An image from the Prada Spring 2021 digital show.

MILAN — Milan Fashion Week — with its mix of physical shows and presentations and digital events — went off smoothly, sending out a positive message of industry “restart” despite the restrictions and difficulties that continue as a result of the global pandemic.

Milan Fashion Week has been a very well-organized event during this unprecedented time,” said Tiffany Hsu, Mytheresa fashion buying director, who was able to physically attend the shows and visit showrooms in Milan. “Everyone is following the social-distancing and hygiene rules so I feel very comfortable going to shows and showrooms.”

Riccardo Tortato, head of buying departments and men’s fashion director of Tsum in Moscow and DLT in St. Petersburg, was also among those who were able to enjoy the fashion week live. “I am really happy to see that some brands have been brave to go back to the best formula of a physical fashion show and a bit surprised by those who stepped back at the last minute,” he said. “In any case, I respect and support any brand that was able to prepare an excellent collection and do its best to present the new season. Brands must take the first step for a huge comeback, we can’t do business without a strong supply. But, except in a few cases, I’m extremely happy about how the Italian fashion industry has been reacting to the problem from July to now.”

Also digitally, international buyers appreciated the mood of restart and the optimism that most of the designers unveiling their collections in Milan injected into their lineups.

“Coming out of lockdown, the theme of rebirth and starting anew was shared by many shows. We saw this with Prada starting a new chapter following Raf Simons co-designing the label, in addition to Fendi and Versace taking a strong step forward with their diverse and inclusive cast. Max Mara’s Ian Griffiths echoed this same theme when he summarized his show with three words — “‘rebirth, reconstruction and renaissance,’” said Arielle Siboni, women’s ready to wear fashion director at Bloomingdale’s. “Across the board, Milan Fashion Week gave us a glimpse into the future of a post-pandemic world, where clothes are simple, powerful and classic.”

Saks Fifth Avenue fashion director Roopal Patel agreed. “Designers brought the creativity, energy and beauty we have all been craving this Milan Fashion Week,” she said. “It’s inspiring to see the designers are moving ahead with a very positive outlook for the future, and it showed in the clothes that graced the runway.”

Joseph Tang, Holt Renfrew’s women’s wear fashion director, found the collections presented in Milan appropriate for the current times. “Overall we are pleased to see collections that put the customer at the forefront. We’re seeing pieces that make sense for the current climate, which we anticipate to continue for the next year,” he said. “Long gone are the days of embellished cocktail dresses and teetering high heels, but that’s not to say there aren’t amazing fashions that will empower our customers to continue to dress and accessorize in the best way possible.”

“Milan is solidifying the direction of spring 2021 with its gravitation towards the uniform and clothes which feel at ease, relaxed, unfussy, utilitarian, grounded,” commented Linda Fargo, Bergdorf Goodman’s senior vice president of fashion and store presentation director. “Overdone and too much are not what we want or need right now. Prada exemplified this mood perfectly in its much-anticipated launch of the Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons collaboration.”

The Prada digital show and the Q&A with Miuccia Prada and Simons that followed the virtual runway event emerged as the fashion week’s milestone, along with the emotional Fendi and Valentino physical shows.

A return to a certain refined, more classic femininity, conveyed through fluid dresses, bra tops, full skirts, floral prints and kitten heels, was praised by buyers, who also appreciated the elongated, softly constructed suits and the extensive use of vibrant colors.

Fendi RTW Spring 2021

Fendi, spring 2021.  Giovanni Giannoni WWD

Here, buyers sound off on the spring 2021 collections from Milan, as the circuit gets set for its final leg — Paris:

Linda Fargo, senior vice president fashion and store presentation director at Bergdorf Goodman

Favorite collections: The Prada essential shapes, nylon and the new security wrap stood out. Valentino was another standout collection exemplifying the ease and understatement we’re craving. Pierpaolo [Piccioli] made us see that even a simple oversize poplin shirt worn out is needed and desirable. We could almost feel the lightness of air and a fresh direction through our screens from Fendi with its extra fresh white linens and layers of shadow print silks floating over the body. Max Mara’s neutral and calm utilitarian and modern collection hits the mark, too. Who couldn’t love the sentimental fashion “puppet show“ from Moschino with its fashion luminaries in the front row?

Trendspotting: As much as we like the pared-down blacks and whites here, we love the emergence of soft pastels and unexpected hits of color in accessories. Tailoring was languid and softened. The pencil skirt resurfaced; grounded shoes rule.

Best presentation concept: At Prada, it was a great fashion moment to be live with them as they frankly shared what was on their minds and the importance of the uniform to free up time for creativity and other concerns. Leave it to Prada to harness technology so naturally, too, with its set and live convo.

Virtual experience: We’re very grateful to the designers and brands for utilizing technology so masterfully to bring the collections to us, and even touching us physically with tastes of Italy to bring us closer — a boxed antipasto lunch from Armani, Aperol aperitivo from Tod’s and FF pasta and family recipes from Fendi. Of special mention is the diversity seen on the runways… Wish we were there…

Roopal Patel, fashion director at Saks Fifth Avenue

Favorite collections: Prada, Valentino, Fendi, Dolce & Gabbana, Versace, and Brunello Cucinelli.

Best presentation concept: Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons’ intimate conversation gave us so much insight into their collaboration and design process ahead of their much-anticipated debut collection. It was authentic, genuine and real. The digital video presentation was simple and focused on the new Prada “uniform.” The entire experience was a highlight of the season.

Trendspotting: Top trends included long and lean tailored separates, knit dressing, fluid dresses, graphic and vibrant prints including floral, patchwork and tropical prints. We also saw glam lounge, sport luxe, full skirts, bra tops, denim, woven market totes, and chunky platforms.

Must-have item: Fendi had a stellar lineup of accessories and shoes. The leather woven market tote, as well as raffia baguettes and totes, are favorites for the season.

Virtual experience: There is nothing like being at the shows and experiencing Milan Fashion Week in person, but Camera della Moda and the Italian designers did a wonderful job bringing the collections to our homes. The designers shared the Italian touch and hospitality that is so special to Milan Fashion Week. From Silvia Fendi’s Nonna’s Lemon Pesto Pasta recipe with custom Effe No.1925 pasta, Tod’s at-home aperitivo kit to Ferragamo’s creative director Paul Andrew transporting us to the front row with a custom virtual-reality device — it made us feel as if we were there.

Joseph Tang, Holt Renfrew women’s wear fashion director

Favorite collections: The highly anticipated Prada show that debuted the partnership between Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons was a magnificent intersection of two creative forces who created a new vision for the brand. From the Fifties couture influences from Prada to Simons’ distinct touch with graphic elements and updated uniform shapes — the debut show was simply superb. Fendi’s light and romantic collection offered some of the dreamiest pieces. From the sheer linen match sets to the duvet-like puffer coats, this collection made boudoir dressing appropriate for day. For the first time under Pierpaolo Piccioli’s creative direction, Valentino presented its collection in Milan and it consisted of beautiful lace blouses and bold summer hues. It was refreshing to see a lot of these fluid and romantic tops paired back to denim and the perfect summer sandal.

Best presentation concept: Prada continues to push the boundaries when it comes to weaving digital elements into the collection presentations. We got a taste of this from resort’s series of short films and the spring runway video did not disappoint. The conversation between Prada and Simons, along with a detailed portal to re-see the collection, allowed us to experience all aspects from our homes.

Trendspotting: The soft shoulder coat — whether Prada’s couture swing coats or Max Mara’s balloon-sleeved coat, this topper is a must-have. The “new uniform,” featuring precision tailoring in soft knits and crisp shirting paired with utilitarian skirts and pants with pocket detail. Soft and romantic tops and dresses finished with clean and minimal flats or kitten heels.

Must-have item: Prada’s iconic printed hoodie and the Re-Nylon white bags. Fendi’s soft crochet bags. Max Mara’s bonded raincoat. The newly envisioned oversize rock studs in Valentino’s shoes and bags.

Virtual experience: The video format of fashion week has made it easier to view the collections from your computer, home and/or phone. While we didn’t get the immersive experience of being at the actual show, video has allowed us to see details from the collections up close during the actual shows versus waiting to walk through the collections in the showrooms.

Buying process: Going into the spring runway market digitally again, our team has firmly grasped and embraced this new and interactive experience. Showroom portals with enhanced video capabilities have proven to be very helpful in understanding fit and silhouette. When we’ve been able to receive fabric swatches and look books, it’s been instrumental in buying the best pieces our customer will want for the upcoming season.

Backstage at Max Mara RTW Spring 2021

Backstage at Max Mara’s spring 2021 show.  Kuba Dabrowski WWD

Elizabeth von der Goltz, global buying director at Net-a-porter

Favorite collections: Prada, Fendi and Valentino.

Best presentation concept: I loved the Luca Guadagnino Hitchcock-esque short film at Ferragamo and of course the Jim Henson dolls at Moschino — the perfect theater for a virtual show.

Trendspotting: In terms of ready-to-wear there was lots of all white, white lace and romanticism, as well as touches of fringe and red. For footwear, the key trends were gladiator shoes and lots of flats.

Must-have item: The embroidered linen covered mini bags at Fendi and the new oversize Rockstud flats at Valentino, as well as the amazing collaboration they did with Levi’s.

Best video format: I really loved the conversation between Raf Simons and Miuccia Prada. It was so sincere and authentic and the perfect opportunity to connect to an audience when they couldn’t have a big live-show moment.

 General comment on the season:  I am happy that designers embraced optimism and joy into new runways — Dolce, Versace and Etro all had such beautiful color and were so vibrant. Just what we all need right now!

Arielle Siboni, women’s ready-to-wear fashion director at Bloomingdale’s

Favorite collections: Prada’s collection had a powerful simplicity behind it, embodied in the distressed knits with full midi skirts, matching shell tops and trousers with logos, and statement coats. Versace’s choice of pairing oversize blazers with bikinis and surf-inspired separates worked incredibly well, in addition to Alberta Ferretti’s bra tops with slouchy bottoms, and intricate broderie anglaise dresses in soft pastels.

Trendspotting: Classic button-downs, head-to-toe prints, bra tops and soft suiting were prominent across the spring/summer 2021 collections, and key trends we’ll bring to our Bloomingdale’s customers next year.

Must-have item: A bra top for a future vacation and a soft suit to ease back into a post-pandemic world.

Virtual experience: The Q&A by Raf Simons and Miuccia Prada after the Prada show was a highlight, as it gave viewers an authentic look at how their collaborative process came to fruition. Jeremy Scott, who always keeps fashion fun, staged a fantastic puppet show with cocktail dresses and gowns, and a real-life inspired front row. It was a creative and whimsical way of showcasing the Moschino collection.

Best presentation concept: The Prada and Moschino shows were incredible and shared the same thread of staying true to each brand’s ethos, while presenting their collections in a fresh way.

Lisa Aiken, Moda Operandi’s buying and fashion director

Favorite collections: The standout collection has to be Prada. This Prada and Simons debut was the most hotly anticipated show and it delivered much Prada-ness for the Prada devotees to lust after and add to their collection. I appreciated the optimism of Versace and Etro, especially in 2020. Obviously, some big names are missing from the lineup.

Best presentation concept: I loved the conversation between Prada and Simons; modern, relevant and actually giving us all what we hoped for, a glimpse into their collaborative relationship (a view which in any other season would be filtered through press quotes and a few backstage interviews). Ferragamo achieved much social coverage of its iPhone-compatible, virtual-reality glasses, a very clever way to bring the show to the people. Interesting that at the beginning of this, the hope was a new democratic fashion week that allowed more access to consumers. But largely the fashion concept videos being released are not as engaging to the broader audience as the shows; brands are yet to crack that formula.

Trendspotting: We continue to see the future of tailoring up for debate. I loved Versace’s ultra-mini short suits, which felt reminiscent of mid-Nineties, “Clueless”-inspired dressing. And Max Mara offered an array of relaxed suiting that is going to be very important next season. Lingerie-inspired pieces such as the bra top continue to be an emerging hero piece of the season, as seen styled with shrunken cardigans at Versace, and under suiting at Etro. Retro escapism is an emerging theme we’re seeing in the resort wear space, in the case of Milan via vintage-printed, coordinated sets at Versace and Etro. I’m finding that so many brands are moving in a mildly feminine direction. I was incredibly eager to see Simons’ take on Prada’s specialty pieces, such as the A-line skirt. His interpretation in a Fifties-style pleated silhouette is sure to be a foundation piece for Prada clients. Also at Prada, the ladylike footwear and handbags were a collection highlight for me.

Must-have item: Anything in nylon from Prada, very interesting that it builds on what is already in the stores!

Budgets: Overall for the season, we remain cautiously optimistic, but crucially, far more reactive to collection strength than perhaps we would have been previously. If a collection isn’t going to grab the customers’ attention, it is impossible at this moment to justify the investment. That’s not necessarily how the ecosystem has functioned in recent years, but we can all agree there are many aspects of the industry we need to fix, including the confidence to stand behind good products or reduce budgets where necessary.

Buying process: We are about to start getting into virtual showrooms, so too early to comment. But generally, the buying process this season has been smoother than resort. Though, it’s fairly honest to say that taking conviction in items and brands is far more challenging remotely (and ultimately business is driven by individual cult items now more than ever before).

Moschino RTW Spring 2021

Moschino, spring 2021.  Courtesy of Moschino

Tiffany Hsu, Mytheresa fashion buying director

Favorite collections: The Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons’ spring 2021 co-debut was truly amazing. The clutch coats, the triangular logo placed prominently on the ready-to-wear pieces, the graphic prints and the low-heeled slingbacks I loved everything about this collection and I think that it will resonate very well with our customers.

Best presentation concept: Prada is my personal favorite.

Trendspotting: We saw a lot of bold colors and great energy in Milan.

Must-have item: The Prada single-logo earrings are definitive front-runners.

Virtual experience: Valentino and Prada really stood out.

Buying process: The buying process for Milan is a mix between real life as well as digital appointments via brand portals, depending on time and location.

 

Sam Lobban, SVP designer & new concepts, Nordstrom

Favorite collections: Valentino, Prada, Fendi, Brunello Cucinelli, Versace & Etro.

Best presentation concept and video format: I loved the set design of the Prada show, as well as the intimate and personal feeling of the Q&A between Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons post-show. I like the mix of traditional Runway, both with and without an audience, and the more alternative approach some Designers took, like Marni‘s candid city scene. I also thought Versace commissioning Churro, the digital octopus who caused a stir on social media recently, was fun and clever as it coincided with the collection.

Trendspotting: There is a healthy balance of both pragmatism and optimism running through the collections. The clothes look elevated and uplifting yet ultimately easy to wear, light and casual. That’s not to say overly simplistic, rather it seems that there’s been a collective thought of what a customer might really want and need. There are a lot of elevated separates, neutral color palettes with flashes of color to lift the overall outfit, as well as fun prints and bright pops of color that provide a sense of escapism.

Must-have item: A few must have items I’ve seen are the sweater and jersey combination with intentional holes, the new backpack and all of the shoes at Prada; the florals at Valentino, as well as the new take on rockstud accessories and shoes; and the color and prints at Versace and Etro.

 

Riccardo Tortato, head of buying departments and men’s fashion director of Tsum in Moscow and DLT in St. Petersburg

Favorite collections: Valentino, Versace, Santoni.

Best presentation concept: The normal physical fashion show.

Trendspotting: To be honest, this is a transitional season in which, most of the time, the collections are just an organic evolution of the previous season.

Must-have item: Prada shoes.

Budgets: We’ve increased all the buying budget this season. The Russian market is growing, and we are ready to buy exceptional products and support the industry.

Buying process: We are working really hard to be able to [keep the buying process physically] with most of the brands. Camera Moda this year has been supporting the business in an incredible way. There is a special agreement between Camera Moda and the Italian Minister of Health that allows foreigners to come to Italy for fashion week. There is the possibility to buy in the showroom if the client is really interested to do so, and we found huge support from all the brands in this process. Digital can be a tool for those who cannot come to showrooms but since Camera Moda is open to help the buyers, why don’t we make an effort and visit the showrooms? Nothing can be more efficient for a buyer than seeing in person the collection, touching and understanding the product. I am a huge supporter of buying in the traditional, best way and I am a bit disappointed that some of my colleagues didn’t come to Milan, dissipating the effort that Camera Moda and the Italian government did to support the business. We can all restart stronger than before if we all work together and we all believe in it.

Federica Montelli, head of fashion at Rinascente 

Favorite collections: Valentino, showing in Milan, has been a great signal to Italian fashion and was my favorite, alongside Versace, Fendi, Ferragamo, Etro. Prada was the most anticipated show of the season and did not disappoint as the most “must-have-items-worthy” show of all — I am eagerly waiting for Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons’ next outing to see how they will develop this partnership. Among the young designers, a special mention to Marco Rambaldi and Vitelli. 

Best presentation concept: Most physical shows were held outside, with a strong connection to nature and a lot of greenery in the setups, or in historical open galleries. All locations made a strong connection to the city, to testify a more “local” and sustainable approach. I loved Marco Rambaldi’s show in the street that spoke to a young — body-positive — gender-neutral crowd, and Ferragamo’s concept blending physical and digital with Luca Guadagnino’s movie followed by a traditional catwalk that enabled to engage both far-away and live viewers. Prada’s Q&A with Miuccia and Raf was both disruptive and inclusive and was really appreciated by the non-fashion insiders and created a lot of buzz. 

Trendspotting: There’s still a strong focus on natural colors, from “undyed” whites to all shades of brown; however, we have seen these days in Milan a lot of bright color pops on the runway, especially acid yellow — the winning shade — together with fuchsia, purple and green. I see it as a sign of optimism from designers hoping to cheer up and capture consumers in these unprecedented times. Knitwear has been a leitmotif, in dresses and pants, often juxtaposed; a lot of draped jersey in dresses; expert layering in tops with lingerie peeking under micro-cardigans, or bralettes styled under blazers. For accessories: a strong focus on oversize totes and cloche hats. Artisanal fabrications, like crochet, have remained a strong narrative. 

Must-have item: Prada’s sling-back pump with padded tongue, or the simple sleeveless tunic with the new oversized rose logo.   

Virtual experience: Francesco Risso’s “Marnifesto,” a set of videos from all over the world with a non-model diverse cast, which felt authentic and personal. However, as Giorgio Armani said, the runway show is still the most effective way to present fashion, therefore even digitally I still appreciated those formats that had models walking down a runway like Versace, Prada or Giorgio Armani itself, with the unprecedented choice of showing live on TV.  

Buying process: We’re getting more and more used to digital appointments, and brands are getting more organized by sending material on the collection beforehand for the buyers to analyze. However, the collections we have been able to see live do make a different impression. I still believe the new way will be “phygital”: this new revolution has made some aspects of this job easier; for example, scouting new brands digitally, cutting unnecessary travel, promoting a more selective fashion week in terms of number and quality of shows and a more sustainable rhythm for designers and people working in fashion. 

 

 

 

 

 

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