Milan Fashion Week has never been known for its risk-taking, and that certainly hasn’t changed this season. But a few signs hint that the Italian arm of fashion month is finally catching up to its more forward-looking counterparts in New York, London and Paris.
Below, we highlight some of these moments, from the more prominent embrace of social media influencers by storied houses to the quiet rise of younger Milanese brands worth keeping an eye on.
Fresh faces across the board
Two household names in Milan — Roberto Cavalli and Jil Sander — debuted their first collections under new designers, signaling a changing of the old-school guard that the city happens to be known for. As has been the case with many brands recently (see: Natacha Ramsay-Levi at Chloé and Serge Ruffieux at Carven), lesser-known designers continue to be the popular choice.
A look from Luke and Lucie Meier’s debut collection for Jil Sander
At Cavalli, the British designer Paul Surridge (formerly of Zegna) debuted his first collection for the house since succeeding the buzzier Peter Dundas. Reviews were positive and Roberto Cavalli, who was in the audience himself, gave Surridge his blessing. “Flowers must be watered and tended to, but I believe these will bloom and have a strong scent,” he told WWD at the show, referring to the first designs from Surridge.
The married couple Luke and Lucie Meier (formerly of OAMC and Dior, respectively) also made their debut at Jil Sander. They joined the brand after Vionnet alum Rodolfo Paglialunga exited in March. Paglialunga was similarly unknown in the industry, but the Meiers are believed to have a better understanding of today’s young consumers — Luke is a streetwear fiend who had a stint at Supreme, for example, while Lucie has held positions at some of today’s top luxury brands, including the aforementioned Dior and also Balenciaga. Vogue, for its part, dubbed the show “promising.”
Milan has never been known as the city to watch for new or experimental designers, but this season finally saw two up-and-comers getting their due. The latest collection from Attico, the brainchild of street-style stalwarts Giorgia Tordini and Gilda Ambrosio, was the talk of the town, with Vogue dubbing their presentation “a seductively immersive retro-fantasy world,” and buyers from Saks, Net-a-Porter and Neiman Marcus all singing their praises.
Only in its third season, For Restless Sleepers, the luxe sleepwear label helmed by stylist Francesca Ruffini, has become one of the hottest tickets in town. Unlike most designers in Milan which continue to utilize the tried-and-true runway show format, Ruffini’s casual preference for presentations in her apartment (complete with her children and pets running around) is a welcome and modern antidote to one of fashion month’s stuffier weeks.
A look from For Restless Sleeper’s Spring 2018 presentation
Embrace of the social media spectacle
Last year, Diego Della Valle, the president and CEO of Tod’s, told WWD that “the concept of the designer, in the old sense, is over.” One new priority for the designer of today? The smart placement of influencers, which the brand finally indulged in this season: Kendall Jenner opened and closed its show. While, for most brands, this is old hat by now, Tod’s had never before taken advantage of the Instagram set. “We’re a global brand that must use a language fit for the times,” Della Valle explained of the decision. Naturally, Jenner ‘grammed it.
Bottega Veneta followed suit, sending Emily Ratajkowski (who has 15 million followers on Instagram) down the runway for her first return to the catwalk in over a year, and only her third turn ever on a runway. The star power didn’t end there: Gigi and Bella Hadid, Kaia Gerber, Hailey Baldwin and Kendall Jenner walked in the show, as well — a clear break from last season’s influencer-free runway.
Versace took a similar route, pulling in a selection of buzzworthy names; five of the original supermodels — Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Claudia Schiffer, Carla Bruni and Helena Christensen — closed out the show, which Donatella Versace called a tribute to her late brother and the brand’s founder, Gianni. It was arguably the most talked-about moment in Milan, garnering coverage not just from the usual suspects, but also outlets including The Today Show and The FADER.
Coco Konig and Amelia Windsor backstage at Dolce & Gabbana’s “secret” show
Dolce & Gabbana, never one to shy away from extra press (be it good or ugly), also capitalized on its influencer roster. The brand hosted a separate, “secret” show for top clients and editors that was dedicated to eveningwear modeled by relatives of various stars (as seen last season), including Tatiana von Furstenberg (daughter to Diane) and Corinne Foxx (Jamie Foxx’s daughter). The brand showed its main spring/summer 2018 ready-to-wear collection the next day on more traditional models.
A new format for press at the shows
In recent years, it’s become commonplace for press to gather backstage for speedy designer interviews or to glean hair and beauty tips for their fashion month trend guides. Designers will often walk both press and buyers through the collection as well, giving them a more intimate look at what’s to come down the runway. It certainly adds to the chaos.
Alessandro Michele of Gucci replaced backstage access this season with an intimate press conference (only 12 journalists were invited) that saw him lamenting the old way of doing things. “[Fashion is] the only language that wanted to keep the old codes.… That doesn’t work anymore for me,” he said, hinting that — among other things — this more efficient format for runway show press would be the new norm. Given Michele’s perch in the industry today, we wouldn’t be surprised to see other designers follow suit.