Milan's back. Now get ready to wear
With a new venue and a fresh line-up of brands, Milan Fashion Week is trying to grow up, says Andrea Byrne
If you were to stereotype the international fashion weeks, Milan would be known for being super sexy and for its super brands.
But, judging by what we viewed last week at its bi-annual fashion week, it seems keen to shed that image, and show that it can do creative and grown-up, and that, as The New York Times put it, it's not just a footnote to Paris.
In order to achieve this, Milan Fashion Week (MFW) bigwigs decided that it needed to remove lesser-known brands from the schedule, in the hope that it would become tighter and more exclusive. Only the big boys showed. Mario Boselli, the head of the fashion body Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana, told industry bible Women's Wear Daily that the schedule changes were much needed. He said it was a return to "a calendar that is representative of the best, highest, designer ready-to-wear".
You have to wonder how these changes will affect the progress of up-and-coming designers based in Italy's fashion city.
After all, the age-profile of Milan's best known designers isn't exactly young. Unlike London and Paris, new names rarely emerge from Italy. In saying that though, the winner of international fashion design competition 'Mittelmoda' does get to show his/her designs in MFW's exhibition space during fashion week. This year, the award was won by Ireland's own Amanda Grogan, a graduate of NCAD. Entries for the award came from 620 schools of fashion design in 66 countries. As well as a cash prize of €10,000, Amanda won state-of-the-art design software and Visual Box press review monitoring for one year. "I was ecstatic", she says speaking from Milan, "The fashion editors from Vogue were at it. It was insane."
The powers-that-be at MFW also decided to change the venues, in an attempt to bring every show within a reasonable distance. Editors and journalists were delighted with the change, raving about the extent to which it had made all the difference to their week.
A more accessible MFW didn't stop Kylie Minogue from being late. Lucy Rabbitte, a Dublin-born, Milan-based fashion journalist who I spoke to said: "Kylie had to run two blocks in sky-high heels and a gold one-shoulder Pucci dress because her car was stuck in traffic and the whole Pucci show was postponed for her. She ran like a lunatic into the venue. I saw her!"
The celebrity quotient caused hysteria in Milan, almost reaching New York proportions. George Clooney was dangerously mobbed at the Giorgio Armani show, to the extent that he couldn't leave the venue for several hours.
But what of the clothes? What excited the roughly 15,000 buyers (numbers were significantly up on last year) and made fashion editors declare this to be the most successful MFW in years?
It was the diverse yet wearable series of collections. You didn't struggle to see how it could trickle down the fashion chain, as you often do at ready-to-wear fashion shows.
We were given new looks.
Also, designers who have a long-established signature tried exciting new things. Dolce & Gabbana, which was widely accepted as the standout of MFW, showed a collection almost entirely of white with lots of lace and crochet. Sensual rather than overtly sexual, it was a far cry from what we've come to expect from the design duo. While the collection looked good, everyone commented how it felt even better.
Undeniably, the prevailing aesthetic of minimalism in fashion over the last few seasons was a consequence of financial uncertainty.
They do say that fashion reflects cultural moods, therefore judging by MFW, the tide might just be turning.
Jil Sander went down a storm with a collection of neon brights, colour clashing and couture-like shapes. At Prada, it was an interesting mix of baroque meets the Nineties, where large stripes, exaggerated sleeves and bold hues (jade green being the most popular) were the order of the day. Marni and MaxMara added to MFW's colourful, cheerful feast.
Elsewhere on the runways, some of next season's forecasted trends appeared such as floral prints (D&G) and bohemian styles (Etro and Alberta Ferretti). Missoni and Gucci opted for a tribal feel to their respective collections.
In terms of lengths, it was a catwalk of contrasts. From ankle skimming at Giorgio Armani to pencil-shaped at Prada to below the knee Seventies at Bottega Veneta.
Last season, luxury French design house Celine brought back the below the knee skirt and the slit, thus triggering a trend for more grown up, confident sex appeal, and a bold contrast to the reigning dominance of the too-youthful mini.
This season, many MFW designers including DSquared2 and Roberto Cavalli followed suit.
The Seventies theme also extends to the trousers. Expect lots of wide-leg and high-waisted shapes next season.
There was so much on offer, and that's essentially why it was so successful.
For the first time in a long time, Paris Fashion Week should be worried.