You could accuse brands that participated in Milan Fashion Week’s Spring/Summer 2021 presentations of playing it safe, but maybe safe is just what we need right now. Instead of over-the-top looks, audiences in both the physical and digital realms were served new uniforms for the everyday: easeful separates, classic elegance, cozy outerwear, and lovely knits. These are clothes for comfortably navigating an ever-changing world, and a more-than-unpredictable social landscape.
Even attendees who braved public outings at socially distanced shows reflected the “safe is better” mantra, appearing in jeans and t-shirts, trousers and blouses, and even an array of roomy hoodies. Extravagant street style practically evaporated; everything felt lowkey, subdued even.
All of the pandemic precautions were in place for a reason, but they were a modifying force at Milan Fashion Week. Most brands who chose to show took on “hybrid” formats – aka “phygital” events – where they presented their collections in front of a small audience of people, while also streaming the show online via digital platforms and social media accounts. It had a democratizing effect. Suddenly, we weren’t just seeing the clothes but participating in the moment. Those that livestreamed their collections via Instagram, for instance, were flooded with in-the-moment reactions to the clothes – and the masses had opinions.
While the absence of Gucci and Bottega Veneta added big holes in the traditional Milan Fashion Week calendar, hotly-anticipated shows from Prada – where Raf Simons recently joined as Co-Creative Director – and Valentino kept our feeds fresh. Below, we take a look at four moments that were among the week’s highlights.
At Fendi, the mood was serene but romantic, with a collection inspired by the luxurious household linens owned by Silvia Venturini Fendi’s family. That meant soft accents, delicate sheer fabrics with silk-screened prints, and lace-edged linens. These elements were transformed into robe-liked toppers, dainty dresses, and twee shirtdresses that held appeal for multiple generations of shoppers.
In designing the collection, Silvia Venturini Fendi was inspired by longing gazes out of the window, and acted as many of us became accustomed to in quarantine. Windowsills played a part in the design of window-pane prints, and the soft lace window treatments one might find in a grand dame’s home, which decorated the new Fendi ‘Baguette’ bag. Other outdoor cues were found in crossbody water bottle holsters and chic little picnic baskets. Of note was the collection’s inclusion of curve models like Ashley Graham, as well as silver models like Penelope Tree, and veteran supermodels like Yasmin Le Bon.
When the world shut its doors, humanity began to wonder about the way everything works. Is it really necessary to go to the office? To buy cheap, disposable clothing? Shouldn’t healthcare be a universal right? Plenty of time for introspection yielded dissatisfaction with modern living. We began to imagine a world rebuilt, with better, more inclusive and ethical values systems. The idea of “rebuilding the world” was a central theme at Max Mara for Spring/Summer 2021, where the design team thought about what a woman might wear to tackle such an auspicious job. Their answer was comfort. Ample silhouettes, soothing neutrals, luxe cashmere fabrications — all of it added up to the kind of wardrobe that appealed to slackers and overachievers alike. Whether we’re actually rebuilding the world or just fantasizing about it, Max Mara’s elevated classics are constructed to bridge the gap between function and fashion.
While some chose function over form, Versace stayed true to its DNA, and showcased a bright print parade for Spring/Summer 2021. The prints depicted psychedelic mixes of color and print, but an aquatic motif played a supporting character to the rainbow explosion. The set was an imagined underwater ruin – à la the lost city of Atlantis – which meant the models resembled a chaotic mix of surfers, mermaids, beachcombers, and seaside tourists.
While it was an energetic and optimistic display, it didn’t quite feel in step with the times, until we heard Donatella Versace’s reasoning for it. The legendary designer spent months by herself in quarantine, emerging to a world that felt strange and new. She felt reborn. “The world has changed and we have changed,” she said in a recent interview. For her, that meant starting over, searching for fresh meaning. She turned to the source of life: the ocean, from which the first prehistoric fish first crawled onto land. It was this rich world that provided her visuals. She supported her brave new world of Versace with an inclusive line-up of models, including curve queens like Alva Claire, Precious Lee, and Jill Kortlev.
Moschino is camp, Moschino is theater, Moschino is over-the-top always. For a brand that lives out loud to the point of predictability, Moschino also proved to be full of surprises. The Moschino Spring/Summer 2021 was a bonafide hit. Instead of showing models stomping the runway in clothes that bordered on costume, the brand went in an unexpected direction – even for itself. Impeccably realized marionettes were created and puppeted by the masters at Jim Henson’s Creature Shop. For creative director Jeremy Scott, the move was meant to evoke pure fashion fantasy, and he delivered. It was completely charming, and so were the marionette’s clothes, which were tasteful and chic, done in classic 50s style silhouettes, like little peplum jackets, drop-waist dresses, and slim trenches trimmed in gold brocade.