MILAN — A smorgasbord of trends — from punk to ladylike — and a surfeit of heavy fabrics and somber colors made buying the Italian collections a challenge, retailers said.
This story first appeared in the February 27, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
“This is certainly the season for the skills of the buying team to create an optimistic buy based on beautiful fabrications that are not too thick and heavy, emphasizing cut, detailing and buying into color wherever we see it,” said Sarah Rutson, fashion director at Hong Kong-based Lane Crawford. “Clothes need to sing on the rail and draw the customer in.”
“Milan seemed to be greatly affected by the somber mood of the Italian economy,” said Barbara Atkin, vice president of fashion direction at Toronto-based Holt Renfrew. “The season definitely veered towards strict and serious clothes with heavy fabrications.”
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Echoing other retailers, Atkin said trends that would drive business include roomy tailoring, longer hemlines, textured fabrics and midcentury silhouettes and styling.
Tony Lee, merchandise manager, women’s wear and children’s division, Harvey Nichols (Hong Kong) Ltd., said designer apparel continues to perform and budgets in Milan are going up, particularly for less-expensive offerings.
“During the last few seasons, emerging labels like MSGM and diffusion lines of well-established designer labels, such as Jil Sander Navy and Philosophy, have been proved to be promising,” Lee said. “They are creative, captivating and maintaining the DNA of Italian fashion with competitive pricing. We see a lot opportunities in them.”
The Milan shows were saddled with dreary weather, including lashings of snow, and retailers and editors also grumbled about the leisurely pace of the schedule, with shows spread over six days.
Here’s what retailers had to say:
Linda Fargo, senior vice president, fashion office and store presentation, Bergdorf Goodman, New York:
Sound off: “The messages from Milan which meant the most to us were either romanticized or of great textural interest.”
Trendspotting: “Prada stood out as one of the best international collections thus far, with its desirable hybrid of vintage references, provocation and innovation. Its influence is already felt. The postwar fit-and-flare silhouette is clearly news now. We are drawn to the Italian luxe interpretations of Eighties-era graphics and color mash-ups as a trend. This may well be the season that says ‘pet me,’ as fur, haircalf and skins have reached heights of novelty meets luxury. Its application to accessories is important. Fendi did it best and epitomized the Italian arts of fur and leather. As a counterpoint, there remains a continued interest in more minimalist, clean shapes with either a more masculine take or clearly feminine silhouettes.”
Favorite Collections: Prada, Fendi (for handbags).
Sarah Rutson, fashion director, Lane Crawford, Hong Kong:
Sound off: “Our designer business in Hong Kong and China remains strong. Lane Crawford is in expansion mode with new stores in China, so our buys reflect the new doors.”
Trendspotting: “There is a huge amount of outerwear, mixing up furs and pony hair as add-ins, tartans and plaids, boiled wools and double-face. Texture remains the big takeaway of the season. Colors were subtle and subdued. We see the full skirt return, and longer, below-knee and midcalf is a big story. A mix of themes moving from film noir to punk.”
Favorite collections: Fausto Puglisi, Bottega Veneta, Prada and Dolce & Gabbana.
Tancrède de Lalun, merchandise manager for men’s and women’s wear, Printemps, Paris:
Sound off: “You can’t say this was a good season. It lacked excitement and clear trends or direction. In fact, each brand really stuck to what they are known for. Milan Fashion Week is a little long. The organizers have put Gucci on the first day and Armani on the last day to make everyone stay for four or five days, but in truth, the whole thing could be condensed into three days maximum.”
Trendspotting: “There was a somber mood throughout. You saw a lot of black in the collections, and a dark atmosphere at Marni, Prada and Gucci.” Trends included fur and ponyskin; rich materials and embroideries; Fifties-style feminine elegance in necklines, skirt lengths and sleeves; flat shoes or slim stiletto heels.”
Business outlook: “Our budgets for designer collections are up because we had a great year in the designer business, so we remain extremely optimistic. That said, we’ll be buying fewer perennial basics, because there needs to be added value to trigger the customer to buy.”
Barbara Atkin, vice president, fashion direction, Holt Renfrew, Toronto:
Sound off: “Social media and the live-streaming of shows allows our customers to view the collections and voice their opinions, allowing us to better understand what is catching their eyes. The difficulty this season is the fact that the appeal of clothes on the runway is based on visual impact, where color and sexiness of the clothes drive positive reactions from our customers. Yet the Milan collections this season are more about the textural feel of the clothing, something that cannot be picked up on the Internet.”
Trendspotting: “The coat was the focus of the season, along with tailored skirt suits and knee-length dresses, luxurious knitwear, leather, fur, tweed, houndstooth and tartan. The new roomy tailoring, bold shoulders and waist emphasis so prevalent in many of the collections will drive up accessory sales as bold belts, compact bags, fur, statement jewelry and new shoe silhouettes will be the important statements to complete wardrobe building.”
Favorite collections: Fendi, Prada, Etro, Jil Sander, Dolce & Gabbana, Pucci, Aquilano.Rimondi and the presentations from Tod’s, MSGM and Fausto Puglisi.
Ken Downing, senior vice president and fashion director, Neiman Marcus, Dallas:
Sound off: “The challenge here in Milan is the calendar. With just two to three shows a day — coming out of New York, where we do 12 to 14 shows and presentations, and London with 10 shows a day — we’re not maximizing our time, and not optimizing what we should be doing in this country. They need to condense the calendar to put more shows within the course of the day, or they need to entice other designers to start showing here so that we’re filling this time in with collections that we should be looking at.”
Trendspotting: “The men’s wear influences in fabrics that are going to be customer-conducive, and I liked the rock ’n’ roll influence. The biker jacket continues to be strong. We’re also seeing this return to less seasonless fabrics. We’re seeing a lot of heavy felted and boiled wools, and they are fabrics that do not excite us and our customer. When these clothes are in stores in September, October and November, it’s not cold yet. It’s snowing here in February, and the stores are full of resort and spring. This kind of weather is not just a U.S. issue, it’s a global issue. The customer has voted loud and clear — they’re not interested in heavy fabrics. We need fabrics that are transitional, lighter in weight and have a beautiful hand.”
Favorite Collections: Prada, Fendi, Fausto Puglisi.
Tony Lee, merchandise manager, women’s wear and children’s division, Harvey Nichols (Hong Kong) Ltd.:
Sound off: “The tailoring tradition becomes the center of gravity again. Emphasis on craftsmanship comes back and defeats the reckless glamour. It is a good thing to fit in consumers’ demand for quality goods.”
Trendspotting: “Different shades of red brighten up the fall collections. Fur trims, couture fabrics and heavy embellishment add a touch of glamour.”
Favorite collections: Philosophy, Antonio Marras.
Jennifer Wheeler, vice president, women’s designer apparel, Nordstrom:
Sound off: “Film noir from the Forties and Fifties is a predominant theme. A counterpoint to that is the reenvisioned glam punk seen on some runways. There were also plays in masculine tailoring and fabrications mixed with more romantic feminine glamour.”
Trendspotting: Overall strong outerwear; tweeds and plaids; fur and skins in accessories, sportswear and outerwear; the nipped-in waist and softly flaring, longer skirt; oversize bags with pared-down hardware.”
Favorite collections: Prada, Marni, Missoni.
Tiziana Cardini, fashion director, La Rinascente, Milan:
Sound off: “It was not a superexciting season, although there were three standout collections: Jil Sander, Prada and Marni. Generally, there was no definite trend, except for Milan’s two different souls — either stylistically rigorous, pure and controlled, or very intense, strong and sexy. New talents begin to emerge, with Andrea Incontri and Fausto Puglisi, who also mirror this dichotomy.”
Trendspotting: “The only trend was the focus on daywear and outerwear — lots of beautiful coats at Salvatore Ferragamo and Trussardi, for example. Women will choose to play and accessorize with coats next fall. These items had not been so abundant in such a long time.”
Favorite collections: Jil Sander, Prada and Marni.
Stephanie Solomon, vice president of fashion direction, Bloomingdale’s, New York:
Sound off: “I had an epiphany in Milan: The big-name designers are paying attention to the fact that women want pieces in their wardrobe to last more than one minute. It marks the end of fast fashion.”
Trendspotting: “Fashion right now is about luxury, timelessness and elegance. It’s kind of the opposite of fast fashion — not trend-driven, but driven by craftsmanship, quality, new proportions and luxurious fabrications including fur, tweeds and beads, plaids, velvet and touches of leather.”
Favorite collections: Prada, Marni, Versace, Pucci, Aquilano.Rimondi and Max Mara.
Business outlook: “Fall 2013 will be a season based on the coat. That’s an investment. You want it to last in your wardrobe. I think the timing is right for women to start investing in quality. They’re going to start to appreciate craftsmanship and luxury fabrications.”
Tomoko Ogura, senior fashion director of Barneys New York:
Sound off: “We feel positive about the collections we’ve seen in Milan this week. The collections have been confident both in their particular mood and look and have conveyed a message of glamour in their own way.”
Trendspotting: “Accompanying the cold and wet weather in Milan, we have seen no shortage of fur and strong outerwear. We are hopeful for a cold winter this year that arrives sooner than later. The colorful furs at Fendi were fantastic (up close, awe inspiring), but we were just as much intrigued by the intricate interpretation of fur in other materials such as leather. Jil Sander and Marni, too, presented strong line-ups of coats with and without fur.”
Favorite collections: Jil Sander, Fendi, Marni, Prada, Gianvito Rossi (accessories).
Catherine Brémond, women’s wear luxury and designer buyer at Galeries Lafayette, Paris:
Sound off: “I’m satisfied with this Milan Fashion Week because designers found a very good balance between quality and prices. I also appreciated that they focused on strong looks in line with the brands’ heritage, because with the crisis women are looking for iconic pieces.”
Trendspotting: “Mix of different fabrics; high-quality fabrics; minimal shapes; color combinations of red and black, black and white, dark green and burgundy.”
Favorite collections: Marni and MSGM.
Buying Strategy: “Since we are registering great performances, we are increasing the budgets for the season.”
Colleen Sherin, senior fashion director, Saks Fifth Avenue, New York:
Sound off: “Overall, the Milan collections were focused on commercial viability. There were a lot of real clothes on offer; but there were not as many ‘wow’ moments as in seasons past. Milan could have used a bit more excitement on the runways. We will need to create the magic in the showrooms.”
Trendspotting: “Key trends of the Milan season include jackets and coats with defined or belted waistlines, [and] longer-length skirts — either slim pencils or in a fuller silhouette — as skirt suits or paired with knits. There was a play on volume, with oversize outerwear, knitwear, and blouson jackets in rounded shapes. Pony/haircalf was everywhere, giving a glossy finish to coats, jackets, sportswear separates, and accessories.”
Favorite collections: Marni, Prada, Roberto Cavalli, Dolce & Gabbana.
Leila Yavari, fashion director at Stylebop.com, Munich:
Sound off: “Designers entertained the proposition that sometimes style really does come down to black and white. Two-toned dressing dominated the runways — think elegant simplicity refined to its key components with a focus on cut and shape.”
Trendspotting: “Strict silhouettes, monochrome, high-contrast, and Nineties punk revival.”
Favorite Collections: “Jil Sander’s quiet, restrained and poetic show was a meditation on deep hues, with occasional splashes of bold color that defied an otherwise sober fashion week.”
Buying Strategy: “Our strategy is to translate the catwalk to the sidewalk in way that is both on-trend and wearable, to deliver the building blocks for a modern woman’s wardrobe, and to build and foster brand DNA.”
Yumi Tsubota, fashion director at Takashimaya Co. Ltd., Tokyo:
Sound off: “I think that this fashion week was better organized then in the past and I appreciated that the shows started pretty much on time.”
Trendspotting: “Textured fabrics with high-tech, graphic and 3-D finishing.”
Buying Strategy: “Our budgets are in line with last season.”
Best Collections: Marni, Jil Sander and Prada.
Cindy Ho, fashion director, 360 Style, Kuwait:
Sound Off: “Where have all the flowers gone? It is a very quiet, elegant, sophisticated, couture-inspired yet powerful season with all the amazing craftsmanship on fabrics and materials (fur, python, crocodile), and embellishment. The mood of the Sixties, with perfect outfits, hair and makeup is just what we miss in today’s world, and I am glad they are brought to our world again. Pieces are subtle but cool and timeless! It is a very enjoyable season.”
Trendspotting: “All the subtle colors such as black, navy, gray and white with a bit of strong, vivid colors such as orange, red and pink are a warm touch. The coat is definitely the most important category and should be the playful item for the season.”
Favorite collections: Bottega Veneta, Prada, Jil Sander.
Polat Uyal, chief merchandising officer, Beymen, Istanbul:
Sound off: “2012 has been a good year for apparel with a 30 percent line-for-line increase. Surely this will have positive effect on our spending and Milan will have its share. There was not much novelty, but we are happy with the offering. Turkey is having a good moment with its economy, and the last three years have been the best ever for Beymen.”
Favorite collections: Prada, Bottega Veneta, Pucci, Marni, Jil Sander and Dsquared2.