and feminine spring season. The brands stayed true to their respective traditions and DNA. Nobody took any big risks stepping into unknown territory.” Favorite collections: Prada, Marni and Dolce & Gabbana. Business outlook: “The level of energy we felt will have to be confirmed over the coming seasons, but we are thinking of keeping our Milan budgets stable.”
Barbara Atkin, vice president, fashion direction, Holt Renfrew: Trend spotting: “There was a stronger focus on sportswear and separates dressing. Items that will define the season are vests and sleeveless jackets, softly tailored jackets, cropped tops and shorts, fluid cropped pants, sarong-style skirts and languid and lean pencil skirts, shirts and romantic blouses and lightweight toppers.” Favorite collections: Prada, Fendi, Etro, Marni, Brunello Cucinelli, Roberto Cavalli, Dolce & Gabbana, Giorgio Armani, Fausto Puglisi, MSGM and newcomer Stella Jean. Sound off: “We are experiencing a strong business trend with our designer collections and our budgets are designed to fuel this trend. We are excited about the newness we are finding in the multibrand showrooms and are finding more to bring home in the contemporary market, a category that we have never pursued in Milan before.”
Colleen Sherin, senior fashion director, Saks Fifth Avenue: Favorite collections: Prada, Etro, Stella Jean, Roberto Cavalli and Marni. Sound off: “Overall, the Milanese collections presented a strong point of view. The more minimalist aesthetic seen in New York gave way to maximalism here in Milan, with a focus on craftsmanship and lavish embellishments.” On Milan: “Milan has desperately needed an infusion of young designer talent. Stella Jean’s showing this week was a positive move in the right direction, as was the addition of MSGM to the official calendar. Franca Sozzani’s ‘Who Is on Next?’ initiative has been effective in bringing global attention to the new generation of Italian-produced designers, with Aquilano.Rimondi (formerly 6267) being one of its success stories.”
Tomoko Ogura, senior fashion director, Barneys New York: Trend spotting: “We continue to see autumnal colors, particularly rust and chocolate brown, in addition to pastel hues like blush and pale yellow. The pairing of crop tops and bandeaux with below-the-knee lengths is a standout.” Favorite collections: Fendi, Valextra and Gianvito Rossi. On Milan: “There is a renewed energy in Milan. It’s refreshing to see an emergence of developing talent in the city. Pleasantly, there’s more to see and do during fashion week as well, which keeps us engaged. There are beautiful stores that have opened this week in Milan, in addition to the fantastic ‘Fendi and the Cinema’ exhibition. The vibe overall this Milan Fashion Week is noticeably positive. Fausto Puglisi is one to watch. The energy of his show was uplifting and his youthful spirit is one that we are looking for in Milan.”
Antonia Giacinti, owner, Antonia, Milan: Favorite collection: Fendi Business outlook: “We will keep buying those brands reflecting our taste. Despite the fact that we are very focused on the big luxury fashion labels, we will continue our search for interesting, niche names. We have just opened a new 5,382-square-foot store, thus we are definitely increasing our budgets.”
Laura Larbalestier, buying director, Browns, London: Trend spotting: “Well, gold is the color. And a new twist on sportswear, the evolution of sportswear, from Prada and Marni.” Favorite collections: Prada, No. 21 and Marni. Business outlook: “We want to continue to develop the shoe business and buy into strong looks. We are increasing our budgets especially on key show looks — the stronger and more fabulous the better.” On Milan: “I think there were some great things and all of our Italian designers are performing well this season.”
Leila Yavari, fashion director, Stylebop.com: Trend spotting: “Sporty luxe and Nineties revival were on display.” Favorite collections: Roberto Cavalli, Emilio Pucci and Jil Sander. Business outlook: “We are a fast-growing company and, season after season, we experience double-digit growth. Our buying budget increases accordingly.” On Milan: “Milan has taken steps in the right direction to reboot and maintain its status as a fashion capital, and the energy of Milan Fashion Week reflected the efforts made by Camera della Moda this season. We hope this continues and think there is a great deal of potential for the city of Milan to offer a platform for young designers, which is a development we hope to see in seasons to come.”
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