Fashion in Milan is undoubtedly an extremely important aspect of their Italian identity. The first fashion week in Milan was held in 1958, which is pivotal to Milan being one of the top four fashion capitals with New York, London and Paris making them the “Fashion Big Four”.
The Italian fashion institutes are some of the most highly regarded in the world, such as the Instituo Marangoni, the IED, the POLI.design, the NABA and the Domus Academy. Speaking to Giulio Tosi, who is a merchandiser for a luxury brand, when asked what makes for a successful fashion hub, Giulio said “Headquarters and boutiques of different types of brands, fashion schools, and a cool artistic environment to attract and develop the fashion culture across the city. Fashion schools especially are playing a pivotal role in the success of a fashion hub since they are developing the future generations of people that will work in the fashion industry.”
Italian fashion dates back to the 11thcentury however, Milan was not the first place in Italy to be considered the fashion capital of Italy. Florence first appeared in the 1950s and 1960s known for its salubrious couture. But, as time went on Milan become over affordable and stylish to the public and became one of the fashion capitals in the world. But, it only became popular in Milan in the 1970s and 1980s. When asked why Milan is different from other fashion capitals such as New York, London and Paris, Giulio said “Milan was the city of excellence of the prêt-à-porter (ready-to-wear) clothing during the 80s and 90s (Armani, Dolce & Gabbana, Versace…) and this background is still very vivid now versus the rest of the fashion capitals. Milan is a working city, very fast moving, symbol of the modernity, with an international environment. All these peculiarities are key for the fashion industry.”
The city’s location in Italy offers endless possibilities in regard to its business in the textile industry. When asked how culture impacts a region’s fashion industry, Giulio said “Culture and art in general are essential for fashion, they are synergic to create the right environment supporting new ideas, opportunities and talents throughout the years. Milan is a very rich city in terms of events, museums and exhibitions (Fondazione Prada to name the major one in the last few years) which are key to support and to integrate the fashion world. Also design and architecture, which are part of Milan’s DNA that contribute to the success.”
When asked how the fashion world has developed because of fashion loving tourists, Giulio said “Definitely, Milan is a hub for tourism but also for Fashion especially in the last eight to ten years (also thanks to the Expo in 2015). People are coming to visit the city and enjoy the Italian cuisine, but a lot of people are coming to shop because of the luxury brands. People who are extremely into their clothing are looking to find particular special items, exclusive products and limited editions. Price is also playing a key role, that most of the times, is cheaper compared other countries (including the possibility to ask for Tax Free). Going shopping in Milan, sometimes, seems “exotic” and the Milanese environment seems to give more value to the product.”
According to Statista, as of 2016, the total income of the Italian fashion event, which takes place twice a year, the winter edition which is usually held between February/March and the summer edition is held between September/October; Milan Fashion Week was of 50.5 million euro. In addition to this , the average tourist was spent over 1,900 euro.
Speaking to model, Ryann Johnston from Dundas, Ottowa, she also had the dream in coming to Milan. “My first modelling trip to Milan was when I was 19 and it was probably the high point of my life so far. It was such a unique experience that very few people have the opportunity to do. I was able to see the ins and outs of one of the world’s major fashion industries, and live in the centre of one of the most beautiful cities in Italy. There was definitely a lot of pressure modelling under a big agency in Milan, but the overall experience helped me to grow so much as a person. I modelled under an agency called Major Models, also based in New York. Milan is quite small so I did castings and jobs all over the city. A couple of the brands I worked for there were Guess and Vans.”
Living with style transports the fantasy of fashion to the everyday hustle of life. From the office to the most intimate moments, wearing clothes that represent one’s spirit brings the person into a conversation about the roles that we play every day. When we put on the right clothing, it feels as if it has the power to reveal not only who someone is but who they want to be. Speaking to two girls who love their clothes were Chloe Walsh and Emma Austin from Ireland who came to Milan for its well-renowned fashion culture.
When asked why Milan was one of her top cities to visit, Emma said “I had always loved the idea of going to Milan, I love travelling so it was one of the top places on my list. I left for a whole summer to go work in the north of Italy about 20 mins from Milan, I got weekends off so the first stop was to go there. I literally fell in love with the place and the people so I stopped working 4 weeks later and just lived there for the next while.” Chloe said “I went to Milan because it’s the city of fashion and my favourite place in the whole world. It’s like an escape from the real world.”
Fashion uses a language that is a mystery to many, however, we all understand how it helps us to tell a story about ourselves that everyone can see. It is the foundation that of something highly personal that we often refer to as style. As I looked around the Duomo I was struck by people wearing all of the summer 2019 trends such as crochet, neon/pastel colours, satin and animal print. When asked how does she express herself with her fashion, Emma said “With my fashion I literally wear what I am most comfortable and confident in, sometimes that’s colourful summer dresses, others it’s cute tracksuits and crop tops, I think that kind of reflects my personality too I’m also obsessed with accessories and jewellery as I think it finishes off a look.” Chloe said “I have a different style every week as I watch different trends and I pick up on them. I love all kinds of fashion styles I don’t have a specific taste really.”
When asked how would she describe Milan’s fashion scene, Emma said “Milan fashion is such a mix, it really depends on where you go and the time of year as I have been back to Milan twice since that summer and it’s a different experience each time. Around the main parts of the city, the day time looks are so cool as you see people wearing big brands like Gucci and Versace and for nights out women dress so classy and glam.” Chloe said “The style is absolutely out of this world. Every person has their own unique style over there. You could literally tell a person’s personality just how they express themselves through what they wear.”
The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele is the world’s oldest shopping centre still standing in Milan and it was built from 1865 to the 1877. Milan’s shopping scene varies from luxury designer brands in the “Quadrilatero d’Oro” which is Milan’s golden shopping rectangle where one can find the finest couture in Chanel, Gucci, Versace, Prada, Giorgio Armani, the list is endless. Along with Via Montenapoleone, Via della Spiga, Via Manzoni or Via Sant’Andrea, they are the places of dreams to a fashion lover. For a shopper on a budget, there more affordable fashion streets in Milan where there are plenty of high street shops and boutiques to choose from, such as the Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, Corso di Porta Ticinese, Via Torino and Corso Buenos Aires.
When asked how would she describe the shopping in Milan, Emma said “It depends where you go, the first time I was there I spent a fortune and got really good bargains. The next few times I went back I spent more time around the more expensive parts where I didn’t do any shopping around there as it is all the big fashion brands.” Chloe said“Milan was a mixture, it has the high-end shops like Chloé, Chanel etc, but it also has the high-street shops like Zara, River Island etc, so it was a happy medium of expensive items and bargains.”
With the “Fashion Big Four”, each city has carved its own distinct niche in the fashion society when it comes to creating a certain style or look. Milan is known for its appreciation of beauty and craftmanship with an effort to a more classic look.
When asked how she would compare Milan to other fashion capitals such as New York, Paris or London, Emma said “I’ve never been to London but there’s definitely no comparison from Milan to New York in my opinion with regards to fashion. Milan has its own class and just from walking around the streets you get really cool ideas for outfits and there’s so much inspiration.” Chloe said“I have not been to London, but I have been to New York and Paris. But each city has their own different styles and cultures. I don’t believe one is better than the other, Milan is more edgy quite like New York and Paris is more sophisticated but still on trend.”
Giulio said, ““During these years, in my opinions, we can’t speak of seasonal trends anymore. Cities, environments and people, especially new generations, are changing incredibly fast. The “trickle down” model is not applicable anymore and the real trends are the DNA of the houses mixed skillfully with the street trends and the inspirations of the designers, especially in the luxury market. Milan will remain one of the reference points for trend setters, cool hunters and fashion talents since, as the city is very prosperous in terms of cultural activities and exhibitions.”
People from all over the world, whether that be Canada, Dubai or other parts of Europe, want to work or travel to Milan as it continues to bring different cultures together to create one fashion culture. Milan was and will continue to be one of the key cities in up and coming styles every season and will always be held with a high status all around the world.