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Retailers Praise Return to Live, Creative Shows in Milan

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MILAN — Stellar, creative, full of energy and buzzy were some of the terms used by retailers to describe Milan Fashion Week. The freedom to be able to attend shows and presentations in person was welcomed after the peak of the pandemic, and the fashion and accessories collections for spring did not disappoint.

“Returning to Milan, the city from which we all departed in a confused and apprehensive hurry 18 months ago, has come to an incredible and welcome full circle,” said Linda Fargo, senior vice president fashion and store presentation director, Bergdorf Goodman. “We’re here as a tighter team, but we’re here and happy to be back amongst partners and product. The city is vibrant with hope and activity. The collections, perhaps reflecting two different takeaways on the pandemic, swung from peaceful and calming to ecstatic and borderline euphoric. Milan has been liberating, as the collections seek to express the better times here and ahead.”

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Milan had a great energy,” said Tiffany Hsu, fashion buying director at Mytheresa. “It was colorful, sexy and buzzy and full of glamour — a real celebration of the return to the physical fashion week.”

Retailers also praised how brands were creative in offering new formats and concepts, such Prada’s simultaneous show in Milan and Shanghai, Marni’s inclusive take, the Monclergenius broadcast and the Versace and Fendi swap for pre-fall.

A sexy vibe and attitude ran through the collections, with trends ranging from miniskirts and bra tops to crochet knits and vibrant colors, as well as platform sandals. Prada, Fendi and Versace were among the brands that ranked high on the list of retailers.

Here, a roundup of reactions:

Roopal Patel, senior vice president and fashion director, Saks Fifth Avenue

General comment on the season: It feels so good to be back in Milan. This week has been full of high energy, creativity and an incredible lineup of fashion. Being able to see the designer’s vision come to life in person and having the opportunity to exchange ideas in real time is irreplaceable. This week has been incredibly stimulating with a stellar lineup of collections, shows and events that really made the city feel alive during this period of change that we’re living in. Milan was full of energy, positive vibes and incredible fashion.

Favorite collections: Versace was definitely one of the best collections of the week. Donatella is really thinking outside of the box and bringing Versace to life for the next generation with fresh designs that incorporate fundamentals of the brand including the iconic Versace scarf print. The collection was an explosion of color and felt like the epitome of today’s Versace woman. With Dua Lipa opening and closing the show and making her mark as a new muse of the brand, the entire experience felt seductive and fresh. Prada’s presentation with simultaneous runway shows in Milan and Shanghai was epic and a sign of the times that we’re living in. Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons are pushing boundaries with virtual technology as we continue to look at fashion on a more global basis and strive to create a fashion community that is accessible to everyone. Other standout collections included Fendi, Moncler, Brunello Cucinello and La Double J.

Best presentation: Moncler’s immersive Mondogenius event hosted by Alicia Keys was incredible. It’s amazing to see how brands like Moncler and Prada are utilizing technology to make fashion more inclusive and connect audiences from different parts of the world.

Trendspotting: There was a strong presence of nomadic vibes on the runway this season, with crochet, fringe and embroidery reminiscent of the global traveler. We also saw a shift in proportion with the return of the miniskirt at Prada and minidresses across the runways. Similar to NYFW, there was a ton of skin on the runway, with bikini tops, cutouts and crop tops, as well as the return of glam eveningwear with sequins and embellishment. We also saw a fresh play on tailoring with everything from soft tailoring to structured blazers and jackets. For shoes and accessories, there was a focus on platforms, wedges, strappy sandals, and minimal top handle bags.

Must-have item: Something off the Versace runway.

Linda Fargo, senior vice president fashion and store presentation director, Bergdorf Goodman

Favorite collections: Fendi, the week’s opener, opened with all-white tailored looks, then morphing into a trippy, floaty vibe. We were further calmed by Jil Sander’s soothing clean lines, soft hues and comfortable volumes. Max Mara underlined the quiet luxe trend, too, but made fresh with short lengths and the modern new proportions. Prada, once again, was the One to Watch, as the creative partnership between Raf and Miuccia proved so interesting and fruitful.

Best presentation concept: Prada’s labyrinth of screens made for the most powerful setting of the week and served the oh-so-relevant livestream needs. Marni‘s ultimate audience-participation, [immersive] show, was another big-format shoutout.

Trendspotting: Proportion played a key takeaway in Milan, like small skirts against a larger jacket, and was a big note to selves. The mini crystallized here as one of the most important new directions, as longer lengths are finally losing their hold on us. Signs of life were everywhere and most evident in all the joyous color which went from vivid to outright electric! Neons are emerging in an important way, seen full on fun at Versace, and working its way into ready-to-party heels at Gianvito Rossi and Jimmy Choo. High heels have also finally returned. It was remarkable how many collections wanted to go to that Happy Place, where and when life will be fun and safe again and there will be new found freedoms. Trending trippy graphics assisted in the vision.

Must-have items: Toned abs and legs are the new must-have, to be worn with the item of the season, the bra top and the new short lengths. Freedom seekers are letting it all come out now, as bareness and body confidence and the joy of sexiness explode.

Prada, spring 2022 - Credit: Aitor Rosás Suné/WWD
Prada, spring 2022 - Credit: Aitor Rosás Suné/WWD

Aitor Rosás Suné/WWD

Sam Lobban, SVP of Designer and New Concepts, Nordstrom

Favorite collections: We loved the whole vibe of the Fendi show and the nods to the ’20s as well as the ’70s styling cues that felt thoroughly modern and relevant. The collection showcased a fresh feeling of luxury through Kim Jones’ use of color, fabrication and graphic pattern. Jil Sander was elevated but fun with really interesting fabrications, textures and colors. We thought the balance in the show of more tailored looks, knit crochet pieces and sequin slips felt wearable and real. Brunello Cucinelli’s younger, sportier collection was rich in luxury as always, but with a very strong fresh new layer added. It was exciting to see Moncler’s new Genius collections which were strong across the board, both from returning guest designers as well as new ones, particularly Dingyun Zhang. We loved, as always, Versace going all out Versace. The colors, the prints, the silks, the sexiness — it was a great collection.

Best presentation concept: The simultaneous double show concept at Prada was super cool, directly speaking to global fashion and the world today. There was a masculine/feminine edginess which felt super fresh, from the miniskirts and duchesse silks to the distressed leather and the use of black and gray against bright color pops. Another very strong chapter in the Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons story for Prada.

Lisa Aiken, fashion and lifestyle director, Neiman Marcus

Favorite collections: Versace was a stand-out this week, showing exactly the type of feel-good fashion our clients are shopping for now and we anticipate will be in 6 months. Prada had a grown-up sexiness to it, which resonated with us whether that was in the mini lengths or the modern cocktail dresses intended to be worn open at the back. And Kim Jones delivered an amazing collection at Fendi, down to the clever branding on the base of the shoulder-slung hobo. By contrast, we enjoyed the soft minimalist attitude of Jil Sander.

Best presentation concept: The dual city Milan / Shanghai concept at Prada was so impactful both at the show and digitally, and felt so relevant for the challenges we face as an industry today.

Trendspotting: Bold, glamorous and at times, very sexy fashion feels so right for right now. Color, print, shine, crystals and body reveals were seen across the runway. Down to the footwear brands this season, party heels are grabbing all of the attention.

Must-have item: The Prada pointed cut-out wedge.

Buying process: Having seen the shows, we have had access to most showrooms to do an initial review of the collections in person, though follow-ups with the buying teams will be taking place virtually over the next 1-2 weeks.

Marissa Galante Frank, fashion director for accessories and beauty, Bloomingdale’s

Favorite collections: Prada’s show had a powerful concept and collection that demonstrated the importance of moving fashion forward. They balanced sexy and chic with combinations like miniskirts styled back to sensible heel heights and oversize leather jackets with nothing underneath. I loved Fendi’s retro moment and how Kim Jones reimagined archival illustrations by fashion illustrator Antonio Lopez, and intertwined them throughout the collection and accessories. Color is such an important component of this season and Kim Jones played into it beautifully, with the progression from white to brights and ultimately a fade to black. The Versace beauty looks were fun and exactly what I was looking for from Donatella, especially with the bold eye shadow topped off with different colored liner. Marni’s bright-colored stripes and optimistic daisies were refreshing. It was also a meaningful show as the audience was dressed in upcycled garments.

Best presentation concept: Prada staging two simultaneous shows was incredibly cool and unique. Marni’s commitment to sustainability and reinvention made the collection a standout.

Trendspotting: Designers showcased sexy collections as seen by the silhouettes with cutouts, miniskirts and bikini tops. Exciting bright colors that demanded your attention continued to trend during fashion month.

Must-have items: Fendi’s moon-shaped shoulder bag with logo hardware and Versace’s sky-high platforms.

General comment of the season: The collections made it clear that skin is in again. Sustainability, community and honoring icons of the past were also prominent this season.

Joseph Tang, fashion director, Holt Renfrew

General comments/favorite collections: There was a joyful spirit throughout the Milan collections this spring ’22 season. While we may not have been there in person to witness Milan’s return to the catwalks, we certainly felt the resurgence of energy from the season’s collections. Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons’ first in-person collection was a standout of the week. The show underscored the global impact fashion has with their two live shows happening simultaneously in Milan and Shanghai broadcasted anywhere a viewer has access. The Marni show was another standout of the week with a presentation concept that was a reflection on where the industry should be headed toward. The show’s casting and blend of artistic contributors proved to be a powerful, eclectic fashion show that we wish we could have seen in person.

Best presentation concept: Fendi and Versace’s joint runway collection was a collaboration of two iconic Italian brands. We are always hoping to see something new and unexpected that disrupts the fashion calendar and this union did not disappoint.

Trendspotting: There was a continued reference to the early 2000s this season that continued the nostalgia we have seen in recent seasons. Dolce & Gabbana’s collection showcased iconic silhouettes of earlier collections in the Y2K era, including super miniskirts and fluid caftans. The miniskirt is back with Prada and Dolce offering the best versions. Designers are showcasing more revealing cutouts and cropped silhouettes as we expect to bare it all as we emerge next spring/summer. Color was very important this week with designers embracing warmer and optimistic hues of oranges, pinks and reds from Kim Jones’ fluid Fendi gowns and from Jil Sander’s more demure color palette.

Budgets: We continue to maintain our budgets for the season but are agile to react if there is something that resonates with our customers in season.

Buying process: While we are not traveling to Europe this season we have started to manage a mix of local in-person showroom appointments and still rely on the digital experience to make the bulk of our buys. Designers have offered an expansive offering of materials for buyers to leverage each season and we are optimistic that next season will be the return to a more in-person showroom experience.

Libby Page, senior market editor, Net-a-porter

Favorite collections: The Attico, Fendi, Etro and we absolutely loved Versace.

Best presentation concept: The Attico, especially its party and launch of Superattico, it was a real response to what we all want right now — post-pandemic glamour.

Trendspotting: The miniskirt, bras worn as ready-to-wear, neon brights and the continued evolution of “joyful dressing.”

Must-have item: The miniskirt and Versace’s headscarf.

Buying process: We’ve continued to do lots of buying appointments virtually.

General comment on the season: We love the way in which every designer is considering the best format for presenting their brand, be it a virtual presentation, a runway show, a party or through a film. They are taking back charge, finding what works for them and not necessarily sticking with the same formula that we all followed for so long.

Bosse Myhr, director of women’s wear and men’s wear, Selfridges

Favorite collections: Versace and Roberto Cavalli. Maximalism after the lockdown feels right. We want to go out and enjoy! And so do our customers.

Best presentation concept: Prada obviously was a runway success and the live crossover with Shanghai a twist on the established catwalk show format. The world is a big place so why not show simultaneously in two cities? The looks struck a perfect balance between office, going-out party wear and just great.

Must-have item: A going-out outfit is the must-have for me this season. There was a lot to choose from in all collections.

General comment on the season: Live shows and live presentations are for me taking over as they make the presentations so much more accessible. But, also I have to say that the experience from seeing the collections firsthand at the show, in real life, was immensely nice to have back. The buying process is still 99 percent based on virtual appointments. This “new normal” is in my opinion also here to stay for the foreseeable future. In general I felt a positivity not felt for a while seeing the shows. As much as digital shows and virtual presentations are great — in person, seeing and interacting with people in real life is irreplaceable.

Harrods Buying Team

Favorite collections: Fendi, Jil Sander, Kiton and Versace.

Best presentation concept: Prada with its dual simultaneous shows.

Trendspotting: The return of sexy dressing/powerful femininity was present throughout many collections, with tailored jackets and open-back dresses and tops. Pops of yellows and oranges were used as statement colors across the board, giving the season a sense of optimism. We also saw the return of the mini from Prada, Max Mara, Fendi and more.

Must-have item: The off-white tailored coats and jackets from Fendi.

Buying process: This is the first season partially back in the showrooms which is a joy, having the ability to use all the senses to create a selection is incomparable to working solely digitally. Of course, it still remains a season of transition and the digital side really helps to support that. It is hoped the developments on digital support made throughout the pandemic can be used to enhance the returning physical experience of buying.

General comment on the season: The return of live shows appeared to bring a vibrancy back to Milan. Key houses leant into what they are known for, Dolce & Gabbana’s signature bejeweled extravagance, Fendi elegance, Prada conceptualism, Marni uniqueness, Versace iconographic safety pins and foulard prints, and yet each managed to somehow make fresh these long-established codes. All in all, an energetic season for Milan and one which will translate well commercially in store.

Marni, spring 2022 - Credit: Courtesy of Marni
Marni, spring 2022 - Credit: Courtesy of Marni

Courtesy of Marni

Maud Pupato, divisional merchandise manager for women’s wear luxury and designers, Printemps

Favorite collections: Prada for its intellectual interpretation of sexiness, Fendace for the limitless creativity, Jil Sander for the positive sophistication.

Best presentation concept: Sunnei was a 3D adventure between a show and a presentation, Marni incorporating every single person as part of the show was the most inclusive concept, Prada on its double-timeline show opened Milan FW to a larger audience adapting to our new reality post COVID-19.

Trendspotting: Strong colors are definitely back after two years of earthy tones; bright green, strong yellow and neon pink will be right from jackets to shoes, but also for visible underwear under see-through garments; small bags for parties: only the necessary should fit; shoes are high and statement; sunglasses will definitely replace headbands.

Must-have item: Fendace baguette; Prada’s arm cuff.

Budgets: Budget remains flat this season again.

Buying process: Maximum of physical buys to reconnect with people and product; few digital appointments when necessary; working exclusive collaborations and special projects.

General comment on the season: It’s time to party again, we are finally ready to do so and move on to a colorful energy and a more creative approach of dressing up. Sexiness will be key and accessible for everybody, from a more revealing wardrobe to only showing subtle neon underwear details.

Tiffany Hsu, fashion buying director, Mytheresa

Favorite collections: Versace was amazing! The energy, the crowd and then having Dua Lipa, Naomi Campbell and Emily Ratajkowski on the runway: it was such a fantastic experience and the collection itself was super playful yet luxurious. Prada also delivered another standout collection with its take on the subject of seduction.

Talent scouting: I was really impressed by Haus of Honey. Del Core also presented a great collection. Another highlight was the relaunch of Blumarine — Nicola Brognano’s novel take on 2000s’ fashion is fun, sexy and beautiful.

Must-have item: Versace’s studded jelly platforms and chain mail dress. Also the Prada duchesse satin skirt with train is high up on my list.

April Hennig, chief merchandising officer, Moda Operandi

Favorite collections: Marni delivered a show that was one of the most authentic celebrations of diversity and body positivity. Prada felt incredibly modern and will surely be setting the tone for spring ’22. I also loved the macramé and organza ribbon crochet at Alberta Ferretti, and the imaginative and whimsical dresses at Del Core. Moncler’s release of Mondogenius was also a highlight especially for those engaging digitally.

Best presentation concept: Seeing the innovative creative output from Raf Simons and Miuccia Prada, staging two simultaneous live shows across the globe, which spoke to themes of community and recontextualized classic femininity in such an unconventional way.

Trendspotting: There was an abundance of miniskirts and neon pop of colors seen everywhere on the runway (from Versace to Prada), rainbow crochet (at Etro), vivid stripes (as seen at Marni), elevated and intellectual neutrals made for modernized workwear (at Jil Sander and Max Mara), and one-shoulder, bias cuts, and sensual cutouts (at Cavalli).

Must-have item: Bright yellow slingback Prada kitten heels with an underwire sweater.

Budgets: We are approaching the season anticipating a continued positive trend to prior years.

General comment on the season: Designers in Milan put out collections that embraced a love for life and the week was charged with optimism. There was an overarching theme of brands looking back at the turn of the millennium, as they are both inspired by the new-gen and aiming to capture the emerging luxury consumer.

Federica Montelli, head of fashion, Rinascente

Favorite collections: Prada, Versace, Jil Sander, Etro, Dolce & Gabbana, Missoni, Roberto Cavalli, Sunnei.

Best presentation concept: Marni, with its immersive live show. All of us attendees were asked to wear a piece of upcycled clothing handpicked by the brand and to “participate” to the show, which featured an art performance with music and poetry, in addition to the show. It felt like a reunion with friends and [proved] the desire by the brand to go back to a physical and one-to-one approach with its clients.

Trendspotting: The focus on the feminine body, fitted and sculpted into sexy ensembles and the Y2K colorful and extreme aesthetic were the strongest trends this week.

Must-have item: Prada’s satin skirt with train and Fendi’s new wrist-bag.

Buying process: This season marks the return to international traveling for our team, therefore we are attending as many buying appointments in physical showrooms as possible. Digital assets remain important for smaller buys, making the scouting phase more efficient.

General comment on the season: After a positive New York fashion week, Milan also presented a great energy, marking a hopeful return to business. The many new names that emerged or confirmed themselves this week are a testament to a booming Milan fashion scene that is back to supporting a new generation of designers like Sunnei, Marco Rambaldi, Vitelli, Des Phemmes, Alessandro Vigilante, Cormio and many more.

Riccardo Tortato, head of buying departments and men’s fashion director, Tsum, Moscow and DLT, St. Petersburg

Favorite collections: Versace and Dolce & Gabbana.

Best presentation concept: Brunello Cucinelli and The Attico.

Trendspotting: Colors.

Must-have item: The Versace scarf tied on the hair and the Dolce & Gabbana 2000’s jeans.

Budgets: Growing. We are having one of the best years of our life. Business is booming and clients are excited about all the novelty.

Buying process: In person in showrooms.

General comment on the season: I was very happy to see Milan Fashion Week being reborn. To attend the shows live and see all my colleagues was encouraging. Milan was [festive] and the weather also allowed open-air events that involved the city as it had always been before. I am only disappointed by those few brands that were not present because I believe that fashion should support a city that lives of fashion and that has given so much to this business. Congratulations to Kiton and Berluti for the opening of their new stores in the Milan fashion streets: An admirable and trustworthy gesture toward the city and the business.

Claudia Gazzelloni, women’s buyer, LuisaViaRoma

Favorite collections: Jil Sander for its ethereal elegance in every detail, but also the “Versace/Fendi Swap” or “Fendace” for the communication buzz it created and the influence it may generate. For sure we are also waiting for Paris Fashion Week, which always provides the best surprises.

Best presentation concept: Prada was genial, the idea of presenting the same collection in two cities at the same time accompanied by the campaign #feelslikeprada was groundbreaking. Marni was impressive, as well: creative director Francesco Risso involved all the guests and models dressed for the live performance with music by Dev Hynes. It was a real gathering and celebration of the post-pandemic back to life. In general, physical shows stood out. It’s very hard to enjoy fashion week via social media and digital content in my opinion, a lot of contents are very well made but it’s not enough to fully enjoy the collections and everything that surrounds them through a screen.

Trendspotting: We can arguably say that 1990s style is making a comeback: low waists, glitter, sequins and cut out dresses. Regarding colors it went from the delicate pastel tones to the bold color block without much middle ground. Prada brought back a grungy aesthetic, too.

Must-have item: A leotards/bra/corset lingerie-inspired item worn as an evening piece.

Budgets: Definitely up.

Buying process: Personally, I was missing the pre-pandemic physical buying process, especially when it comes to Milan Fashion Week. As for Paris many brands will still prefer to organize virtual appointments, but I think that it is very hard to appreciate clothes remotely: their fabrics, silhouettes, and details. To fully appreciate the collections virtual showrooms are just not enough.

General comment on the season: We are perceiving a general slower approach, which is sending a strong message about production waste. We are also noticing a stronger focus on young and emerging talents such as Daniel Del Core, Salvo Rizzo and Marco Rambaldi. Product-wise, the collections were all about a “back to life after COVID-19” attitude. They were mostly extremely commercial and sexy.

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