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MILAN — With a leisurely six days to stage its presentations, the Milan season won over international buyers with its mix of creative and commercial offerings.

This story first appeared in the September 25, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Sheer fabrics and the liberal use of white infused the catwalks with femininity, while colorblocking and architectural silhouettes were expected to fuel the appetites of consumers looking for novelty. Key trends included lower-heel shoes, elongated tunics, fuller skirts and colorful leather jackets.

“I am optimistic for spring-summer because I think there is a new silhouette emerging, based on the new geometry, and that gives women a reason to buy,” said Stephanie Solomon, vice president of fashion direction at Bloomingdale’s.


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Polat Uyal, chief merchandising officer of Istanbul-based Beymen, said his budgets are up around 20 percent in Milan, with bags and shoes — a high-growth category — allotted a “higher” increase.

“Within our region we are enjoying double-digit growth since 2009,” he said, noting that like-for-like sales at Beymen are up 35 percent year-to-date. “Our confidence is full.”

In addition to strong showings from Fendi, Prada, Bottega Veneta and Gucci, the season marked the return of Jil Sander to her namesake label.

“Her collection brought a refreshing point of view to Milan, with its purity and simplicity of design,” said Colleen Sherin, senior fashion director at Saks Fifth Avenue, calling it “a welcome contrast to some of the more maximalist looks seen on the runways.”

Buyers noted that several brands, including Prada and Pucci, nodded to Asia with designs incorporating traditional Oriental elements like frogging or geisha socks.

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Joe Wong, chief operating officer at Harvey Nichols Hong Kong, said he remained “conservatively optimistic” regarding business prospects for next spring. However, amidst heightened competition in Hong Kong as a gateway to the Mainland China market, Wong noted that, since consumers are “becoming more discerning in terms of how they spend and what they buy, we are more vigilant in meeting their needs and expectations.”

While several buyers also pointed to a crop of encouraging new labels, including MSGM and Fausto Puglisi — who on Monday was named creative director of the Ungaro brand — others said Italian fashion was in need of new blood.

Here’s what retailers had to say:
Linda Fargo, senior vice president, fashion office and store presentation, Bergdorf Goodman:

Sound bite:
“Maybe it was the overly drawn-out schedule here, but there lacked a vitality to the week. However, there were enough trends to hold the season together.”

Favorite collections:
Bottega Veneta, Pucci and Prada. “Jil Sander’s return was quite masterful, softened and promising.”

Trends: “Summer leathers, transparency plays, mixed-media surfaces and active sport elements remained important. There emerged some new cleaner movements: monochrome dressing and soft-sculptural volumes. Asian themes were a frequent surprise: kimonos, karate and ninja, dragon and chrysanthemum motifs.”

Last word: “A special mention to the caliber of emerging talent at Vogue’s Who Is on Next.”
Barbara Atkin, vice president, fashion direction, Holt Renfrew, Toronto:

Trends: “Color and print have been an important factor in driving sales over the last few seasons, and we were happy to see this trend continue. Our customers have been asking for newness in separates dressing, particularly in jackets, skirts and pants.”

Must-haves: “The elongated tunic over pants as a new suit for both cocktail and day is particularly exciting, as is the new knee-length short. Full culottes, the abundance of beautiful dresses, new shaped jackets, knee-length toppers, easy fuller skirts and colorfully unique leather jackets will spark sales.”

Favorite collections: Gucci, Prada, Dolce & Gabbana, Jil Sander, Brunello Cucinelli and Fendi.

Ones to watch: “We are growing the emerging collection MSGM. On our radar are Stella Jean, Carlotta Poliglotta and Fausto Puglisi.”

Sound off: “The shows were much too spread out. In an era where time is luxury, a more condensed show calendar would have made the week more efficient.”
Tony Lee, merchandising manager, women’s wear and children’s division, Harvey Nichols, Hong Kong:

Sound bite: “There will be a budget increment for the spring 2013 Milan market due to the positive sales performance from past seasons. There is huge commercial potential from Made in Italy labels, which are well recognized for their use of luxurious fabrics and premium craftsmanship.”

Trends: “There are wide ranges of light, fresh and ‘underwater world’ inspired colors such as white, aqua, turquoise and ocean blue. In terms of fabrics, sheer and feminine fabrics such as lace and chiffon are key.”

Favorite collections: Valentino, Missoni, No. 21, Antonio Marras and MSGM.

Ones to watch: “There is huge potential of creativity from up-and-coming new talents in Italy such as MSGM, Twisty Parallel Universe and Fausto Puglisi.”

Marigay McKee, chief merchant, Harrods:

Sound bite: “Tough economic times are pushing designers to try even harder to be more creative, and also requiring that our buyers are extra scrupulous with their selections.… Milan is known for its commerciality and this season it didn’t disappoint, with highly desirable pieces that featured luxe detailing yet were extremely wearable. Bottega Veneta’s latest collection was full of beautiful feminine floral prints, whilst Prada’s Japanese-inspired collection featured exquisite embellishment. Missoni took a new direction with an all-white opening and Dolce & Gabbana’s Sicilian summer-inspired collection was an abundance of bright bold colors.

Best collections: Prada, Dolce & Gabbana, Emilio Pucci and Bottega Veneta.

Trends: “Dresses continue to be a strong category but we are also seeing a greater demand for key separates. From Milan, the high-octane glamorous looks appeal to many of our clients with sexy dresses and gowns with beautiful detailing driving sales.”

Last word: “It’s such a busy packed schedule as it’s the shortest week on the calendar, and with so many of the big power houses to see it is fast paced, yet one of my favorites, as Milan always exudes elegance.”
Polat Uyal, chief merchandising officer, Beymen, Istanbul:

Sound bite: “Steady with few stronger collections, more commercial than creative. Shoes and accessories will keep on the lead and, in apparel, colors will support.”

Favorite collections: Dolce & Gabbana, Bottega Veneta, Brunello Cucinelli and Emilio Pucci.

Last word: “Lately not much of new lines from Italy. Still the usual suspects are driving the numbers.”

Tancrède de Lalun, general merchandise manager, men’s and women’s apparel, Printemps:

Sound bite: “It’s been a very good season, despite the economic climate in Italy. The Milan collections were an ode to femininity, with a freshness and a softness at every level. Our budgets are globally on the rise, as the renovation of our Paris flagship is boosting sales. At the same time, we’re going to manage our stocks carefully, as we have to respond nimbly to any changes in the global economic situation.”

Trends: White, prints, muslin and sheer fabrics, flat shoes, opulent color, embroidery, an Oriental influence as seen on sleeves and tops.

Favorite collections: Prada, Fendi, Gucci and Bottega Veneta.

One to watch: Fausto Puglisi.

Last word:
“It’s time for a new generation of designers to take the spotlight in Milan.”
Stephanie Solomon, vice president of fashion direction, Bloomingdale’s:

Sound bite: “It’s been a good season. There is a move from draping and soft, curved lines to a new geometry whose influences include Op Art, the Memphis movement and Bauhaus. I am optimistic for spring-summer because I think there is a new silhouette emerging, based on the new geometry, and that gives women a reason to buy. The Asian message coming forward at Pucci and Prada has a meaning beyond simply what they showed. People are looking to China these days and it was timely for them to take inspiration from that area of the world.”

Favorite collections: Fendi, Prada, Marni and Pucci.

Colorblocking, A-line or boxy shapes, square bags.

Last word:
“I like the slow timing, because it affords the time to explore the retailers in Milan. The only complaint I have is the traffic.”
Colleen Sherin, senior fashion director, Saks Fifth Avenue:

Sound bite:
“Milan presented a polished and commercial season for spring 2013. Not only were several of the key trends seen in New York and London reinforced, but some exciting new ideas emerged as well.”

Favorite collections: Jil Sander, Marni, Gucci, Emilio Pucci and Roberto Cavalli.

Trends: “Pajama and two-piece monochromatic dressing, a chic look with tunics worn over slim trousers or palazzo pants. Asian influences, including Japanese floral prints and kimono inspirations for silhouettes and detailing. Bold graphic stripes appeared on the runways and in the showrooms, sometimes with a Sixties vibe. Leather and patchwork continue. Summer furs were a bit of a surprise. White provided the perfect canvas to showcase beautiful beadwork, embroideries and laser cutouts to optimal effect.”
Catherine Bremond, women’s wear, designer and luxury buyer, Galeries Lafayette:

Sound bite: “It was a season of contrasting trends, with on the one side a very minimalist vibe and on the other, a wealth of luxurious materials like exotic leathers, which were strongly featured in this season’s ready-to-wear collections. That is good news for us, because we are always looking to bring our customers the most luxurious offerings. Our sales continue to grow, so we are raising our budgets accordingly. Luxury is doing very well, in particular at Galeries Lafayette. We will be looking in particular for exceptional pieces.”

Trends: Monochrome, sportswear, graphic effects and stripes, Asian influences.

Favorite collections: Marni and Prada.

Jennifer Wheeler, vice president, women’s designer apparel, Nordstrom:

Sound bite: “We loved the evolution of Mod into the Seventies tunic-and-pant ensembles. It looks totally modern and relevant today.”

Favorite collections: Missoni, Gucci, Marni and Jil Sander.

“Transparency, white and coral, flower prints, stripes and python. Asian influences, couture shapes, Seventies-style tunics over pants, solid color minimalism, silk dressing.”

“The lightness of the sheer fabrics mixed with the cleansing white palettes looked fresh. The shots of coral and flower prints seen throughout many collections had a great energy that felt just right for spring.”


Tomoko Ogura, senior fashion director, Barneys New York:

Sound bite: “Overall we’re responding to the minimalist look of collections that emerged in Milan: Modern and often simple, but always with attention to detail and to the handwork involved in making each piece. Minimalist in aesthetic can feel cold, but here we’ve seen things that are both clean and elegant. Jil Sander’s show embraced this aesthetic in the most obvious way.”

Favorite collections: Jil Sander, Fendi, Bottega Veneta, Marni and Galitzine.

Last word: “We saw great shoes from both Sergio Rossi and Gianvito Rossi. Ankle straps remain strong, but we’re thinking T-straps are making a reemergence. Valextra developed a beautiful new chain in their collection playing with the letters ‘V’ and ‘X’ in a subtle way. Our favorite new colors were a rich beige and a very chic moss green.”

Ken Downing, senior vice president and fashion director, Neiman Marcus:

Sound bite: “It’s an interesting season in Milan. I liked when designers embraced color and a little bit more of a feminine spirit and lighter touch. It’s very curious to us that there was so much black for spring and summer, when the customer gets very excited about color 365 days a year. We’re loving it when it’s tempered with white. White accented with black looks fresh, a lot of black feels like another season. There were times that we questioned what season we’re looking at.”

Favorite collections:
Bottega Veneta, Jil Sander, Gucci and Roberto Cavalli.

Trends: Warm weather leathers, including laser cuts that emulate lace, sleeveless jackets, the bias cut ruffle flounce, gladiator booties and boots. 

Last word: “There were plenty of gorgeous things in Milan. The quality is beautiful, and when we saw color, we were very happy.”

Masami Kojima, fashion coordinator, Tobu Department Store Co. Ltd, Tokyo:

Sound bite: “I saw many beautiful collections in Milan this season.”

Favorite collections: Gucci, Max Mara, Ermanno Scervino and Etro.

Trends: Floral, animal and geometric prints; combinations of back and white; bold colors, including pink, emerald and blue.

Magali Ginsburg, head of business development, Yoox:

Sound bite: “Milan had a wide variety of trends, from the comeback of Jil Sander’s minimalism to the flamboyant Dolce & Gabbana show, from the bold graphic prints at Marni to the fresh Manga women of Missoni. All those collections are quite diverse but have a common DNA: the Italian sophistication.”

Best collections: Missoni, Marni, Jil Sander and Dolce & Gabbana.

Trends: “The Italian brands all have a prestigious design heritage: leather and knitwear among many others. Both will have a strong presence even for next summer. When Italian brands revisit leather and knitwear, their work is amazing related to fabric, material and patchwork. The must-have key pieces are leather shorts, jumpsuits and dresses.”

Last word:
“Milan Fashion Week had a strong focus on Asia. As a continuity of New York Fashion Week, there was a strong focus on a mix and match of texture and fabrics. This season is all about femininity expressed with luxurious materials, lace and leather and a mix of checks, stripes and neon colors.”

Rosy Biffi, owner, Biffi and Banner boutiques:

Sound bite: “Milan Fashion Week’s organizers did their best this season, enriching the calendar with cultural events and nights devoted to elegance and innovation.”

Best collections: Fendi, Stella Jean and Marni.

Trends: Supercolorful voluminous miniskirts.

Last word:
“Despite the difficult moment that makes everybody careful, we noticed a big participation and a great energy. New designers have been welcomed with a lot of enthusiasm, a sign of a new positive attitude.”


Emanuel de Bayser, co-owner, The Corner, Berlin:


Sound bite: “The big thing was Jil Sander. She was under huge pressure, but she did a great job. She kept her identity with shapes she likes and the quality of the fabrics, which you could see, but at the same time, played with new colors that gave it a freshness. As a retailer, I’m very happy because she has a faithful customer who will find her again.”


Favorite collections: Jil Sander, Prada, Dolce & Gabbana, Marni and Fendi.


Trends: Minimalism versus more color and prints, and a return to black and white.


Must-haves: “Dresses, as always for summer, but the trend is towards separates. Especially skirts, in more A-line shapes.”


Last word: “What seems to be the case, increasingly, is that when you do what you do best and follow your identity and roots, you win. Which is exactly what Jil Sander, Dolce & Gabbana, or Prada, which consistently comes up with something different each season, do. And why they win.”


Klaus Ritzenhofer, owner, Apropos Concept Store, Cologne and Dusseldorf:


Sound bite: “Milan has always been on the opulent side, but this season, the look was distinctly more futuristic and cleaner, as characterized by Jil Sander, the most notable show in Milan.”


Favorite collections: Jil Sander, Gucci and Bottega Veneta.


Trends: Tunics and modern pant silhouettes, dresses with volume, flat shoes.


Last word: “Our budget is tighter and we’re buying carefully for spring. But at the moment, we’re exceeding plan and have had a surprisingly good start to the fall season. The crisis hasn’t made itself felt in Germany yet, but we always think it’s possible — unfortunately.”