Milan Fashion Week has come to a close after six days of defiant shows and jaw-dropping looks. The Italian portion of the global ‘fashion month’ proved once and for all that it was possible to operate a successful fashion week without having to compromise style and elegance during a pandemic. Still, a few key brands stood out, making their mark by not only adapting but taking leaps forward to break convention – among them; fashion stalwarts Versace, Prada, Fendi, Missoni, Valentino, Alberta Ferretti and Armani.
Although perhaps unsurprising that the marquee names took most of the attention, upstarts such as British-designed A Cold Wall* also won hearts and minds with their alternative, bold lines and youthful vigour. DDW gives you a front row look as we explore the best shows of the week…
A member of the Prada family has led the Milanese house sine its founding in 1913. Originally a small leather goods manufacturer and boutique, the brand has grown into a veritable fashion power-house under the stewardship of current head Miuccia Prada (who inherited the company in 1978 from her mother) and her husband. Her quirky yet refined style and use of new materials changed the largely conservative Milanese fashion and took Italian contemporary women’s & men’s clothing (and their commercial success) to new heights.
In many ways it is Miuccia’s constant drive for innovation and commercial relevance that made the February announcement that Prada would be welcoming in Belgian designer Raf Simons to share all decisions and creative direction with her a natural fit. Simons has long praised Prada’s style during his tenure as head designer for Christian Dior and Calvin Klein – his trademark minimal and sleek looks sometimes referencing classic Prada lines and themes.
This week’s Milan Fashion Week SS21 is the pair’s first collaborative collection and it has been very well received. Showing as a fully digital 35 minute catwalk event it attracted over 48 million views across social channels (setting a new record for the brand) and physical viewing events across the globe with key celebrities and influencers. The brand exhibited its new bold style with large logos, overblown street-style contrasted with paired-down straight silhouettes (a tried and tested commercially-successful shortcut championed by brands like Gucci and Louis Vuitton), wraps and overcoats. Of particular visual interest were the (Belgian artist) Peter De Potter photo artworks overlain on logos and printed across garments. Overall, the collaboration was met with industry-wide acclaim, praising the combination of “Miuccia’s romance and sophistication contrasted with Simons’ graphic style”.
As the last Fendi family member still designing for the namesake brand, Silvia Venturini Fendi’s last collection is a historic one. Following this weekend’s stunning show the designer will be stepping down to hand over the mantle to British designer Kim Jones. Focusing on style and tradition across textiles and lines, Venturini Fendi brought forward a remarkably evocative collection for SS21.
Featured were classic artisanal Italian linens, comfortably flowing garments with form-defying lounge tailoring and a fully unisex catwalk which boasted men and women of all sizes and ethnicities. With clothes designed to be alternated between both female and male – the white and pink workwear and casual-wear collection was an homage to the designer’s Italian heritage and storied family brand. Although it was a final bow for Venturini Fendi’s tenure at the helm, the show laid optimistic groundwork for Jones’ upcoming role and was widely received to be a positive direction for the brand.
An ode to Gianni Versace’s storied `Trésor de la Mer’ Spring 1992 collection, Donatella Versace’s SS21 show brought back elements of classic Versace prints, fantasy landscapes and eclectic motifs. Although the brand has been rehashing vintage iconic moments for their past few collections (e.g; J.Lo’s reappearance on the catwalk last September wearing the famous ‘green dress’) this show felt particularly poignant showing a world gone by through the lens of a new reality; indeed few themes could be more relevant in the 2020 landscape.
Exploring mythology such as the lost city of Atlantic and the Rebirth of Venus – this season brought to life via an inclusive runway of famous faces (Adut Akech) and models of all shapes and sizes as well as a kaleidoscopic collection of colourful and almost irreverent pieces that ranged from cocktail dresses to casual loungewear. Donatella may be 65 but her energy and passion seem to be unstoppable.
This season’s opening show set the tone for the week by turning the tables and presenting its new collection via an advertisement campaign. The campaign is something that no other major brand has tried to date but that is specifically engineered to be relevant in the context of this year’s global shifts in fashion. Entitled “Postcards from the Bel Paese” the ads feature some of Italy’s most famous models Vittoria Cerretti and Eduardo Sebastianelli in bucolic Italian scenes; walking across medieval towns and writing postcards from the seaside. The clothes regale in classics like cashmere, tailored women’s blazers and soft unstructured clothing for men.
Designer Angela Missoni argues that “this is the right moment to break the mould and try something new. The purpose of the show has changed. It used to be to show the collection to the trade and to the press. Today, it goes immediately to the public and the final consumer… So closer to the actual season we will build a communication project”. Few could argue with her logic as the traditional norms of the industry continue to be tested by rapidly shifting consumer patterns.
Broadcasting his latest collection via a hagiographic film to millions across Italian national television and social media channels, Armani has once again shattered previous ideas of what it means to be a leader within fashion. The broadcast began with a 15 minute intimate documentary entitled “Timeless Thoughts” about Giorgio Armani’s journey (from his initial studio – straight through to becoming Italy’s most famous brand) and followed by this season’s runway show.
The show itself was a triumph, a rekindling of the Armani essence; flowing gowns for women and deconstructed jackets for men. Form and shape were the subjects of experimentation, introducing new takes on asian-inspired dresses, bolero jackets, chauffeur tunics and slouchy double breasted blazers. The backdrop was kept at a sleek and minimal grey palate with sweeping digital vistas intermittently displayed.
A Cold Wall*
Described as “sartorial street cool”, A Cold Wall*’s debut at MFW was hailed as one of the key moments of the week. Conceptualised and designed by British designer Samuel Ross, ACW* brought dark, chic silhouettes to the runway via a short film entitled “My Brother’s Keeper”, packed with movement and form. Playing with texture, textile and the delicate balance between distressed and glossed the collection was widely lauded by the industry and fans alike. Ross is tipped to be the next hottest young talent in fashion, joining superstars like Virgil Abloh and JW Anderson.
Evocative, practical and romantic pieces were at the centre of Ferretti’s collection this season. Showing from the sun-soaked courtyard of Milan’s Castello Sforzesco – the Italian brand indulged in fine garments laden with references to the past whilst evoking the futures; high waisted denim coupled with pouf-sleeved tops, patterned skirts and deconstructed linen safari suits.
As one of the few runway shows to have an audience, Ferretti called on the industry to show strength during these uncertain times.
Closing the historic SS21 MFW was Valentino, who showed in Milan in lieu of Paris, for the first time in over a decade. Now under the creative direction of Pierpaolo Piccioli, Valentino is a brand determined to shed routine and readdress the core of the brand’s heritage. With this in mind, Piccioli opted for an industrial setting in Milan (the Fonderie Macchi, a metallurgical foundry) and revisited the raw essence of the brand, contrasting elegance and rough surroundings.
Celebration was at the root of the Valentino runway, both in terms of its vibrant colours and shapes and the unequivocal love letter to its Italian roots. Carrying on from Pierpaolo’s haute couture show in July which took place at Rome’s legendary Cinecittá film studios and addressed the elegant glamour of classic Italian fashion this ready-to-wear line feels like a direct continuation of that romantic design conversation. What a way to end an overall incredible effort from the Italian houses.
UP NEXT: The wolf in cashmere…