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What we need to ask at Milan Fashion Week

Fashion Week begins, with the aim of exploiting the potential of Milan

What we need to ask at Milan Fashion Week Fashion Week begins, with the aim of exploiting the potential of Milan

The Men's Fashion Week season opens today in Milan after the not-so-exciting shows seen in New York and London in recent weeks. At a time when the city of Milan is undergoing profound changes and a phase of exponential economic development, Milan's fashion seems to be going in the opposite direction, fossilized in a few certainties that seem to not keep up with the times. One wonders if Fashion Week is not wasting the city's potential, right now Milan has become one of the most important creative and urban centers in Europe. At a time when fashion is more on Instagram than on catwalks, Milan is a fertile ground, a perfect place to experiment, to open up to new projects, fostering inclusiveness and involvement. All this, however, does not seem to happen, and meanwhile Italian fashion loses consensus and buyers, as well as showrooms, are abandoning Italy.


From the cities perspective

After Expo 2015, Milan is experiencing a moment of brightness, as opposed to the situation of instability in the country. The city has approached Europe and moved away from Rome, reversing the negative trend of the '90s and 00s, choosing an open and international identity.
The big brands have recognized the appeal and the creative width of Milan bringing back investments and openings: just think of Apple, Starbucks and the next of Uniqlo. The Municipality has also supported and fostered cultural fervor by promoting private investments of public interest - such as Fondazione Prada, Fondazione Feltrinelli or HangarBicocca - and recognizing the value of places like Macao and other community centers historically repudiated by institutional bodies. Milan has also physically changed its face, with the big projects of Porta Nuova, CityLife and the next redevelopment of the railway stations, but also with the bike and scooter sharing that allows us to rediscover new neighborhoods.
The portrait of Milan in 2019 is that of a growing and successful city, which has brought its creativity back to the center of Europe and the world. The best example of this success is the Design Week, which as an event for professionals has decided to change and involve the whole city for 7 days a year with events open to the public. The success is there for everyone and despite being an easy model to copy, the fashion week decided instead to keep its model distant from this model, closing the doors to those who are not in the system.
Italian fashion is obscured by Pitti, a weak event compared to Men's Fashion Week, but that works. The event in those days interacts with Florence, with a total service to buyers, and key figures in the fashion system but that are unaccustomed to coming to Milan.


From the fashion perspective

It is useless to delude ourselves that fashion is to be done during fashion week. Virgil Abloh as the ultimate spiritual entity of fashion in 2019, built his success on Instagram, focusing on intelligent and original communication, and not on the value of the collections themselves. The Italian fashion week has become more a statement of a moment, a fair, whose grandeur is no longer justified even by the quality of the collections, wasted by the need for speed. Only the ability of illusion remains fashionable, but not enough to mask the inconsistency of the proposals.

In addition, there is a real fact, the shows cost a lot and the brands have started to wonder if it still makes sense to spend millions of euros for 15 minutes of performance, which no longer represent the main and most effective way to sell the collections. The last edition has confirmed that brands have preferred to organize parties and presentations, more engaging and less expensive, compared to set up shows. In the last season, the best proposal of the MFW was the project presented by Moncler, which physically intervened on the city, to restore the Raccordati warehouses also thanks to the patronage of the municipality. The project and the clothes of Pierpaolo Piccioli, Craig Green, Matthew Williams, and Hiroshi Fujiwara were opened to the public during the last day of Fashion Week, as an act of common good will and a chance to present themselves to an unselected audience. An interesting and engaging project, in its exceptional realization. 

Reflecting on the role of fashion week, an article published in Vox attributed the decline to the birth of influencers. I think it is wrong and unwise to not admit that it is a normal evolution of the way of communicating, which is entrusted with the task of disseminating the images. This leads to questioning the concept of exclusivity and that of the unveiling, the first exclusive and primary mission of the magazines. Magazines have changed when the way of propagating the images has changed, and consequently the purchase of the garments, which has moved the editorial titles to the background, which no longer dictates the trends. The magazines have gone through different phases of evolution over the past two decades. From blogs, we moved to Facebook, which is based on community interaction to then move on to Instagram, for a quick, immediate and only visual fruition, made of images that travel with a rapidness that the written word can not sustain. Magazines have lost power, now in the hands of micro-influencers. In a discourse of both information and influence, a post by Diet Prada or a Kendall pic, compared to a Vogue editorial, has more power now. There is no more dream or expectation, concepts that belong to the DNA of fashion and that justify the quality of the craftsmanship, exploited by the need for immediacy.

Milan has its historical moment and the attention of big brands, it can raise the level of Italian fashion, which perhaps is presumptuously thought of as being healthy. Milan should take on the example of London, more informal and creative in its proposals. Milan does not seem free from constraints and ready to break away from a rigid court label. Milan fashion believes it is enough in itself, but narcissism and presumption are only pathologies.