Milan hasn’t lost its renewed energy.
The fact that Prime Minister Matteo Renzi again opened fashion week here didn’t go unnoticed by international retailers, who remarked on the city’s upbeat mood and directional designs for spring. While several brands tapped into the see-now-buy-now trend in New York and London, the Italians continue to stick to the more traditional seasonality, although Moschino had a capsule collection that was readily available for purchase.
Brands here contend that time is needed to achieve a certain level of creativity and quality and, to be sure, the level of embroideries and embellishments seen on the runways caught the eye of retailers. There was an echo of Seventies’ bohemian glamour and of the Eighties, with key trends that included volume and sculptural sleeves; asymmetry; shirting, pajama and trench dressing; lots of shine and metallic, floral and striped patterns, as well as ruffles.
“If kicking off the week with an industry lunch with the Italian prime minister and the most significant brand, press and retail leaders all under one roof is any indication, it tells you that this is a town that takes its ruffles, lace, leather and embellishments very seriously and so did we,” said Linda Fargo, senior vice president, fashion office and store presentation at Bergdorf Goodman. “Our take away was more a matter of breaking the collections down into a nice long list of must-have pieces; get noticed novelty, anything with a ruffle, remade shirting and trenches, denim dressing, satin and shine anytime, romanticized lace, eyelet, shoulder interest and feather trims, Tropicalia. Longer easy lengths are looking more natural and fashion right than ever.
“Gucci remains very influential and important with its mix of elaborate and extraordinary mixology. Both [Roberto] Cavalli and Etro gave us the best of rich rock hippie and bohemia. Dolce & Gabbana captured our hearts again with its ultimate celebration of Italian motifs. And Prada is consistently…amazing. Still eyes wide open for more emerging brands from Italy…”
“Milan this season is very much about strong, powerful dressing with an athletic attitude,” said Mario Grauso, president of Toronto-based Holt Renfrew. “There continues to be a sense of optimism within the clothes whether it’s in Fifties-inspired prints from Prada or the charming pastel color palette at Fendi.”
New versions of the mannish suit – with high-waisted pants or tailored skirts — ranked among key fashion messages, along with striped shirts, shoulder details galore and luxury sport accents including sandals and sock boots, Grauso noted.
Roopal Patel, Saks Fifth Avenue senior vice president and fashion director, said Gucci’s Alessandro Michele and Miuccia Prada continue to lead the “creative spirit and energy” of the week. “Both have very distinct signatures and visions, which are very much on the pulse of what our consumers are looking for today. The over the top, ‘more is more’ trend could be felt at Gucci. The artisanal work and craftsmanship were unique and special. Prada’s take on foundation dressing with novelty twists and details feels right. Trenchcoats embellished with fur and embroidered pajamas stood out.” Marni was also included as a favorite collection and Attico is “on our radar with their vintage-inspired collection.”
La Rinascente fashion director Tiziana Cardini said this was a good Milan season, with “a high level of energy and an intense but not boring pace.” She said Milan’s young designers are “maturing and consolidating their position,” naming Massimo Giorgetti, Marco de Vincenzo, Lorenzo Serafini, Lucio Vanotti, Arthur Arbesser and Fausto Puglisi, as well as Sara Battaglia’s positive entry into ready-to-wear. “They have a vision that is very focused on image and commercial development. They are keeping their promise of rising talent,” Cardini said.
Attico and Francesca Ruffini’s FRS For Restless Sleepers were also given a thumbs up. Among the more established brands, Cardini praised Prada, Gucci, Fendi, Versace and Bottega Veneta. She underscored how the city was brimming with events, presentations and entertainment, with brands “making an effort in communication.” Also, the lunch with Renzi was “genius,” she noted. “The excellent quality integrated in our style helps Italy’s fashion be directional.”
Helen David, chief merchant at Harrods, praised “Gucci — quirky, fun and overridingly cool,” as well as Fendi, “fun and playful, and capturing the mood of the season perfectly; not only were the cinched wasted flared skirts made of the most beautiful elaborate fabrics that we have perhaps seen all season, the freshness of the cropped striped sweaters and the feminine color palette rendered this an absolutely stunning show. The accessories were in a league of their own, as they have been for a few seasons now, with the floral motifs, scarf detail, and embroidery on these bags making them shop stoppers in and of themselves.”
In particular, she praised Bottega Veneta, which is marking its 50th anniversary and creative director Tomas Maier’s 15th year at the brand. She described Bottega as “potentially the most beautiful show of the season. This was Maier firing on all cylinders; all of his talent coming out in one show,” emphasizing “a new sexiness and feminism” that we haven’t seen over the last number of seasons.
Scott Tepper, fashion buying and merchandising director at Liberty, said Milan continues to stride ahead. He singled out Gucci, which “continues to lead the pack.” Pucci was a highlight, “clearly Massimo [Giorgetti] was just what the doctor ordered to return the brand to its last heyday under [Christian] Lacroix. We are selling it to clients aged from 16 to 70.” No. 21 was “another highlight, the craft was intricate but feminine, not overwhelming. Fendi was fantastic as was Missoni.”
“Etro is more beautiful and relevant than ever, we’ve doubled their space in the store and our buy, ditto for Marni. Vivetta and Antonio Marras oozed independent Italian charm, proving the Italian Renaissance is not just for superbrands,” Tepper continued.
Tepper lamented that “the only drawback was the lack of any regulations on the street style photographers — they were out of control and created traffic gridlock as well as physical danger when they came barreling out of nowhere to shoot a pic of a C-level blogger. Everyone deserves to make a living, but the carnival atmosphere is not cool in 2016. Gigi Hadid could have been seriously hurt this week and I’m not sure why that isn’t a wake up call as we head to Paris.”
Group fashion buying director Anita Barr of Harvey Nichols said, “Fendi was a real highlight this season, the whole collection was beautiful, but we were really taken with the shoes that made each look.”
In terms of trends, she said that “in a similar vein to London, femininity was a huge focus for brands with designers adding a tougher edge to their looks,” seen at No. 21, Fendi and Marni, which “really blew us away, showcasing a new take on utility wear and we’re lusting after their new trench for next season.” The store has been investing in brands such as No. 21 and Vivetta and it is now introducing Côte and Sàpopa for the coming season.
“The buzz around Milan has been intensifying over the past few seasons, so much so that the spring ’17 shows really felt like a watershed moment. There was a sense of optimism and creativity that reaffirmed the city’s place as a fashion capital,” said Coco Chan, head of women’s rtw and accessories at Stylebop.com. “Much of the energy centered around Gucci’s continued success, but it also energized the new guard, with standout outings from Philosophy di Lorenzo Serafini and Attico, to name just a few. It’s an exciting time to be young, gifted and working in Italy,” she added. Her favorite shows were Gucci, Fendi, Marni, Bottega Veneta and Salvatore Ferragamo.
“Gucci continues to lead the way. [Alessandro] Michele’s embrace of no-holds-barred maximalism was brilliant, both because it felt so directional and at the same time it reconnected to Milan’s Nineties heyday of glamour and excess, but in a completely unexpected way,” she said.
Chan also had a special mention for Attico. “Their confident sophomore outing affirmed their design chops and proved they are much more than a street-style-stars-turned-designer duo. The forthcoming footwear line is something else to look forward to.” She was more cautious regarding the return of late Eighties power suiting. “I’m not sure the look is ready to step off the catwalks just yet. It looks great on Rihanna, who has a preternatural ability to pull off volume, but for many it is probably best avoided,” she noted.
“Overall, it was a good season. It was exciting to see so much happy color and print,” said Brooke Jaffe, operating vice president of fashion direction for women’s rtw at Bloomingdale’s. Her favorite shows were Gucci, Etro, Marni, Philosophy di Lorenzo Serafini and Missoni.
Alix Morabito, fashion editor at Galeries Lafayette, echoed the positive sentiment. “The Milan season has been good. The city was full of energy,” she said, singling out strong shows from Marni, Fendi, MSGM and Prada. She noted the major trends echoed those in New York, with shirting fabrics; pleats; transparency; satin; stripes; geometric patterns, and florals. Key colors were pastels, neutrals and earth colors, with pops of primary color, especially red, green and blue. Her product picks included shirts, skirts (pleated, handkerchief and asymmetric), visible lingerie (romantic and sporty) and mini shorts.
Jennifer Sunwoo, executive vice president, general merchandise manager of women’s at Barneys New York, said her favorite collections were Philosophy di Lorenzo Serafini, Fontana Milano 1915 and Gianvito Rossi. She highlighted the “vast assortment of prints, such as the minimalist florals and abstract patterns at Marni, graphic Deco prints at Prada, and the wide variety of stripes found across collection.”
Sunwoo also “loved the incredible breadth of whimsical novelty of the Fendi accessories, the stunning, ultraluxe crocodile bags from Fontana, and Prada’s mixed media statement clutches and chic double handled bags with alligator trim. The diverse offering in shoes, from evening slippers and pool slides to a plethora of chunky mid-heel options and embellished sandals, will help drive the momentum we are seeing in this category.”
Sunwoo remarked on the “renewed energy in Milan,” with designers presenting “positive, novel, emotion-inspiring collections, as if striving to combat the very unusual and uncertain climate in retail this year.”
Neiman Marcus’ Ken Downing’s top collection in Milan was Etro. But he also called out Bottega Veneta’s anniversary show as a highlight with “clothes that our customer will be excited to add to her wardrobe.” He described Fendi’s collection as “terrific — the handbags, superlative,” congratulating Milan on its upbeat spirit. “Retail in the U.S. isn’t so optimistic right now, so I was great to see an attitude of optimism in Milan with so many bright colors on the runway.”
Natalie Kingham, buying director at Matchesfashion.com in London, said, “What Milan is doing very well is creating this luxurious, entertaining-at-home, elevated loungewear mood. Brands like Attico and For Restless Sleepers are prime examples of designers that play into this and who are creating really desirable pieces.”
She said the strongest trends to emerge included “elevated lounge/cocktail wear, while maximalism is still key, as seen at Gucci.” Among the strongest collections, she said, was Marni “whose use of pleating and parachute cords felt really modern. Dolce & Gabanna’s beach and seaside-themed collection was a highlight, and Gucci felt very strong. Etro was a great show — I loved the high tan boots and caftans.”
In terms of new discoveries, she said the retailer — which operates online and brick-and-mortar boutiques — is launching the resort and swimwear brand Kalmar. “Their presentation was a great success, shown outside with Calder-inspired jewelry.”
Selfridges’ buying manager Heather Gramston also remarked on Milan’s energy. “Our take-out is: This is the place to see heritage and craftsmanship melding with future-gazing innovation.” She said that Milan this season was not about trends but “rather a really strong outing of individuality from the major players — established brands doing what they do best, and with renewed energy and excitement.”
Like others, she praised Gucci, Marni and Vivetta.