All eyes on Milan Fashion Week

Some trends emerged from the latest Milan Fashion Week and some food for thought

A year and a few days after Italy detected its first Covid cases, when Milan Fashion Week was in full swing, we are here to talk about the last MFW (February 23 – March 1). We are still far from “normal” – and the way it was held proved it once again – but a new sense of hope pervaded the collections and their presentation. A general mood change that we can credit to the approach of spring, vaccines, or the fact that, after all, fashion is always fashion.

Optimism and comfort at Milan Fashion Week

An old Prada advertisement

Prada fall/winter 2021/2022 womenswear collection offers a typical example of this optimism. Inspired by the idea of transformation, it explores the continuum between polar opposites, the meeting point between simplicity and complexity, elegance and functionality, overcoming conventions. In 2021, women are no longer asked to choose between style and ease as Prada is ready to give them both – that’s how the pandemic is changing fashion. Second-skin jacquard knits and soft garments allow for freedom of movement, pleats and gathers lend dynamism to dresses; tailored coats, synonymous with classicism and functionality, become decorative with paillettes and bright colours; the rectangular double-sided wraps – paillettes on one side, faux fur on the other – that models clutched to their breasts in a gesture of protection and elegance are proposed as the foundation for a new form of outerwear.

Crisis and reflection at Milan Fashion Week

Elizabeth Hurley and Valentino Garavani
Elizabeth Hurley and Valentino Garavani. Photo by Georges Biard / Wikimedia Commons, License: CC BY-SA 3.0

Fashion, with its sudden changes and glittering shows, is often seen as frivolous. However, it represents Italy’s second-largest manufacturing industry and has suffered a severe blow from the effects of the pandemic, which makes it far less frivolous. Italy has always been renowned for its high-quality craftsmanship, style, elegance, but the skilled artisans working behind the scenes are now largely unemployed. And, unfortunately, the same applies to theatre professionals.

To spotlight this sad situation, Valentino’s collection was staged in the Piccolo Teatro Strehler, one of Milan’s historic theatres closed to the public since the beginning of the pandemic. It was “a sort of a punk act,” as creative director Pierpaolo Piccioli defined it. The fall/winter 2021/2022 collection is black and white, with occasional pops of muted gold, and revolves around short wool capes, worn with bare legs and stiletto heels. The womenswear collection is characterized by short yet romantic skirts, decorated with organza and sequins, and nets as a recurring theme.

New opportunities at MFW2021

Ara Pacis, Rome, for Milan Fashion Week
Ara Pacis, Rome. Photo by Rabax63 / Wikimedia Commons, License: CC BY-SA 4.0

This year of physical distancing has led fashion houses to redefine their marketing strategies by boosting their digital offerings, and event organisers have had to find innovative solutions. Milan Fashion Week went digital and some collections were presented with authentic short movies shot in unconventional places, making it possible to show Italy’s beauties to the world. Lavinia Biagiotti, CEO of Laura Biagiotti, chose the Ara Pacis in Rome to present the new collection. For her “Age of Women” she teamed up with Eleonora Abbagnato, étoile at the Paris Opera Ballet and director of the Teatro dell’Opera in Rome, who choreographed the movements of the 20 women who took part in the film. The collection is focused on sustainability, featuring recycled cashmere knitwear, and characterized by colors that enhance the marble of the altar, for a real encounter between fashion and culture.

Nuraghe, Barumini, Sardinia
Barumini Nuragic complex in Sardinia. Photo by Norbert Nagel / Wikimedia Commons, License: CC BY-SA 3.0

With a dreamy mini movie shot in the Nuragic complex of Barumini, a UNESCO world heritage site dating back to the second millennium B.C., Antonio Marras presented a collection combining Sardinian folklore and fantasy, where vintage black velvet shepherd’s jackets meet upcycled swatches from his womenswear stash and several items are made from different fabrics and sprinkled with embroidery.

Colours and play for 2021/2022

Dolce & Gabbana
Stefano Gabbana and Domenico Dolce. Photo by Renan Katayama / Wikimedia Commons, License: CC BY-SA 2.0

Dolce & Gabbana presented a futuristic collection with references to the 1990s aesthetic. After dressing Scandinavian band Aqua in 1998, now the two fashion designers seem to dedicate their collections to the TikTok tribes that live the virtual reality that Aqua could only imagine back then. Their fall/winter 2021/2022 collection, characterized by supersized garments and jewelry designed for a digital world where everything has to jump through the screen, seems to be a reflection on today’s digital life rather than a serious fashion proposal. Kaleidoscopic high-tech materials, exaggerated silhouettes, “supermodel” t-shirts are the ingredients that make up this fun and colourful collection.

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