WHAT’S HOT NOW: MILAN
Byline: Kristin Schelter
MILAN — The bustling pace, gray skies and conservative mentality here might seem daunting for teens, but when it’s time for shopping, nightlife or alternative dining, Milan’s youth culture flourishes especially well in the Porta Ticinese/Navigli, a neighborhood named after the canals that run through it.
From a fashion point of view, the Navigli is about shrugging off the designer labels that dominate the downtown area and creating one’s own look, which partially explains the opening of a store like X-Ray, where young women, especially those interested in creative fields — artists, journalists, graphic designers and architects, for example — come to shop.
The boutique is unusual in many ways, starting with the labels it carries, which include French Connection, Vetements Majestic and X-Ray, the store’s own line, which is designed by boutique owner Margherita Santangelo. The X-Ray line includes simple ribbed cotton jerseys, herringbone overcoats and classic pea coats, which can be harmoniously coupled with more colorful garb from the French Connection and Vetments Majestic lines. The look is youthful and minimalist — exactly what fashions here in Milan are leaning toward.
“I’m proud to be the only retailer in Milan to carry French Connection and Vetements Majestics,” said Santangelo. “There’s no fashion crisis. It’s just that everybody in Milan sells the same stuff.”
This past fall, tomato red chenille sweaters by French Connection at $125 (200,000 lire) sold out quickly, and so did the smooth rayon floor-length evening dresses — perfect for discos.
Another key look is the satiny knee-length flower print skirts worn with chenille sweaters. Unisex zip-front sweaters by French Collection Homme in bold orange, stoplight green and baby blue also pumped sales among young women and men.
The store’s unconventional interior is another draw for the young crowd.
“I wanted something different from all the other beige Milanese boutiques,” said Santangelo. With wall decorations by artist Wesley Johnson and interior design by American designer Gaston Marticorena, the boutique’s furnishings include plastic-covered straw-bale benches, transparent chairs stuffed with shredded newspapers, Hippity-Hop stools and vibrant wall decorations. The store also sells gift, like aluminum agendas, aviator glasses and soap dishes.
Since X-Ray’s opening last April, the 1,600-square-foot store has had a volume of $187,500 (300 million lire). “I am hoping to do between 700 million to 800 million lire in 1996,” said Santangelo, who is experimenting with a few pieces from other lines, including Diesel.
Gearing for growth and an ever more unisex culture, the store has incorporated a small men’s collection with clothes by French Connection Homme.
Cafe Della Pusterla
For the latest in stylish cafe culture, there’s the Cafe della Pusterla, just down the street from X-Ray. The bustling bar/restaurant/coffee shop offers a mix of Tuscan food, Parisian bistro ambience and Italian easy-going attitude.
Milan’s college set from the neighboring Cattolica University dominates the wooden tables during the morning, as students check over class notes while sipping creamy espressos and chewing fresh croissants. The terra cotta floors, reading area — complete with international newspapers and books — and enormous green marble bar make it a fun place to breakfast, lunch or grab a midnight snack. Open from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m., the cafe features products from the restaurant’s farm in Tuscany, including Brunello wines and chocolate-almond biscuits.
Daily specials are written on giant notepads screwed onto the walls, and the service — strictly students — is fast and friendly. Favorites include a single enormous Tuscan “crostino” (a slice of toasted bread slathered with liver pate) or one of the hearty soups made with lentils, chick peas or onions.
The Milanese are inexhaustible disco-goers and this season proves to be no exception. With the birth of dozens of dance halls, discos, clubs and other nocturnal hangouts, Milan has a surplus of options for the after-midnight crowd, including East End, The Tunnel, Beau Geste, Scream and Bat Clan. One current favorite, drawing an attractive student crowd and featuring terrific music and lots of gyrating transvestites on blocks, is called Propaganda.
“We get a fun crowd from the state university and the Bocconi here,” said party organizer Roberto Sidoti. Bocconi is Italy’s best business school.
As for fashion statements, the exposed navel look is big, as are baby Ts, shiny micro-minis and Marcia Brady jumpers.
They glide by night. The sport may not be new, but in a country where cobblestone streets far outnumber paved ones, skaters have had to stake their territory aggressively, and now, Milan’s blade culture has found a smooth solution — gliding down the silky marble walkways that circle the Duomo.
“It’s actually too smooth and can get really slippery,” says Milan’s Fun Blade Association vice president Giuseppe Gionuzzo, “but falling down is a lot easier — no scratchy asphalt.”
All of which makes these jumpers even more daring. Cushioning the blows, whether hard or soft, are the skaters’ identifying looks — which, aside from helmets, wrist and knee-pads, include oversized army fatigues, funky leopard print pants from DeCatholon, baseball caps complete with U.S. team logos, Bermuda shorts, and sinchilla jackets.
Opened in 1977 by Elio Fiorucci, the store was the first in Italy to sell Beatles records and London street fashion. Today, it has a volume of more than $15 million (25 billion lire), and sells merchandise that includes rag rugs, hair products, bathing suits, disco wear, buttons and kitchen kettles.
“We’re an amusement park of novelties,” says Elio Fiorucci, pointing out that 10,000 people enter the store every Saturday (5,000 on weekdays).
“We are a window on what’s new — whether fashion, home decorations, even telecommunications,” continues Fiorucci, referring to a recent Internet window display that featured live models.
Fiorucci sells its own line, designed by a team of 12, as well as 49 other Italian and foreign brands.
“Even though we carry all these different labels, each item must be ‘Fiorucci,’ ” says Gioia Magnani, chief buyer and window-dressing maestro. The “look” is heavily influenced by London street culture from the Sixties and Seventies, and today Fiorucci’s designers travel to that city to rummage through vintage stores for inspiration.
This fall, the Fiorucci customer was crazy for sleeveless velvet jumpers in stop-sign red and midnight black, as well as bright, Bond-style ski bunny jackets. The dresses retail for about $60 (99,000 lire) and jackets for $87 (140,000 lire). Black is still a big seller, as are techno colors, like peacock green, fuchsia and salmon. Bestselling brands include Liu Yo and Swish, both of which specialize in trendy disco wear.
Knee-high boots by Fornarina, especially in white or black patent leather, retailing for $125 (199,000 lire), are a hit, as is the line Nose, which features colored work boots and the latest craze, fake python skin ankle boots at $78. The store’s bestsellers include Swish, Deisel, Fornarina and Onyx. Also popular are sunglasses by Diesel and Fiorucci’s own baby-sized T-shirts with their signature angels on the chest.