The designer guide to standing out at Milan Fashion Week

Milan Fashion Week just wrapped, and — save a Giorgio Armani skirt-pants hybrid that has left everyone a bit perplexed (What do you call it? What was he thinking?) — there hasn’t been a lot of talk about the clothes. The “trends that ruled the runway,” once editors’ go-to story, must be actively sought out in order to be seen. It seems, amid news headlines crowded with threats to civil rights and liberties, talk of midi skirts and fur trim simply can’t compete.

However, it’s not that fashion media has been ignoring what’s in front of them in order to attract views and likes; they’re genuinely capturing what designers are offering up on their runways. In Milan, by and large, that equated to a lot of hoopla-slash–real-life distractions and political statements. Many called the week as a whole an ode to Franca Sozzani: The late Vogue Italia editor (who was honored in a memorial service at the week’s end) has been quoted as saying, “Fashion isn’t really about clothes.”

It would be naive to consider it a coincidence that the elements defining these themes are what Instagram dreams are made of. Showing pussy hats (like Missoni) and celebrity spawn on the catwalk (a Dolce & Gabbana move) are decidedly recipes for fueling social numbers —more so than, say, another model in a frock.

The standout designers who didn’t address the current climate included those who were making their runway debuts for a house. Vulnerable to being written off and also immediate backlash — trolls are gonna troll, after all — they were all business, no shenanigans. Even so, they had the fashion set’s attention.

In short, the week’s unwritten rules stated that designers — hotly anticipated or not — should prove themselves before taking privileges. (Alessandro Michele surely would have rebelled, had he not already been given a pass.) After that, they’re free to do what they will: Show a toilet paper handbag (Moschino), make an art project out of a T-shirt (Gucci), invite Austin Mahone to entertain your attendees (again, D&G).

In doing so, for better or worse, they successfully stood out from the crowd. Specifically, here’s what earned designers attention during MFW.

Creating a diversion
To Dolce & Gabbana show attendees, the design duo’s fall collection was merely the draw. Once there, they had the chance to ogle top bloggers (Aimee Song), second-generation celebrities (Sofia Richie, Alexandra and Ella Richards) and “it” girls (Charlotte and Alice Dellal) galore. They were also treated to a mini concert by the aforementioned young heartthrob, Mahone. New styles were presented, yes, but very few were noteworthy — think: redone D&G classics, plus a Justin Bieber T-shirt that would fit in at Forever 21.

It was certainly fun and, for many, it provided a welcome escape.

The same could be said of Gucci’s show, replete with men, women, prints-on-prints and accessories to the max. As Vanessa Friedman of The New York Times pointed out, the looks appeared more like costuming than ready-to-wear: Michele’s model squad included a gypsy, a hippie, a punk and a queen, to name just a few members. Impractical or not, fans on social media ate it up, according to Brandwatch: Gucci was mentioned 1,400 times in one hour on the day of the show, and “gucci” was the week’s most mentioned handle.

In the case of Gucci, the elaborate display didn’t seem like drama for drama’s sake — after all, Michele’s aesthetic has always been a bit over-the-top. Trump (and the Oscars) aside, it’s safe to say the same show would have gone on. As for Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana, their loud display seemed much more contrived.

“It’s becoming harder and harder to cut through the noise, especially in a format that is so traditional: a fashion show,” said Shira Sue Carmi, founder of Launch Collective. “[Designers] are struggling to create any kind of relevancy that would make their shows stand out, whether it’s making a spectacle or a political statement. They’re finding any way to differentiate it from just another season of clothing.”

Gucci fall 2017 at Milan Fashion Week (Image via

Making their views known
At the Missoni show, guests found pussy hats (widely known as the symbol of solidarity among participants of the women’s marches) on their seats as they entered. The same styles were featured on the runway models, including Gigi Hadid, during the finale.

The accompanying show notes stated that Missoni was “prepared to confront the conflicts and dilemmas of our contemporary society: the conditions, needs and rights of all women and minorities.”

According to Melissa Moylan, the creative director of womenswear at the trend forecasting agency Fashion Snoops, many designers backed Missoni’s mission — they were just less blatant about showing it. “In Milan, designers addressed the state of the world more figuratively than literally,” she said. “Women empowerment was a strong trend, with designers reinventing the notion of tailoring and bringing back suits. Even the ‘power woman’ of the ’80s made a comeback, as an anecdote to what’s happening right now.”

Also making statements (and, at the same time, waves) were Jeremy Scott, whose Moschino collection called attention to the wastefulness of the fashion industry, and Donatella Versace, whose Versace lineup was clearly meant to be a call for loyalty, love and unity. (The words were posted on styles throughout the show.)

Models in pussy hats on the Missoni fall 2017 runway at Milan Fashion Week (Image via

Launching with (or without) a bang
Finally, there were the designers who played it safe and by the books, no drama: They included Francesco Risso, who made his runway debut for Marni, and Fulvio Rigoni, who showed his first women’s collection for Salvatore Ferragamo. In the end, both received some criticism: Rigoni’s collection was called too safe, and Risso was said to have done too much too soon. Regardless, both were regarded as must-sees by the fashion world, anxious to view something positive. (Maybe it was a political thing, after all.)

“People are going to pay attention to designers who are spearheading brands for the first time,” said Carmi. “Alessandro Michele at Gucci is largely responsible for that — he came out of nowhere and rocked the brand. He rocked the industry.”

Image via

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