MILAN — Fresh faces, led by Alessandro Michele at Gucci, brought a new energy to Milan Fashion Week, and retailers headed for Paris abuzz about the city’s collections.
“Milan hit the refresh button. New eras at key houses with new designers at the helm, shown in new venues to further change it up,” said Linda Fargo, senior vice president fashion and store presentation director at Bergdorf Goodman, alluding to not only Michele but also Peter Dundas at Roberto Cavalli and Massimo Giorgetti at Emilio Pucci. “The biggest and best news of the week was clearly at Gucci, where Alessandro Michele sent out a complete joy of a collection, and one which is already highly influential in its beautiful magpie vintage eclecticism.”
Fargo said the “best trends of Milan were all there and then some: feel-good color, stripes, lace, cross-referencing, pan-cultural, day and night together, an era mash-up, and all done to look both fresh and nonchalant yet luxurious and beautiful. We like the continued bohemian lace and ruffled Fair Maidens at Etro and [Alberta] Ferretti.”
Romantic, bohemian and Victorian influences with plenty of ruffles and intricate embroideries; slip- and apron-dresses; chiffon voile and transparency; ample sleeves; fluid silhouettes; soft tailored jackets, and wider pants were also key trends retailers responded to.
“We thought Milan was strong. Gucci was such a highlight and a great start to the week,” said Jennifer Wheeler, vice president, corporate merchandise manager of women’s designer apparel at Nordstrom. “After that, the strength came from designers whose collections stayed true to the essence of their brand but had a fresh and relevant point of view.” The Seattle-based retailer’s favorite collections were Gucci, Marni, Missoni, Etro, Dolce & Gabbana and Prada.
Budgets reflected the upbeat mood.
Wheeler said Nordstrom would spend more in Europe due to new store openings over the past year. “We’ve had consistently strong business with a number of European collections, so our confidence in those brands remains solid. It is really about bringing something new to the consumer,” she said.
Emmanuel de Bayser, co-owner of Berlin’s The Corner, said the store is concentrating on Italian brands and plans to increase its budgets for the season, noting that the ready-to-wear category is “coming back,” with “strong individual pieces that can’t be easily copied” selling particularly well. De Bayser also cited Gucci as a favorite collection, together with Fendi and Bottega Veneta. “We started selling the brand with the fall show — this July — and the pieces are flying out. It is the new cult brand,” said de Bayser of Bottega. “For the past two seasons, Milan has become a place where we like to come back. The city is less grey and more dynamic and colorful. There is a new wind of energy in the city which we see having a positive impact on Italian creativity.”
“Milan is headquarters to some of the most significant collections in our portfolio and we continue to budget for growth in this market,” said Steven Cook, senior vice president of buying and merchandising for Canada’s Holt Renfrew, citing “evolution in the more storied lines,” such as Prada, Gucci and Fendi.
He also noted that “elevated streetwear made a significant impact. Marcelo Burlon’s line reflected this direction with a showcase of fresh motifs and silhouettes.”
Anita Barr, group fashion director at Harvey Nichols said this was “the strongest season seen coming out of Milan, for some time.” Her favorite collections were: Gucci, Fendi, Jil Sander, Max Mara and Roberto Cavalli. For fall, the Italian brands “are having a real revival in sales and judging by the really strong collections we’ve seen in Milan for spring 2016, this trend will certainly continue. This increased appetite for Italian labels will be reflected in our budgets.”
Holt Renfrew favorites were Fendi, Gucci, Prada, Marcelo Burlon and Philosophy di Lorenzo Serafini, launching for resort.
Sebla Refig Devidas, buying director, ladies merchandise group at Beymen in Turkey, struck a more cautious note. “Unfortunately, the fluctuation of currency will have a certain negative impact on our buying this season. Moreover, the circumstances in the territory indeed affect the business,” she said, alluding to the ongoing refugee crisis in Europe and the sputtering European economy. She found greater innovation in shoes and bags, praising Gianvito Rossi, Giuseppe Zanotti, Tod’s and Sergio Rossi, while she believes ready-to-wear continued “the pre-season attitudes.”
Beymen’s favorites were Dolce & Gabbana, Etro and Marni.
Kelly Wong, general merchandise manager of women’s wear at Lane Crawford in Hong Kong, said the store’s buying would be done mindful of the “new normal” in China and Hong Kong, which are undergoing economic re-adjustment. Hong Kong also continues to suffer from the new travel patterns of wealthy Chinese tourists, who are now shifting their luxury purchases to Japan and elsewhere.
“With such fluid market and currency fluctuations, as well as a change in consumer traveling behavior, it is necessary to take an optimistic yet cautious approach as to how and where we invest our resources in order to maximize on impact and satisfy consumer desires,” she said. “The global consumer craves newness, the shopping behavior has changed. Everyone wants to be different and a strong individual, therefore it is important that we are also sourcing more smaller niche brands with less market penetration in order to be competitive in product offering.”
Lane Crawford’s favorites were Gucci, Ports 1961 and Dolce & Gabbana, with Ibrigu a new discovery.
Sarah Rutson, vice president of global buying for Net-a-porter, cited strong shows from big commercial brands like Gucci and Dolce & Gabbana, with accessories particularly strong. “Overall we are optimistic with the growth, and therefore are increasing budgets, especially in footwear and bag categories,” she said. Her favorites included Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana, Etro, Missoni, Gianvito Rossi and Aquazzura.
Tiziana Cardini, fashion director at La Rinascente, also praised the strong range of accessories — shoes from Gianvito Rossi and Santoni, and bags by Elena Ghisellini, Sara Battaglia and Bertoni — but at the same time found “a new energy, positive mood and attitude” at Milan Fashion Week, with shows “easier to navigate, and more compact in the center of the city.” Favorites included Versace, Gucci, Etro and Marni.
Cardini cited Arthur Arbesser, Angelos Bratis, Albino, Damir Doma and Francesca Ruffini among the best young or new offers. “I also think that the renewed focus on fashion and the clothes and less hype on celebrities is very positive,” she added.
“Milan was very, very eclectic this season. On the one hand, there was a vintage retro trend at brands like Gucci and Prada. On the other, you had an electric, futuristic vibe at Versace, Pucci and MSGM,” said Marie de Reynies, divisional merchandise manager of women’s wear at Printemps. “Our feelings about the shows were as varied as the propositions on offer. Globally, a new personality is emerging out of Milan. I think it was the right size in terms of the number of days, because there was a lot of content and an Italian personality emerged.” Prada was the standout show for de Reynies.
Etro, Marni and Gucci were favored by Leila Yavari, fashion director at Stylebop.com, but she also highlighted the tiered cream dress at Jil Sander, the ruffled tiers at Salvatore Ferragamo and the knitwear with “beautiful macramé work” at Gucci, Missoni and Marco de Vincenzo. “The overall mood was one of an abundance of riches, spun with a quirky eclecticism that favored clashing textures,” she said.
Roopal Patel, fashion director of Saks Fifth Avenue, said she was “excited about the new spirit of Milan. With the new guard emerging, there is a creative Renaissance taking place that really showcases the talent, craftsmanship and artistry of Italian design.” Patel’s top collections were Gucci, which “set the tone for the rest of the week,” Prada, Etro and Fendi.
Ken Downing, senior vice president, fashion director at Neiman Marcus, called Gucci a “magnificent” highlight as new creative director Michele “has changed our eyes and influenced the market. It makes it exciting to come to Milan.”
Michele’s spring collection trumpeted the city’s new romantic direction, full of lace, flounces, ruffles, prints and crafty, grandmotherly details and embellishments.
“It’s nice to see so much specialness and so much surface interest on the ready-to-wear because that’s what’s exciting the customer right now,” Downing said, adding Prada and Etro to the list of his favorite collections.
In accessories, he called out the laser-cut floral adornments on handbags at Fendi, along with its guitar-strap bags.
Judd Crane, Selfridges’ director of women’s wear and accessories, said Milan felt “dynamic and forward-thinking this season,” citing the “combination of a complete new direction and heritage Gucci codes,” which continues to be very exciting. “Peter Dundas at Roberto Cavalli and Rodolfo Paglialunga at Jil Sander brought a different perspective. We also loved Jeremy Scott’s high energy and irrepressible car-wash couture outing — especially those Stephen Jones hats and now signature straight-to-retail angle.”
Daniella Vitale, chief operating officer at Barneys New York, said she “personally love[s] Milan and it did seem more organized, but still feels a little quiet for a fashion week. It would be great to try and get more brands to show here and create a little disruption.”
Vitale cited “a strong Seventies vibe that is moving into the Eighties with the skirt suit and structured lady bag most prominent at Prada. We’ve seen a lot of layering – the assembly of sheer layers looks new. Yellow continues from New York to be a standout color, whether in softer hues as seen at Philosophy and Prada or in more saturated form, as seen at Marni and Missoni.”
Brooke Jaffe, Bloomingdale’s operating vice president, fashion director, ready-to-wear, said this was “a season of individuality in Milan. Women will have plenty of options to choose from and can dress to suit their unique point of view. In Milan we also saw a celebration of true craft. The comprehensive range of workmanship found in ready to wear and accessories has been extraordinary.”
Of her favorite collections, Jaffe said, “Versace was incredible, Gucci, Prada, Etro and Dolce & Gabbana.”
Tracey Cheng, head of merchandising, women’s wear, I.T., Hong Kong, also praised the “playing of colors and energy,” which Michele brought to Gucci. Cheng highlighted the appeal of “reasonably priced [pieces] with good quality. Customers would like to have new merchandise time to time, [because] they can do buy now wear now.”