Milan Fashion Week held in February/March and September/October of each year, is a semi-annual series of events (generally lasting 7–9 days) when international fashion collections are shown to buyers, the press, and the general public. Milan Fashion Week is one of the four major fashion weeks in the world, the others being Paris Fashion Week, London Fashion Week, and New York Fashion Week.

How Italy’s Fashion Capital Became The Most Glamorous Fashion Week Of The Big Four Fashion Weeks (New York, Paris, And London)

Amongst the global fashion cities nicknamed the “Big Four”, Milan distinguishes itself from the others by one clear fact: it is the only one that is not a capital city. And this curious detail hides an entire story. Remaining an assembly of independent city states until unification in 1891, for many centuries fashion in Italy only existed on a local level, with a long legacy stretching back to the Middle Ages of different cities specializing in their own crafts, fabrics and luxury goods. The echoes of this system rang through to post World War 2 when Italy first seriously entered the global fashion market, with several cities vying, overtaking and losing out to one another as they tried to set themselves up as the place for fashion.

Among the contenders Florence looked particularly strong, while other fashion shows were held in Rome and Venice (helped along the way by the newfound prominence of Italian fashion in film).However, in 1958 the Camera Nazionale della Moda Italia (National Chamber of Italian Fashion) came into being, with a mission to promote and protect talent focusing on fashion design. Over the intervening decades more and more Italian brands came to Milan in order to show their latest fashion designs, with an emphasis on slightly more affordable luxury than their Parisian counterparts

As a northern industrial city in Italy with a good manufacturing infrastructure, Milan slowly became a natural home for many fashion designers as the popularity of ready-to-wear fashion collections increased over the years. In 1961, it also became the headquarters of the newly created Vogue Italia (one of the most prestigious fashion modeling magazines in the world). Then, as the 1970s and 1980s came around, a series of Milan based fashion designers including Giorgio Armani and Gianni Versace became extremely and wildly popular, helping to cement Milan as one of the four fashion capitals of the world.

Milan Fashion Week: Absolute Luxury And Supermodel Glamour

Towards the end of the 20th century a further slew of designer stars were rising: from Moschino with its provocative slogans, to Dolce & Gabbana’s excess and nostalgic nods to bygone eras, to Miuccia Prada reviving her family’s long-standing Milanese business with a series of minimalist backpacks before branching out into ambitiously understated womenswear. However, when trying to pinpoint moments that have come to epitomize Milan Fashion Week, it’s probably Versace’s supermodel extravaganzas that feel most fitting – particularly his 1991 show featuring Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington and Linda Evangelista striding out lip-synching to George Michael’s Freedom! ‘90, having all just appeared in the music video. On the Versace catwalk these women ruled: intimidating in their outrageous opulence and commanding similarly outrageous fees for their appearances. Over the course of the decade this amped-up glamour infiltrated plenty of other design houses, most notably Gucci.

When American designer Tom Ford joined the brand in 1990 (he was promoted to creative director in 1994), the label – which had started off in the early twentieth century selling leather goods – had a precarious future. With Ford’s FW95 collection, these fears were thoroughly laid to rest. Featuring slinky velvet suits, half-unbuttoned, jewel-bright blouses and coats in citrus shades, it was a sumptuous, sultry collection, and one that helped boost Gucci’s sales by approximately 90 percent between 1995 and 1996. Then came 1997, which marked a dark year in Italian fashion when Gianni Versace was murdered in Miami. His sister Donatella took over the reins, showing just three months later to a sombre audience that included Karl Lagerfeld and Giorgio Armani. The clothes were characteristically sinuous, paying homage to her brother while pointing towards her own creative sensibilities.

“For fashion models, Milan Fashion Week is a right of passage. The city where dreams can become reality. So here we come Italy, we’re ready, are you?”

Today’s Milan Fashion Week

These days, plenty of the same names still rule Milan Fashion Week, with Gucci, Moschino, and Miuccia Prada constantly making headlines. Versace, too, remains, above all, an endeavour in exaggerated glitz and sex appeal. On the 20th anniversary of Gianni’s death in 2017, five of his favorite original statuesque supermodels paid tribute to him on the fashion catwalk, showcasing a series of rippling lamé dresses. Donatella Versace has also remained consistent in her stylistic nods to her brother. There might have been polo necks for FW19, but they were layered under strappy bondage bras, with plenty of safety pins scattered throughout the collection for good measure too. Change has obviously been inevitable elsewhere: Fendi’s FW19 show paying tribute to the late Karl Lagerfeld, who had been head designer there since 1965. During that period he had seen Milan’s position in Italian fashion transform (though it’s worth noting that other cities still thrive: Florence holds menswear shows at Pitti Uomo), with a slew of brands from heritage stalwarts to ambitious upstarts helping to maintain the continuing allure of that all important “Made in Italy” fashion label. Thus, for many Italians and fashion lovers located around the world, Milan is truly the fashion capital of the world.


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