Of the four fashion capitals, Milan is rarely celebrated for its emerging designers. London, with its numerous institutional initiatives, wins the “new talent” award, while New York and Paris have their international visibility and marketplace clout. It’s a conundrum that industry veterans in the Italian city such as Giorgio Armani and Vogue Italia editor Franca Sozzani have been fighting to overcome in the past decade, both mounting programs to support young designers, offering them stage and page presence to show the world what a new generation of Italian talent is all about. The results have been impressive, with both local and imported talents drawing inspiration from Italy’s design, fashion and architectural heritage to make their own 21st-century mark on the establishment. TANK handpicked four of Milan’s new guard, to ask, “Why Milan? Why now?”
“For me, Milan is not a ‘classically’ beautiful or inspiring place,” says Austrian designer Arthur Arbesser, whose aesthetic plays towards the more sober side of Italian fashion. “But what it does have is an industrial, hidden charm that goes very well with my own aesthetic and idea of clean lines. It has the perfect location, between mills and factories, which makes it above all an ideal place to work.” Vienna-born Arbesser began his fashion journey at Central Saint Martins in London before moving to Giorgio Armani’s Milanese ateliers, where he headed up operations for the Emporio line. Today his eponymous collection plays with contemporary ideas of retro – think stark angles and heavy-duty textiles – for a flirty silhouette that includes engineered transparency, boyish shirting and splashes of metallic shine. Other signatures include casual, long linear tailoring, and separates inflected with cool twists of smart and sporty details, like see-through jogging pants or enveloping faux fur that’s zipped up and tinted a shocking shade of orange. “I love Milanese architecture from the 1930s,” explains Arbesser, “but also the world of furniture design in the 1950s, which is still very present in the city.” This urban love affair prompted him to show his AW14 collection in the open-plan rooms of architect Luca Cipelletti’s designer apartment. Arbesser arranged his clothes alongside small colour-coded still lifes of books and objets d’art, while chequered knitwear hung in the bathroom and a cement-grey jacquard skirt suit stood against a trapezoidal black mural. The effect was remarkably unpretentious – a joyful union of fashion and industrial design, like a conversation between friends, which contextualized his unassuming clothes with continental panache.
Designers arrive at their calling through obsession, and others by chance. MSGM’s Massimo Giorgetti has built his booming brand from the bottom up, as an accounting student turned model, sales assistant turned fashion designer. “The math books and banking were really a nightmare,” explains Giorgetti of his student days. “I always waited impatiently for Saturday to arrive to go to the newsstand and buy all the magazines I could – Vogue, L’Uomo Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Elle. I wanted them all, and I read them all.” Today he finds himself at the forefront of Milan’s new wave of young designers who design for young people, with fun and flashy clothes at accessible prices. MSGM first surged to popularity at the height of the street-style craze with a mix of brightly coloured graphic separates that plugged into a plethora of postmodern style references, clashing florals with stripes, pyjama dressing with varsity staples and eveningwear with nerdy sophistication. Giorgetti has a strong grasp on the elaborate collage that is fashion design today, and he is borrowing from all the right places – his experience at the commercial end of things ensuring he maintains the perfect balance between seductive and sellable. “For me fashion today is what it has always been, and even more,” he says. “It is custom; it is community; it is people who want to belong to a group.” And he’s making sure MSGM’s fan base stand out in the crowd. A collaboration with avant-garde photography magazine Toiletpaper has rendered some of MSGM’s most collectible designs to date: limited-edition sweatshirts featuring zany graphics – from huge lipsticks to a gambolling horse to a toad sandwiched in a burger bun.
Marco de Vincenzo
A certain legacy of the golden era of Op Art and psychedelia, which stamped the 1960s and 1970s with whirling prints and colours, is still felt within Italian design circles. Today Sicilian designer Marco de Vincenzo, alumnus of Fendi’s accessories department, is updating this inheritance with an eponymous label that brings together a cacophony of retro colour and pattern with pure 21st-century texture and technology. Vincenzo has shown under his own name since 2009 when his first capsule of couture-worthy pleated designs won himVogue Italia’s “Who’s On Next?” competition, a victory that saw him propelled him onto Milan’s ready-to-wear calendar the following year. “As an Italian I grew up experiencing the magic of Milan during the golden years, so it seemed the most fitting backdrop to present my collections,” said Vincenzo, who has paired up with Italian super-stylist Giovanna Battaglia to style his collections. “Milan’s fashion week has been in need of a new generation of fresh talent for a while now and it’s truly exciting to be part of a new wave of designers.” His contribution to that wave has been intricate, technique-driven designs that showcase local craftsmanship such as pleating, weaving, foiled fabrics, tassels and opulent leatherwork, all cut and pasted into swingy skirts and cocktail frocks, cocoon coats and smart transitional separates. His is an uptown sensibility that sits well alongside those of Italy’s traditional houses, albeit with a youthful and handcrafted authenticity that doesn’t translate easily to commercial strength. “It can still be really challenging to find the supply chain that guarantees flawless operations in production and distribution,” admits Vincenzo, when discussing the pros and cons of going out on your own. But since LVMH announced in February that it had bought a minority stake in his label, we’re guessing he is well on the way to ironing out those creases for good.
Some designers hone in on a singular craft and make it their own, while others like Andrea Incontri are born multitaskers. After graduating as an architect, Incontri moved into fashion and has built a mens- and womenswear brand of ready-to-wear and accessories that draws upon his graphic sensibilities and the idea of “crashing narratives” between the worlds of art, fashion, architecture and design. Another success story out of Sozzani’s “Who’s On Next?” programme, Incontri began his fashion journey with showcases in Rome and at Pitti Uomo in Florence, before returning to his hometown of Milan. While his clothes pick up on the classic, casual sense of “sportswear,” it was his particular skill with leather goods that sparked interest in high places. In June, he was named creative director for Tod’s menswear line, focusing on the development of its ready-to-wear collection. He will, however, continue to design his own line with its unique balance between classical references and urban styling, which have made his clothes popular among a young, sophisticated audience. His thematic collections, such as “Swimming” or “City Highways,” translate literally and conceptually into digital prints and embellishments on retro styling. Like the rows of patch pockets on the camel coat in the most recent autumn-winter collection, designed to reference a race-car driver’s uniform, or the slender floral appliqués on a satin and velvet shift, their buds sprouting in patches of tufted fur.