Niccolò Giannini, Federica Moretti and Alessandra Camilla Mustacchi.

From essential yet impactful dresses to cool eyewear and hip boots with a green soul, here are some of hottest new labels to check out during Milan Fashion Week.


After years working as a publicist, in 2019 Alfredo Cortese decided to launch his solo fashion project.

Called AC9, Cortese’s initials combined with 9, “a number [that] is special for me and my father,” is a label focused exclusively on dresses.

“After closing my collaborations with No. 21 in November 2018, I started thinking what I wanted to really do in my life, what I really liked,” explained the designer, who cut his teeth at the Andrea Incontri label. “At No. 21 [the fashion brand established and designed by Alessandro Dell’Acqua], I had the opportunity to work with all the departments and especially with the design team. I realized that while working in communications, I was really attracted by the design process.”

Officially launched with the spring 2020 season with a sales campaign at the Tomorrow London Ltd. showroom in Paris, AC9 focuses on dresses cut in a wide range of silhouettes but defined by a clean, minimal aesthetic. “I start from very basic elements of a woman’s wardrobe, including T-shirts, tank tops and sweatshirts, and from there I elaborate the silhouettes of the dresses,” said the designer, who mainly works with asymmetric cuts, sensual cutouts and solid colors.

A look from the AC9 Fall 2020 collection

A look from the AC9 fall 2020 collection.  Henrik Blomqvist/Courtesy of AC9

While the first collection featured dresses that were all designed to be foldable in their right pockets, for the second season, Cortese stepped away from that concept, which he felt was “too limiting.” But he preserved his freshman collection sense of lightness and functionality by continuing to focus on practical materials, including a Japanese cadi and an Italian nylon worked in a color palette of black juxtaposed to a bright hot pink tone and delicate shades of powder pink and light gray. “These dresses are designed for women who feel comfortable in their skin and who at the same have a very dynamic lifestyle.”

AC9 fall 2020 collection, to retail from 400 euros and 800 euros, will be available on appointment in Milan and at the 247 Showroom in Paris. — Alessandra Turra



Carola Bernard, a former buyer for Antonia in Milan and Tsum in Moscow, has always had an eye for products — and for gaps in the market.

“I noticed a gap in the combat boot product category: a customer could choose only between Dr. Martens or super high-end styles from Prada and Saint Laurent while I wanted to create something accessible, midway between these two ends,” Bernard said about why she launched the Dawni footwear label last year.

Manufactured in Italy, the line is cruelty-free and uses no leather, skin, fur or feathers, but mainly employs cotton gabardine and vegan leather. “The long-term goal is to have a fully sustainable brand, but it’s not easy in footwear due to all the adhesive components,” she explained.

Dawni officially launched with the fall 2019 collection referencing Nineties’ grunge aesthetics, while the following season Bernard collaborated with British artist Jessie Western to offer a different perspective on her line.

“Moving to Los Angeles influenced the evolution of the brand, as the second, way more colorful and romantic collection proves,” explained Bernard.

The tie-up resulted in fun pieces rendered in a vibrant palette of Californian sunset hues, black, silver and neutrals that include lug-soled desert boots and, for the first time, sneakers. Embellishments spanned from embroideries of stylized floral motifs, cactuses and palm trees to arty tie-dyes and patterns inspired by granny’s crocheted blankets.

A style from the Dawni footwear range.

A style from the Dawni footwear range.  Courtesy Photo

Without disclosing much, Bernard said that for the upcoming fall 2020 collection she refocused on her prime, grunge inspiration, digging deeper on the theme and expanding the range to also include a hiking boot style intended to be unisex. This will be available in four colors and in sized ranging from 35 to 45 to accommodate all customers’ demands.

Overall, the brand resonates with a target of women aged 20 to 40, appealed by its versatility. So far, prices ranged from 380 euros for sneakers to 500 euros for boots, but Bernard said that starting from the upcoming collection prices will be cut 20 percent to make the line even more accessible.

The brand is available in prime retailers — including Antonioli and Rinascente in Milan, Montaigne Market in Paris, Peri.A in Los Angeles and Joy in St. Moritz — while the new collection will be presented to buyers on appointment at the Riccardo Grassi Showroom both in Milan and Paris.

The label will also debut its e-commerce in mid-March as part of its web site revamp, which will include different sections focusing on sustainability and the founder’s passion for astrology. To wit, each Dawni style is bedecked on the back with a small metal moon, an emblem close to the founder because evocative of a new day and of female energy. — Sandra Salibian

Nico Giani

Niccolò Giannini doesn’t want to break rules, rather he’s committed to finding creative solutions to circumvent them.

A Polimoda and Studio Berçot graduate, Niccolò Giannini traveled the world to find his own path, landing at San Francisco’s Academy of Art University before returning to Italy where he founded the Nico Giani handbag brand in 2016. The designer’s path was traced as his father used to run a design and accessories atelier in Florence and his mother had a small leather goods’ laboratory in the Italian city.

Giannini started drawing inspiration from the family’s archives featuring more than 5,000 handbags, but he “wanted to create styles that resonated less with Florence’s leather goods tradition and had more of a design undercurrent,” Giannini explained in his signature Tuscan accent and bubbly way of speaking.

He turned his obsession for Seventies and Eighties design into sleek handbags working leather hides into clean and minimal shapes in a wide range of unexpected nuances with the aim “to turn the bags into accessories that are really part of an outfit,” he explained.

“Instead of letting my creativity take off, I’ve always found it interesting to move from a rational approach, adhering to rules and limitations,” Giannini contended, citing Italian designer and artist Bruno Munari’s books and French illustrator Edmond Kirazian’s drawings known as “Les Parisiennes” as sources of inspiration.

Upon winning Italian Vogue’s Who’s on Next? talent search platform in 2017 he gained international approval, upping his wholesale network to 60 from 20 accounts.

Satchel bags from Nico Giani's fall 2020 collection.

Satchel bags from Nico Giani’s fall 2020 collection.  Courtesy Photo.

The fall 2020 collection marks an evolution for Giannini who, after several seasons focusing on structured shapes, took the opposite direction working on the deconstruction of his signature styles. “It’s been a new incentive to innovate, challenging myself with soft products that were not really my thing, and to achieve a good result I really had to keep doing research,” he explained.

The carryover and the satchel, the latter embellished with a gauffered handle, are crafted from soft napa leather worked into small designs, particularly appealing to Asian and European customers according to Giannini. Although crayon colors have always been a distinctive touch of Nico Giani’s handbags, the designer is also introducing new tones for fall, including a grayish denim blue, rust, turquoise and red.

Retailing at between 280 euros and 600 euros, Nico Giani’s bags are available at about 60 retailers especially in Europe and Asia, including Shanghai’s Galeries Lafayette, Boon the Shop in Seoul, China-based Luxemporium and Italy’s Tiziana Fausti in addition to the company’s online store launched in January. The new collection will be presented to buyers on appointment at the Riccardo Grassi Showroom both in Milan and Paris. — Martino Carrera

Huma Sunglasses

Federica Moretti knows a thing or two about accessories and for her latest project she wanted to accessorize them.

A well-known milliner with a background in photography who started designing quirky headwear back in 2004, Moretti officially debuted her Huma Sunglasses eyewear collection in 2018, after a compelling year of research during which she discovered the numerous challenges in designing sunglasses, which typically require up to five months of development.

“After a long time creating headgears as a single product, I fell in love with eyewear and moved on to this project as headwear already had its identity,” the designer noted. Moretti has always been passionate about sunglasses, but she wanted to elevate the accessory’s fashion quotient. The brand’s name is inspired by Huma, one of the characters in Pedro Almodóvar’s “All About My Mother” blockbuster movie.

The eyewear is designed as a plain canvas to be accessorized in more flamboyant and extravagant ways. “They represent a study on the iconic almost idealized shapes, so that they can fit everybody and serve as the neutral side of the project,” Moretti noted.

A pair of sunglasses embellished with a pearl chain accessory from Huma Sunglasses.

A pair of sunglasses embellished with a pearl chain accessory from Huma Sunglasses.  Courtesy Photo.

The eyewear collection, which includes a streamlined range of 10 styles each coming in 10 different colorways, is developed with manufacturer Mazzucchelli 1849, based on the outskirt of Verona, and embellished for fall 2020 by the likes of Nineties hair pins; cotton macramé and pearls collars; silver chains galvanized with 24-karat gold, and crowns made of rhinestones — all attached via hooks to the sunglasses.

For fall, Moretti introduced an enveloping mask style crafted from glossy acetate and she even upturned the concept of sunglasses creating a style that can be hand carried as if it were a bag. The new collection also features two new colors, such as lilac and powder blue, while the accessories range spans three different categories: pearls, piercing and rhinestones, employing Japanese river pearls, Swarovski crystals and faux jewels.

“The collection is hyperfeminine, for grown-up women who love fashion and the cross-pollination of different worlds, in which the accessory is itself accessorized,” Moretti contended, adding Asian, Middle Eastern and Japanese customers particularly appreciate the brand.

Given her fashion-y approach, she started distributing the Huma Sunglasses through fashion showrooms eventually landing at Milan-based Castor starting from the fall 2019 season, but she said the brand is gaining appeal among opticians, as well.

Huma Sunglasses retails for an average of 260 euros, while accessories, which starting from fall 2020 will also be sold separately, are priced at between 30 euros and 120 euros. The brand is carried at a number of international retailers, including Tokyo’s Via Bus Stop, 10 Corso Como in Seoul and Modes in Milan, in addition to the brand’s online shop. — M. C.

Alessandra Camilla Milano

Alessandra Camilla Mustacchi founded her namesake jewelry line in March 2019 after stints in the communication sector. “I discovered my love for jewels while I was New York working at an advertising agency that counted some Italian luxury companies including Buccellati among its clients,” Mustacchi said.

She took her passion seriously studying jewelry design and gemmology at the GIA institutes, first in Carlsbad, Calif., and then in London. After working for Sotheby’s and Bulgari, she felt ready to create her own brand.

“Elegant, timeless, chic and hip but apt for any occasions, Alessandra Camilla Milano is conceived for a woman able to appreciate the value of handmade jewelry, without caring too much about the brand,” the designer commented.

A ring from Alessandra Camilla Milano jewelry line.

A ring from Alessandra Camilla Milano’s jewelry line.  Courtesy Photo.

Crafted from 18-karat gold certified by local artisans with a historical Milan seal, Mustacchi’s collections include rings, bracelets, necklaces and earrings punctuated with tiny diamonds and colored stones such as tourmalines, rubellites, quartz and topaz. Gems are ethically sourced from every corner of the world in compliance with the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, or KPCS, ensuring that they are not conflict-diamonds, meaning they aren’t mined in war zones or sold to finance military activities.

The designer said her bestseller in 2019 was the “Sparkle on Chain Ring,” a flower-shaped ring featuring a set of seven white diamonds that can be mounted on white, yellow and rose gold. Retailing at 680 euros, the ring is slightly below the brand’s average 1,000 euros to 2,500 euros price range.

Alessandra Camilla Milano’s business is developed especially in Italy, Paris and the U.S. “The goal is to join different online platforms — in addition to my e-commerce — and target Italian concept stores,” Mustacchi explained. After partnering last summer with luxury jewelry store Cacciari Salvati in the Sardinian tony seaside resorts of Porto Cervo and Porto Rotondo, the designer is committed to replicate the successful formula and consolidate the presence of her brand in these two internationally renowned locations.

During Milan Fashion Week the designer will present her Alessandra Camilla Milano’s collections by appointment at her showroom located on Milan’s central Via Larga. — Noemi Di Natale

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