Dress Up

02.28.16 5:01 AM ET

Why Milan Fashion Week Matters

Roberto Cavalli served up Orientalism, the Thirties, Led Zeppelin, and Gustav Klimt as inspirations—but Prada was not to be outdone.

Touching down at Milano Linate airport, one can hardly miss the Emporio Armani sign, above one of the airplane hangars. The sign has been hanging there for more than twenty odd years, hardly half as long as Giorgio Armani himself is in the fashion business.

The 80-plus-designer started his own fashion label after being a window dresser of the city’s renowned La Rinascente, where even today, most of the luxury brands have their own corner.

Armani is still the uncrowned king of Milan Fashion Week (which ends March 1), but new faces have arrived these last few seasons.

One of the most talked about designers this and last season is Alessandro Michele, the creative director of Gucci, who for two seasons in a row has set the standard for a new Gucci woman (and man as well). Michele’s granny chic is not only a hit on the catwalk and in glossies’ fashion spreads, but his vision has led to knock offs in every segment of the market, high and low.

Gucci is happy with the way this is all going, for the brand could use some new blood (and some extra cash at the register), but even the Italian fashion industry is smiling, knowing the Gucci hype attracts more visitors to Milano Fashion Week.

This season, Michele took on Catherine de Medici as his muse, letting her travel through time: it meant we saw some Renaissance aspects passing by (brocade coats, elaborate prints), but even the Seventies and the Eighties were around.

“I love to mix and match,” the designer said backstage, trying to explain the decoration overload. Michele also brought in New York-based artist Trevor Andrew (aka GucciGhost) who had his way with drawings on certain garments—fashion becoming art, quite literally.

Thursday night, Jeremy Scott, the American creative director at the helm of Moschino, let us into his crazy setting (full of derelict furniture and carpets, supposedly leftovers after a huge fire) and showed a powerful and energetic collection.

Scott has his way with the Moschino heritage, and really does a great job. So does Massimo Georgetti at Pucci. The designer runs the MSGM label as well, but in his Pucci parade, he clearly showed he can handle more labels and different takes on fashion at one time. The colorful prints stood out on the catwalk, even in the wrinkled version. Georgetti brought in new forms as well: large pullovers and huge baseball jackets over pleated skirts, to name just one mind-blowing look.

At Roberto Cavalli, the new creative director Peter Dundas came up with a series of complex, overstated looks that fit perfectly in the Cavalli universe.

His woman turns out to be a glam-rock gypsy sporting long brocade-infused coats and velvet trousers. Backstage, Dundas mentioned Orientalism, The Thirties, but also Led Zeppelin and Gustav Klimt as inspirations. The result however looked great, and will definitely make a true Cavalli customer happy.

Another show that caught our attention, is No.21. Alessandro dell'Aqua, the creative director, may be over 40, but is still hailed as one of Milan’s bright young talents.

This time, he came up with some grungy looks, featuring layers of shirt, pullover, skirt, and overjacket. His play with masculine versus feminine gave most of the girls a particular attitude, some of which felt quite over the top.

But if Milan Fashion Week is unmissable it is because of one show—Prada. Miuccia Prada left us all dazzled and mesmerized in a show dedicated to a notional woman she described as a vagabond.

Layering elements one on top of the other, even adding a corset on top a warm winter jacket, never looked ridiculous.

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The Italian fashion industry is doing well: recent figures talk about double-digit growth in 2015 compared to the year before.

What’s more: the Italian government seems to have understood the importance of the fashion business in this country.

On the first day of MFW, all important players, from Giorgio Armani to Diego Della Valle (owner of Fay, Tod’s and Hogan) and Renzo Rosso (owner of Diesel and Maison Margiela) were present at a luncheon, in honor of Italy’s current prime minister Matteo Renzi, the former mayor of Florence.

“The world is asking for fantasy and beauty”, he said in his speech. “We should never think fashion is a divertissement for few.”

Anna Wintour, editor in chief of American Vogue, who sat next to Renzi, probably agreed.