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5 Key Takeaways from Milan Fashion Week

BoF breaks down the need-to-know insights that emerged from what turned out to be a week filled with drama and surprise.
Models at Marni's Autumn/Winter 2020 show | Source: Getty
By
  • Tamison O'Connor

MILAN, Italy — Three weeks into fashion month and Autumn/Winter 2020 finally got the industry-shaking jolt showgoers have been waiting for.

Despite worrying concerns of coronavirus that forced officials to close schools and public spaces — and even compelled Armani to cancel its runway show — Milan Fashion Week was punctuated with what may be the most exciting fashion news of the season... or year. On Sunday at a secretive press conference at the Prada headquarters, Raf Simons and Miuccia Prada announced that the Belgian designer would be joining as co-creative director of the family-owned-and-operated label.

But even before the Prada news broke, industry insiders had plenty to discuss. Here are five takeaways from the Milan shows:

1. Coronavirus Remains Top of Mind

At Milan Fashion Week, the health epidemic continued to worry industry operators, who are unable to predict the future impact on sales and production. These mounting concerns were exacerbated by a series outbreak of the virus in Italy. Buyers and editors were welcomed to Milan Linate Airport with temperature checks carried out by doctors from the Italian Ministry of Health.

In a show of solidarity, the Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana launched its “China, we are with you” initiative at the start of the fashion week, which saw shows and other exclusive fashion week content broadcast on Tencent’s platforms, enabling the Chinese fashion industry to digitally participate in MFW despite travel restrictions preventing physical presence.

Giorgio Armani even uninvited showgoers from his mainline runway presentation at the last minute as fears around an outbreak of the virus in the city escalated. Instead, Armani presented his latest designs to an "empty teatro" and live-streamed the event on the brand's website and social media channels.

“The decision was taken to safeguard the well-being of all his invited guests by not having them attend crowded spaces,” a brand representative said in a statement.

2. Moncler’s Genius Project Still Has Steam

Day one of Milan Fashion Week kicked off with shows from Gucci, Alberta Ferretti, No21 and Jil Sander. But it was Moncler's Genius installation extravaganza that made the biggest impression. Thousands of people descended upon an abandoned factory to see what the outwear brand's latest guest designers had in store — a separate stage for each of the eight main Genius collections, and three accessories collections.

Newcomer JW Anderson's Genius debut — presented alongside Copenhagen-based start-up Mate.bike and returning collaborators including Simone Rocha, Craig Green, 1017 Alyx 9SM, Fragment Hiroshi Fujiwara and Richard Quinn — helped to ensure Moncler dominated the day's Instagram Stories.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B8x2MuRFseL

Rimowa also made its Genius debut with reflective aluminium suitcases built with custom LED screens. “Moncler is very clever about pre-teasing, creating demand and being really creative,” said Lydia King, buying director at Harrods, noting that people were already asking to be put on the waitlist for the Rimowa cases at the London department store.

Moncler also announced a collaboration with Rick Owens — separate from Genius — complete with one-of-a-kind custom tour bus and clothing collection. The success of the company's Genius model has inspired others to try and replicate its success. So far, none have succeeded. Yet Moncler remains under intense pressure to deliver something new and novel each year. For now, it seems, Moncler still has it.

3. Buon Gusto Returns to Milan

Both on and off the runway, trends, it seems, are no longer trendy. From Alberta Ferretti to Max Mara to Prada to Bottega Veneta — even Versace: designers emphasised longevity, wearability, and minimalism over clothes designed to grab attention on social media.

"The era of fashion made for Instagram may be drawing to a close," reported Angelo Flaccavento on day one of Milan Fashion Week. "The focus may return to well-designed product meant to be worn in real life, not costumes for pretty pictures."

The era of fashion made for Instagram may be drawing to a close.

Armani echoed the sentiment in a press conference on Friday. “I’m sick of hearing the word ‘trend’. We need to try to work for today’s woman. There shouldn’t be trends,” he said.

For Jeffrey Kalinsky, vice president and designer fashion director at Nordstrom, it signalled a return to Milan fashion's minimalist roots. "I smiled, because Milan was so known for that in the day," he said. "It was a very nice self referencing in a way."

4. Lavish Show Invitations Go Digital

In the age of environmentalism, brands are swapping the physical for the digital. Gucci's Alessandro Michele sent a WhatsApp voice note. Marni's Francesco Risso sent an mp4 video file. Bottega Veneta's Daniel Lee swapped last season's brick-like invitation for a simple email invite.

True, these small efforts are not going to make any significant dent in the planet's landfill problem. Yet the shift indicates a wider change in the way brands are thinking about fashion marketing today amid an industry entrenched in call-out culture. Where theatrical, over-the-top invitations once used to draw eyeballs and garner likes on social media, today these marketing moves are more likely to draw heavy criticism for being wasteful and unnecessary.

In New York and London, e-vites and Apple Wallet invitations became the norm. In Milan, however, designers took digital invite creativity to the next level.

5. Reuse, Recycle, Reduce

Sustainability continues to be fashion’s favourite buzzword, influencing the way designers are experimenting with the creation of collections themselves.

For Marni, designer Francesco Risso pieced together old fabrics. patchwork (using old shoe leather scraps) also popped up at Tod's, where former Bottega Veneta designer Walter Chiapponi debuted his first collection.

Elsewhere, sustainability’s influence was less subtle. Emporio Armani replicated the R-E-A concept debuted at the brand’s mens show in January, creating a capsule using recycled, regenerated or organic materials. Clothes were shown against a black backdrop emblazoned with, “I’m saying yes to recycling.”

At Moncler, the brand's Genius Grenoble ski collection drew on technology to experiment with sustainable innovations, with glow-in-the-dark snowsuits that could be charged by natural light. “It’s not just function, it’s the next step of outerwear,” said Harrods’ King.

Where fashion goes, Extinction Rebellion follows. This season, a procession of protestors pained in white and dressed in white head-to-toe in linen-like fabrics, paraded across the city. Vogue Runway Director Nichole Phelps captured the scene on her Instagram Stories: “the ghosts of fashion industry and environmental disasters,” she wrote.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B81BANNKbhB

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