Sharp Edits #Four

...From London to Milan: the real business of fashion

by Mariel Reed
With Paris Fashion Week as the last port for those on hiatus from daily life, we can be sure to expect big things. Things of decadence, grandeur and all things Parisian, and of course, more running around in 6-inch heels. And as the NJAL team ships off for the final Fashion Week fiasco, I remain in London to revel in our Milanese glory.

What can you expect from a city that has been a symbol for luxury and high-end fashion for the past century? We were welcomed at the 100-year show and party of Italian powerhouse, Trussardi, at Castello Sforzesco, followed by a reception at Palazzo Cusani for Piazza Sempione’s birthday bash and Bulgari hosted another get-together of some kind.

We could write an entire article, name-dropping and recounting our gallivants in this ancient city filled with centuries of history and culture. The establishments of yore, staples in the world of Italian fashion, were kind hosts to Milan Fashion Week, but we spent our time wondering, how much space is there for emerging talent?

NJAL and 8 carefully selected designers were graciously invited to host a space within the Pitti Immagine showrooms in Via Tortona. The East London of Milan, known for its warehouses, studios and un-Italian, wide spaces, is where Italy’s fashion industry meets during Milano Moda Donna.

The first thing you realise about Milan: they mean business down here. In between sunshine, elegance and antipasti, you quickly see that fashion is a business that is vital to the Italian economy and the strong interest from buyers and media throughout has proven so.

After a few days in Milan our designers and the NJAL team had fallen in love with this city. Not because of its Italian charm, or the luxury that surrounds you day by day, but because of the opportunities everyone saw in the city. Although Italy is on the brink of yet another recession, there are still opportunities for emerging fashion designers.

Mainly spearheaded by Vogue Italia’s Sara Maino and Federico Poletti, as well as ex-supermodel Simonetta Gianfelici, president of Who Is On Next and AltaRoma, a fresh breeze is blowing through the streets of Zona Tortona. New retail outlets such as Wok, Amaranto or Spiga 3 give emerging Italian designers a new vehicle to retail their collections, and with the press at the edge of their seats, waiting for the next big Italian virtuoso to obsess over, the stars are set to shine bright over this Milanese fashion rinascimento.

What a refreshing difference it was to see fashion perform as opposed to parade. After over a century of leading the luxury industries, there is no circus, no flash. Just a smooth sleekness that says: "This is how Italians do business." Milan Fashion Week is taken seriously and sadly I think London Fashion Week is not. Why would I make such harsh accusations, you ask? Let us compare the ratio of dignitaries to fashion kids per city. Then we can rank each city by its level of professionalism. I can surmise, the more fashion kids, the less acclaim a designer is given in the press. These results suggest that perhaps, the more fashion kids, the less room for press and therefore less coverage. This is truly unfortunate as I enjoy LFW the most. This is the city of innovation. This is where bright young stars first shine their light!

Spotting the fashion kids can be quite easy. The 20-somethings who look more like they should be on the catwalk than in the audience, the ones who have the luxury of time to create such magnificent outfits are the aficionados who have dedicated their nights and fashion weeks to la moda.

After a long day of shows during London Fashion Week, a colleague and I reconvened at the NJAL headquarters. There he told me he spent the day cautiously avoiding street style photographers, hopping from show to show only to be harassed by a group of trick-or-treaters, I mean fashionistas who said, and I quote, “Check out dressing down dot com. This is London Fashion week,” as they strolled by like a group of catty schoolgirls.

What happened? Fashion Week is meant to be a place of business, a meeting place for design and industry. In 1943, the first ever New York Fashion Week was put on as a way to bring attention to talent arising in America during hard times. The original goal of fashion week was to create a time and a place for the entire industry to come together and make the necessary steps to produce fashionable clothing for the people. Not a place to hang out in hopes of getting a photo taken or an attempt to get more hits on a blog.

To you, spawn of fashion, I envy your freedom of time and stamina to party all night, but hey! I have a job to do and you are getting in the way! Let us restore London Fashion Week and maybe, some of those dignitaries will spend more than just one day here.

On to you Paris…