was that milan fashion week coming back with a vengeance?
It’s been the hard-knock life for Milan Fashion Week in recent seasons. It got kicked a lot. But something happened at the men’s shows this January. Something promising.
Roberto Cavalli autumn/winter 15
If Milan Fashion Week has slowly become known as the fusty old dinosaur of the fashion industry, the men's shows this season proved that there's still life in the old lady yet. (Well, some of them, anyway.) Over the past seasons, fashion commentators have been busy writing columns about the downfall of Milan, how terribly the city's houses are doing financially, and how only the usual suspects such as Prada are actually presenting new ideas on the Milanese fashion platform. It would be a shame to say that this season was buzzing with fashion innovation, but on the other hand the shows that got stuck in your head weren't as far and few between as we've come to expect. It seems, indeed, the industry has spoken and Milan has listened.
Apart from Prada, which is always interesting due to Miuccia Prada's status as one of fashion's great thinkers, a made-over Gucci found a new voice, which garnered a standing ovation - a rarity in any fashion capital. (We're not easily impressed, the fashion people.) But better yet, Gucci managed to divide the waters in a hate-it-or-love-it fashion that gave Milan something to talk about. And that's about as much as we can ask for. If fashion is still discussing and debating, the path to mindlessness is a lot longer. At i-D, we zoned in on the tension between the dreamers and realists of Milan this season, and for the Italian fashion capital what it's all about is finding a balance between the two.
Bottega Veneta has been doing that superbly recently, thanks to Tomas Maier's knack for intelligent luxury casualwear and in no small part thanks to mega stylist Katie Grand's recent involvement, which has upped the brand's fashionability factor considerably. There was something very, well, Parisian about the fusion of Maier's opulent colouration, all that layering and those braces, and Marilyn Manson on the soundtrack. Next to its swish casualwear and 'couture' tailoring, there's a lot of fun to be had on the Milan schedule, if only fashion is willing to embrace it. Dolce & Gabbana may be doing their own thing, but their fantastical fantasy world is anything but fusty, and their shows are always some of the most elaborate orchestrations of the season.
True to tradition, Roberto Cavalli closed the Milan men's shows on Tuesday afternoon, and if guests weren't too tired they'd have noticed a few points taken on Cavalli's part as well. Presented in the gilded Napoleonic ballroom of Palazzo Serbelloni, there was a salon show quality about the Cavalli show, which filtered through to the collection in the sense that it was more about the individual garment than the glitz and glamour. Over the past three seasons, Cavalli's menswear has embraced a more rock 'n' roll or perhaps punk point of departure, which has helped shift focus to the fabrications and natural materials so key to the DNA of the house.
And while everyone's been busy writing about the financial hardships of other Milan designers, Cavalli's menswear sales have actually gone up by some thirty percent over the last year. It's a beacon of hope for his Italian peers, but also for a Milan Fashion Week that often gets more tough love than it deserves. If guests at this season's shows still didn't enjoy them - and let me quote JFK here, he wore nice suits - perhaps it's time to look at what you can do you for your Milan experience rather than what your Milan experience can do for you. After all, you wouldn't go to an Andrea Bocelli concert expecting Frank Ocean to sing.
Text Anders Christian Madsen
Photography Ash Kingston