Audiences back in Milan as Italy fashion seeks ‘rebirth’

by Isabelle SCIAMMA / AFP

The taxis and courtesy cars, street style and front row stars are back in Milan Wednesday as fashion week returns with mostly live audiences for the first time in 18 months.

Fendi, Prada, Versace, Dolce & Gabbana, Missoni, Ferragamo, Etro — almost all the big fashion houses have opted for in-person shows for the spring/summer 2022 women’s collections.

Out of 65 catwalk shows over the next five days, 43 will have a physical audience, as will 77 out of the 98 presentations — and many of the parties are back.

However, Covid-19 will still make its presence felt. Invitees will be required to show proof of vaccination or negative test, and wear masks.

Many buyers and journalists are unable to travel to Milan due to ongoing travel restrictions, and the number of attendees at events is being restricted.

With many shows dubbed “more intimate”, there is also no sign yet of a return to the budget-busting blockbuster shows of previous years.

However, this season is full of novelty. Roberto Cavalli is back, under new artistic director Fausto Puglisi, while MM6 Maison Margiela and Luisa Spagnoli have shows for the first time.

Gucci is not on the catwalk schedule in Milan but will unveil a new project entitled The Vault, while Giorgio Armani celebrates 40 years of his Emporio line with a retrospective exhibition.

‘Moment of rebirth’

Italy was the first European country to face a wave of coronavirus cases in February 2020, sparking a nationwide lockdown that plunged the eurozone’s third largest economy into recession.

But a successful vaccination campaign has brought hopes of a return to some kind of normality — and economic growth.

Carlo Ferro, president of the Italian Trade Agency, said the resumption of physical events at Milan Fashion Week “comes in a context of economic restarting and shows the courage of the organisers, the tenacity of the companies and the support of Italian industry”.

The numbers on the Italian fashion industry — including the textile, clothing, leather, shoe and leather goods sectors — are encouraging, with turnover in the first quarter of 2021 up 24 percent compared to the same period in 2020.

It is still 15 percent lower than before the pandemic, but industry players are hoping a sharp increase in orders will make up some of the difference by year end.

The collections this week “mark a moment of rebirth”, said Carlo Capasa chairman of Italy’s national fashion chamber, the CNMI.