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The real Milan Fashion Week has nothing to do with shows

A nostalgic account of what made the Fashion Week unmissable (yet detestable)

The real Milan Fashion Week has nothing to do with shows A nostalgic account of what made the Fashion Week unmissable (yet detestable)
Gianni Barlassina
Gianni Barlassina
Laurent Bentil
Laurent Bentil
Laurent Bentil
Laurent Bentil
Laurent Bentil
Laurent Bentil
Laurent Bentil
Laurent Bentil
Laurent Bentil
Laurent Bentil
Gianni Barlassina
Gianni Barlassina
Gianni Barlassina
Gianni Barlassina
Gianni Barlassina
Gianni Barlassina
Gianni Barlassina
Laurent Bentil

There was a time when pronouncing these simple three words - Milan Fashion Week - could evoke familiar and fascinating scenarios, at times hysterical, yet unmissable: models on the subway, rental cars forming long queues outside restaurants and clubs, the absence of cabs at the end of a night, the absolute need to put together the most over-the-top outfit with the items you have in your wardrobe, to make sure to have access to the most exclusive party of the week. Despite all the efforts, the one we are about to live has nothing of the traditional Fashion Week.  

Experiencing the Fashion Week in Milan has (almost) nothing to do with actually going to the shows, as some would say, it is a state of mind, an atmosphere, a thrilling mood that reigns in the streets of the city four times a year. The arrival of the fashion circus in Milan was evident first of all on the subways and trams, suddenly populated by very tall and very skinny boys and girls, all with AirPods, photographic book in hand and a vaguely bored look on their faces. Like small swarms they would move around the city, bouncing from one casting to another, from a fitting to a shooting. You could sense the arrival of the fashion crowd even just by walking down the street, where the contrast between plain and boring office suits and Gucci-logo coats was striking. 

Laurent Bentil
Laurent Bentil
Laurent Bentil
Laurent Bentil
Laurent Bentil
Laurent Bentil
Laurent Bentil
Laurent Bentil
Laurent Bentil
Laurent Bentil
Laurent Bentil

After the battle of the invitations on Instagram - whoever received the most wins - the fashion shows would finally begin. The day of the show was and is the size of the media circus, and its ability to block traffic, the prime signal of the importance of an event. The horn of the taxi drivers, the hours on the phone with an operator trying to catch a cab, the puffs, the complaints, the interviews with the drivers on TV were the simplest and most frequent way to report on an event like the FW to the general audience. An army of street style photographers, armed with lenses and flashes, lined up in non-belligerent sides to be able to photograph celebrities and influencers from every angle. The race for the perfect shot begins when the celeb steps out of the van, and continues, at breakneck speed, until they enter the show location. More than editors, PR and insiders, photographers are the main witnesses of the evolution of the most requested front-row guest: if once upon a time it was the great Hollywood stars who dominated, then undermined by influencers of various fame, today to block the cities are TikTok creators and K-Pop artists. 

Among the many obsessions of fashion, in the mythology of the Fashion Week, the van has taken on an almost sacred aura. There is perhaps no greater status symbol than leaving a show with your head held high and getting into a black van with tinted windows. In the hundreds of hours of YouTube videos, vlogs and IG Stories there is no influencer who has not taken the opportunity to show the reality behind the scenes of the FW, which in most cases means showing the improbable change of clothes between a fashion show and the other, hoping not to be too late for the next one. Inside those vans, we found out which smoothies our favourite bloggers prefer, how they stay warm even when it's freezing outside - with Uniqlo's Heattech garments, spoiler alert - Kendall Jenner even showed herself shaving her legs with a razor. 

Gianni Barlassina
Gianni Barlassina
Gianni Barlassina
Gianni Barlassina
Gianni Barlassina
Gianni Barlassina
Gianni Barlassina
Gianni Barlassina

The greatest absence insiders and mere mortals have tried to come to terms with since March is that of events, and not just as an opportunity to hook up. An absence that will feel even more important during the FW, the week where you leave the house to go to work without knowing when and how you will return. The huge variety of events, aperitifs, in-store presentations made it possible, with great lightness and randomness, to organize or overturn the evening in a few minutes, reminding us the reason why it is worth living in Milan. Most of all, it was the after-parties hosted by the fashion brands the only way to reconcile friends and group chats panicking about what do to that night. Once the initial enthusiasm was gone, we psychologically prepared ourselves for the prospect of long queues everywhere, to enter, to the cloakroom, to the bar, to the bathroom; to free water down drinks; to undesired encounters; to the inevitable kebab before going to sleep. At the same time, that same perspective fueled the possibility of showing off one's best outfit, of meeting new people, of getting to know the real insiders of the industry, or of finally seeing someone met during the last FW with whom to share a taxi home. Other conviviality rituals we are no longer used to - going out to smoke a cigarette in the courtyard or in cramped hallways, waiting to enter a club or a party - generated spontaneous conversations, the invitation to another party, the discovery of an after-party, an unexpected program for the following day. 

A certain nostalgia can't but be the dominating feeling when reminiscing about Fashion Weeks that were, the symbol of an everyday life that has now disappeared. However, we cannot hide an undeniable truth: when we were there, truly living those events, we hated the FW. We cursed the taxi drivers and argued with the bouncers, we gave up our dignity to text the PR to get into a party, we killed our feet in those new boots walking from one event to the next, we have lost hours and hours of precious sleep. But it was all this FOMO that kept us awake. Today, when we experience the FW from the couch in our loyal sweatpants, watching the Armani show live on La7, we just want to rent a van to take us to the supermarket, to remember what it feels like.