After a subdued London Fashion Week S/S 2023 in the wake of the death of Queen Elizabeth II, eyes turn to Milan, whereby a packed schedule is perhaps the city’s busiest yet. Spanning creative director debuts (Ferragamo, Etro and Bally all welcome new designers this season), anniversary celebrations (Moncler celebrates a historic 70 years), and collections from both the city’s stalwarts and an energised emerging generation of designers, it represents a return to form after several seasons of uncertainty since the outbreak of Covid-19 in 2020.

‘Interest in the Milano Fashion Week is growing all the time, and this is reflected in the variety of the projects that we are about to stage,’ says Carlo Capasa, president of the Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana (CNMI), which organises the event. ‘We are aware of the uncertainties that the global social and economic scene presents, and it is in these very times that fashion is summoned to give a message of confidence and positivity.’

Here, in an ongoing report, Wallpaper* reports from Milan Fashion Week S/S 2023, as it happens. 

The best of Milan Fashion Week S/S 2023

Friday 23 September

Sportmax

‘Bouba/Kiki’ was the title given to Sportmax’s latest collection, its name in reference to a series of psychological experiments begun by Wolfgang Köhler in 1929 – and continued by various researchers since –  in which participants were asked to attribute words and sound to certain shapes (in one, most people selected the word ‘bouba’  for the curvier, rounder shapes, and ‘kiki’ for the sharper, spiker ones). It made for an eccentric, experimental offering – ‘an affirmation of otherness, resistant to conformism, whilst on a continuous quest for the extreme,’ as Sportmax described – comprising juxtapositions of fabric and print with softly sculptural silhouettes. A riff on nostalgia came in bustled skirts and nipped-waisted blazers, modernised in contemporary fabrications – like one flared skirt in high shine black, a vivid flash of lime green appearing from its underside as the model walked.

Missoni

‘The Missoni language, spoken in the present tense, by a new author,’ said the Italian house of its latest chapter, helmed by new creative Filippo Grazioli, who has previously held stints at Givenchy, Hermès, Maison Margiela and Burberry (he showed a men’s collection for Missoni in a series of appointments in June; this marked his first runway show). The designer noted a desire for lightness – a freshening up of the house codes and motifs – in a ‘sensual and joyful’ collection, where 90s-inspired abbreviated silhouettes and slick, body-conscious shapes met zig-zagging prints and vivid tones (a palette of yellow, magenta, cyan, and black and white, was inspired by CMYK, the graphic design colour model used for printing). ‘Fashion as an injection of cheerfulness and lightness of spirit; colour and light that entice a smile,’ Missoni described of Grazioli’s invigorating first outing, which looks set to instil the historic Italian house with new energy.

Tod’s

The vast Pirelli Hangarbicocca – a former industrial plant for the tire manufacturer, now a contemporary art institution – provided a dramatic backdrop for Tod’s latest collection, seeing models weave their way around Anselm Kiefer’s monumental concrete towers which populate the foundation’s main hall (the work itself is titled ‘The Seven Heavenly Palaces’). Despite the dramatic surroundings, the collection itself had a more intimate feel, riffs on what Walter Chiapponi describes as ‘essential pieces and iconic garments’ – archetypal womenswear filtered through the creative director’s minimal, 90s-inflected lens. Focus on fabrication remained central – particularly leather ‘which becomes almost like fabric, soft to the hand and sensual on the body’ – while an array of accessories, notably a ballet shoe melded with Tod’s signature Gomminno moccasin sole, completed the elegant proposition for next season’s wardrobe. 

Thursday 22 September

Emporio Armani

A feeling of eclecticism has permeated Giorgio Armani’s recent collections at both his eponymous line and Emporio Armani, the latter showing its S/S 2023 collection on Friday afternoon at the house’s Teatro Armani show space. Titled ‘In Transit’, it melded often disparate inspirations gleaned from travels around the world – from silhouette to surface embellishment – nodding towards their origins, but always refracted through the designer’s own effortless lens. As such, there were various riffs on the relaxed blazer (unstructured, buttoned to the collar double-breasted), elegant outerwear (‘the soft precision of jackets and peacoats… liquid languor’), and elements inspired by travel. It lent the collection a carefree, liberated air: ‘one might travel the world’s streets, or the imagination, within a room, as long as the mind is open and the spirit free.’

Prada

Image courtesy of Prada

A vast rendering of a house in black paper – an inversion of the crisp white set which backdropped Prada’s menswear collection in June – set an unsettling tone for Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons’ latest collection, which they titled ‘Touch of Crude’. The mise-en-scène was a collaboration with filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn; through cut-out windows and tears in the paper played a series of short films he had created for the occasion, each a play on the domestic (a woman removing her shoes, the underside of a mattress, the textures of carpet and sofas) – as if glimpsing something which shouldn’t be seen. ‘Although the collaboration is around the show, rather than the collection, we have been inspired by the collaboration, by his perspective on Prada,’ said Simons in a prepared statement. ‘There’s a mirror of cinema in the collection, of witnessing fragments of a larger whole. Different bodies of work, within a single body of work – shifting between disparate form languages.’

Indeed, there was a cinematic feel to the collection itself – afterwards, several attendees mentioned the potential inspiration of 1968 psychodrama Rosemary’s Baby in both the clothing and ominous mood – which the house described as ‘a sequence of realities, reflections, refractions, observations’. The designers noted a feeling of paradox in the collection: ‘raw and the sensual, between delicacy and roughness, an emulsification of contrasts’, figuring in the clothing in archetypically ladylike garments – a silk slip dress, a knitted two set, a nightgown – purposely torn across the hem, or embedded with creases, ‘like memories of beauty embedded in cloth’ (such moments also reflect the feeling of ‘crudeness’ referenced in the collection’s title). Other garments opposed a reductionist approach to design and silhouette with moments of decoration; notably, a series of otherwise minimal knitwear decorated with fabric flowers. ‘Reality translates to humanity. It is reflected through a sense of the hand, a touch of the crude, a rawness that evokes a fragility,’ read the collection notes.

Adds Miuccia Prada: ‘The clothes are about simplicity, with no unnecessary complication. Politically, theoretically, aesthetically, we are drawn to these notions again and again. The idea of directness. Yet with this collection it was combined with the idea of decoration, beauty, how to decorate and embellish, but remain simple.’

Max Mara

Image courtesy of Max Mara

In previous seasons, Ian Griffiths has noted what he calls ‘Max Mara pantheon of strong women’, figures from history, spanning intellectual and creative realms, who inspire his feminist approach to design. For the spring/summer season, he headed on a journey to the south in France – and back in time – to the early 20th century, when from April to September ‘bohemians flocked to the riviera’. Among them, revolutionary women of the day Dora Maar, Dorothy Parker, Josephine Baker, Isadora Duncan and, notably for Griffiths, Renée Perle, who of the then-newfound Riviera style he says ‘nobody wore it better’ (wide-brimmed sun hats, languid sailor trousers, backless tank tops and the like). Here, an imagined meeting between Perle and modernist architect Eileen Gray – perhaps best known for her E-1027 villa in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin and ‘uniquely feminine take on modernism’ – saw Riviera-style hallmarks filtered through a clean, minimal lens for a contemporary take on getaway wear. ‘Two women with a shared vision of modernity stepping out onto the E-1037 terrace,’ read the collection notes. ‘Blinking in the morning’s light, we see them raise their smiling faces to meet the glittering blue horizon.’

DSquared2

Image courtesy of DSquared2

A continuation of their menswear show in June, Dean and Dan Caten looked once again to the archetype of the surfer, a figure of freedom and escape which has proved a longtime inspiration for the Canadian designers (the pair noted backstage that they surf themselves). ‘Where the waves roll in, the sunlight shimmers on a wardrobe that’s found its chill beachside,’ read the accompanying notes, setting the scene for a carefree collection where an unabashed collage of colour and print met a feeling of lightness in transparent and semi-sheer layers. A smattering of feminine embellishments – sequins, ruffles, cut-outs reminiscent of broderie anglaise – completed the collection, which in its airy eclecticism felt like a fresh shift in direction for the Milanese stalwarts. 

Wednesday 21 September

Fendi

Image courtesy of Fendi

‘It’s about continuity,’ Kim Jones said of his S/S 2023 collection, which looked back to the turn of the millennium and forebear Karl Lagerfeld’s designs of the era, linking a thread between past and present. It’s a time period which has become familiar territory for the designer of late; earlier this month in New York, he celebrated 25 years of the Fendi ‘Baguette’ handbag – arguably the most symbolic It-bag of the late 1990s and early 2000s – with a colourful, star-studded runway show (such is the relative speed of Kim Jones’ work, which spans over ten collections a year, some of these looks were already being worn by the gathered audience). ‘I am interested in things that Karl has done, and seeing how we can develop them – both visually and technically’. 

Set to a euphoric rave-inspired soundtrack, these current Y2K fixations emerged in a collection that the designer described as ‘colliding minimalist ease and pop-infused eclectism’. Of the former, a series of elegant silk cargo pants, tabard-style shirts, simple ribbed knits and racer-back vests, of the latter, an enlivening palette, from bubblegum pink to vivid shades of green, lending the collection a light, playful air (as did the accessories – one necklace was adorned with a tiny miniature handbag; another handbag was made to resemble a gift wrapped in red ribbon). Such oppositions are now a hallmark of Jones’ tenure, the designer noting that at Fendi he is ‘constantly thinking about practicality and luxury’, of exploring ‘the notion of functional utility alongside femininity – because the Fendi women are strong women, with full, busy lives’.

Del Core

Image courtesy of Del Core

Despite being relatively young by Milanese standards, Del Core – the eponymous 2020-founded label of Daniel Del Core, previously an in-house designer at Gucci – has nonetheless found a groove creating dressed-up garments defined by a steadfast focus on craft (gowns are often festooned with sequins and surface embellishment, while his ‘Made in Italy’ credentials are at the centre of the label). Held in an industrial warehouse on Milan’s ​​Navigli canal, the starkness of the surroundings threw the collection into relief: pinched-waist tailoring, diaphanous sheer gowns, a November Rain-style asymmetric skirt, which descended into bold folds of yellow fabric. Del Core said he was inspired by the idea of ‘liquidity’ – a ‘constantly changing state’, where ‘shapes flow effortlessly onto the body’ and ‘colours mutate’. Case in point: the collection’s dramatic final look, a vivid gown with a pannier waist, decorated with thousands of sequins, which shimmered and shifted in the runway’s light. 

No 21

Image courtesy of No 21

The agonies and ecstasies of love provided the inspiration behind the latest collection from Alessandro Dell’Acqua at No 21, who hosted this season’s show against the background of a previously industrial warehouse, hung for the occasion with glittering chandeliers. Titling the collection ‘The Lovers’, Dell’Acqua noted he wanted to encapsulate the swinging emotions one feels when in love, here refracted through a feeling of nostalgic glamour – two sets, dresses overlaid with lace, evening gloves, crystal jewellery – albeit dishevelled, with garments slipping off the shoulder or purposely scrunched (models’ bodies and faces were also spritzed with droplets of water to evoke rain, or tears). It was a typically commanding, and indeed cinematic, vision from veteran designer Dell’Acqua, who remains one of the highlights of the Milanese schedule. 

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