...still at the top of its game

by Hanne Christiansen
The grown-up of the four major fashion weeks, Milan represents the business-minded aspect of the industry and grants little attention to the frivolous see-and-be-seen culture that is often prominent in its peer cities. Mostly held in the Fiera di Milano, the Milan shows are in-and-out affairs. Editors, buyers and selected press are hard at work during the week, rushing from show to show, spending a minimum of their time on posing for photographers or mingling with strivers.

But what Milan has cast off in party culture, it makes up for in extravagance and glamour on the runway. The established shows come from a significant portion of the most important and influential fashion houses, all of which deliver collections of the utmost luxury in terms of fabrics, details and eloquence. In fact, the painfully in-your-face glamour that tends to characterise the overall impression of the Milan shows can really only be pulled off by Italians, effectively placing Milan Fashion Week in its own unique league of thoroughness and tradition.

While being at the top of the ranks in glamorous design, Milan ensures a place also for the young and upcoming. The N.U.D.E (New Upcoming Designers) Project was born in February 2005 on the initiative of the Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana, in an effort to support new Italian and international designers. As the Italian Fashion Chamber puts it: “The initiative reflects the search for a renewal of the whole fashion system.” Naturally, the pursuit for innovation is one not even the Italians can avoid.

Last season, the project brought designers from Colombia, Russia and India to Milan, all of which were chosen on qualities of inventiveness and freshness. Arguing a political case as much as an aesthetic one, the N.U.D.E designers made full use of their minutes in the Milanese spotlight, providing diverse and original fashion shows with an array of underlying references and purposes.

A running parallel is Milan’s Next Generation show, which like its London counterpart focus on bringing into the light, the nationally acclaimed designers younger than 30 years of age. Expect big names from these collected shows, as according to the innate Milan spirit, only new designers worthy of the attention will be presented here.

The upcoming season commences on February 24th, and despite the serious take on fashion trade that dominates Milan Fashion Week, the front rows will be packed with a standard set of famous faces to ensure a certain level of wow-factor. Yet, Milan is highly selective in allowing entrance – the 15-year old bloggers and aspiring street style photographers who seize the parties in London have no place on the guest lists in Italy.

The Italians received a bitter message earlier this month when Anna Wintour announced she would be shortening her Milan trip in favour of Paris Fashion Week and the Oscar awards in March. President of the Italian Fashion Chamber, Mario Boselli, responded to the news in a comment that mirrors the confident attitudes of the Italian fashion leaders in an almost ironically accurate manner:
"She wants designers to schedule their shows during these three days…It's absolutely crazy. She's welcome in Milan but if she only comes for a fleeting visit, perhaps it would be better is she stayed at home.”

In other words, expect no standing invitation. However, fret not - Milan Fashion Week does not have to be watched from the frontlines. Its influence and glamorous approach dazzles far beyond the Italian borders anyway.