Retailers Praise Creativity of Italian Designers at Milan Fashion Week for Fall 2021

MILAN — While Milan Fashion Week was a mostly digital event, designers went out of their way to find new ways to present their collections, making do with the digital medium and coming to terms with social distancing. This didn’t stop their creative juices, however, and retailers showed appreciation for the strong outerwear offer and highly crafted designs.

“There was an overall sentiment of hope and optimism seen throughout the collections,” said Joseph Tang, fashion director at Holt Renfrew. “While we are all impacted by the pandemic, designers are showcasing new versions of the traditional runway collections. As we anticipate what the world will look like when fall hits, there will be no shortage of fashionable pieces that we’ll want to wear.”

“This has been one of the most energetic fashion weeks so far. And there is also still buzz around the fashion week despite it being digital, which is great,” said Tiffany Hsu, Mytheresa fashion buying director.

Bright colors contributed to the upbeat mood, as did a return to eveningwear. Trends included lots of knitwear, corduroy and cocooning shapes.

Valentino, once again presenting in Milan, was a hit, as were Prada and Fendi’s first ready-to-wear collection by Kim Jones.

Here is what retailers had to say about the Milan collections.

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

Favorite collections: If there was ever a Milan Fashion week not to miss in person, this was it. As the world is still in transition, Milan delivered an incredible lineup of shows to inspire us for new days ahead. Kim Jones’ much-anticipated debut collection for Fendi was chic, sophisticated and accessible dressing for fall. His range and scope of design and creativity shone during his first show at the creative helm of Fendi. Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons for Prada was a knockout collection. There was a sense of ease around the layers, knits, outerwear and sequins that adorned wraps and clutch coats. It’s as if every piece was made to inspire us to get dressed again and feel beautiful. Pierpaolo Piccioli delivered a poetic and dreamy collection for Valentino. The incredible knit handwork, shift in proportions and focus on statement accessories made a standout fall collection. It was great that he showed his vision for both men and women in one show. Dolce & Gabbana had an electrifying show with an ’80s/’90s influence, pops of vibrant colors that created a perfect collection for the digital world we’re all living in. Brunello Cucinelli was another top collection.

Best presentation concept: Prada’s interactive panel has become a Milan Fashion Week highlight. This season, the panel included Marc Jacobs, Rem Koolhaas, Hunter Schafer, Lee Daniels, DJ Richie Hawtin, and Derek Blasberg for a conversation around fashion, the creative process, and how they navigate work in today’s environment. The open dialogue Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons host after their show each season is always authentic.

Trendspotting: Knit dressing was everywhere on the runways of Milan. From knit dresses, two-piece knit ensembles, chunky knits to onesies, this cozy and chic trend will be big in fall. Major outerwear statements were a trend on the runways this season including quilted, blanket and tailored coats, novelty puffers, shearling, blanket wraps and nylon bombers. We saw retro prints, fringe, leather, and sequins among the collections along with timeless styles such as the round-toe boot and the top-handle frame bag.

Must-have item: A Prada “clutch coat” is a must-have for fall.

Sam Lobbam, senior vice president of designer and new concepts at Nordstrom

Favorite collections: We loved the color, pattern, textures and shapes at Prada it felt fun and optimistic, dressed up but comfortable. Kim Jones’ first ready-to-wear collection at Fendi was beautiful by keeping to the codes of the house, but also putting a new vision across as to where it could go. We loved the tonal approach and the big impactful shearling pieces at Fendi. We thought Valentino’s almost entirely monochromatic collection was super cool the sharp ’60s vibe had a fierce femininity to it and we loved the silhouettes. Last but not least, the Brunello Cucinelli collection featured some truly incredible knitwear and outerwear, and it felt like the perfect dressed up but comfortable take on true luxury.

General comment on the season: We’re all for the sense of optimism we’re seeing across the collections, and believe our customers will definitely feel the same. There’s familiarity and nostalgia in a number of the collections, but with ideas that are newly revisited, modernized and reinterpreted. This balance feels spot-on for the times and what our customers are looking for; ideas which are comforting but empowering, as well as fun, optimistic and exciting.

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

Favorite collections: Prada, Fendi and Valentino

Best presentation concept: Prada’s presentation concept was as amazing as ever… They sent beautiful physical invitations which were an Instagram sensation and got everybody excited about the show with a sneak peak of what some of the key items and themes might be.

Must-have item: The knit dress as seen at Prada and Fendi, and the winter boot. We loved the different iterations we saw, from the pull-on boot at Valentino, to the riding boot by Valentino and Gianvito Rossi.

General comment on the season: We were pleased to see the theme of optimism remaining through the Milan collections. We loved how Prada embraced color, print and a positive attitude. We also loved the feeling of “back to school” at Fendi with Kim Jones’ debut at the brand — looking forward to a time we hope we will be able to reassess our working wardrobes by investing in a chic uniform palette of neutrals. The back-to-school theme continued with uniform style layering by Prada and large, oversize collars at Valentino.

Tiffany Hsu, fashion buying director, Mytheresa

Favorite Collections: Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons presented a collection of pure elegance and ease at Prada that is so fitting to this point in time. I also loved Valentino. I really liked the collection by Gabriele Colangelo of pieces which are intricately detailed and very chic. With Del Core it is really interesting to see new blood in the world of eveningwear — especially coming from a designer with such a prestigious background.

Best presentation concept: Prada’s presentation and film are my personal favorites.

Trendspotting: For me it’s all about plus-size bags, shawls and capes and an overall energetic and positive feeling.

Must-have item: Prada’s plus-size Cleo bag.

Buying process: We are doing digital appointments. We hope that we can be back in Milan personally for the next fashion week.

Joseph Tang, fashion director, Holt Renfrew

Favorite collections: Kim Jones’ debut women’s rtw collection for Fendi offered a strong collection of outerwear pieces, from cropped shearling jackets to belted trench coats and more. The collection was well received and we believe the collection will resonate well with our customers. The second women’s collection by Raf Simons and Miuccia Prada was a glimpse into what we’ll want to wear as we re-emerge and return to some semblance of normalcy. The knitted onesie that was layered under faux fur shawls and oversize bomber jackets all in mixed prints, patterns and fabrications were the perfect solution to what to wear for fall.

Best presentation concept: The Prada show mixed creatives from all industries, and the conversation following the show helped contextualize the collection.

Trendspotting: Texture, texture, texture! From lofty knits paired with faux furs, leather pants, and hits of corduroy were seen all over the collections from Brunello Cucinelli, Prada and Tod’s — layering this fall will be more important than ever! Rich shades of beige, khaki and browns on knits and jackets done in more oversize silhouettes are perfect for layering and monochromatic dressing.

Must-have item: An oversize Prada bomber jacket; Valentino’s Roman Stud bag; an oversize blanket coat from Max Mara.

Buying process: As it’s now been a year of buying virtually, designers have fully adapted to the virtual market experience and are sharing many materials and tools that allow us to make confident product decisions. We’re all anticipating the day when we can return to seeing the product in person and immersing ourselves in the showrooms to touch and feel the products.

Heather Gramston, head of women’s wear, Browns

Favorite collections: Prada and Valentino.

Best presentation concept: Valentino — we loved the cover of Prince’s “Nothing Compares 2U” while the models walked the runway — we instantly became immersed in the collection, it was breathtaking.

Trendspotting: Extreme hemlines either super mini as seen at Tom Ford or ankle-skimming from Valentino.

Must-have item: Prada’s black double-breasted coat with giant silver buttons.

Budgets: Our budgets are up and we’re committed to offering our customers an edit of the best from the season.

Buying process: Due to lockdown and travel restrictions everything was done virtually for us this season.

General comment on the season: Milan delivered on expectations and did not disappoint although a few key players were missing from the schedule such as Bottega Veneta — who was truly missed.

Claudia Gazzelloni, buyer, LuisaViaRoma

Favorite collections: Alberta Ferretti

Best presentation concept: Valentino

Trendspotting: Green, blue and copper nuances.

Must-have item: Capes and maxi fur and shearling coats.

Video format: Missoni and Marco Rambaldi

Budgets: Increased

Buying process: We prefer physical appointments even if virtual showrooms are improving.

General comment on the season: Everyone needs to get dressed up again, looking forward to post-lockdown looks.

Federica Montelli, head of fashion, Rinascente

Favorite collections: Prada’s second show for women’s with the collaboration between Miuccia and Raf; Max Mara for its 70 years anniversary collection that reinforces the house DNA; Fendi’s interesting debut by Kim Jones. A good showing as well by Valentino, Blumarine, with the second season by Nicola Brognano, Sunnei, Marco Rambaldi and Sportmax.

Best presentation concept: Moschino presented the most outstanding video format, with a picturesque theatrical representation of a salon show. A few designers utilized theaters as locations for their movies, like MSGM — with its Milan’s Manifesto — and Valentino, where the latter did effectively portray the empty theater as a message to its public and the entertainment industry that is particularly suffering at the moment. Marni’s Zoom appointment for breakfast, lunch and dinner was also an interesting way to engage its public with proper scheduled appointments. I found Prada’s continuation of its conversational format still effective despite its third iteration.

Trendspotting: Bright colors are still having a moment, confirming a sentiment of positivity and joy for the future months. They are still paired however with a good portion of dark/black ensembles. There’s a return in focusing on (eco)fur and on shiny materials like chainmail, paillettes or vinyl (Sportmax, Ferragamo, Valentino, MSGM). Shapes are slim and elongated for coats and skirts for daily use, juxtaposed to mini dresses also making a comeback.

Must-have item: A coat paired with sock boots and tall gloves by Prada, as well as one of its intarsia cardigans; a cape from Valentino, be it a short-blazer type or a long evening one; an exaggerated fur coat by Fendi; a camel total look by Max Mara; a fur-trimmed shrunken cardigan by Blumarine.

Buying process: Being the third season of digital buys, we are now confident in the overall process, with brands getting more and more organized with portals and realistic representations of the product on display. Where possible, being in Milan, we try to see the product live in the showroom, as especially with new brand introductions, it is still vital to see the product physically.

General comment on the season: I see a continued focus on textures that was already observed during men’s fashion week. A post-lockdown aesthetic, where glamour and eveningwear are slowly emerging in proper evening ensembles, confirming a shared desire to get out in the world and socialize once again.

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

Favorite collections: Valentino, Brunello Cucinelli

Best presentation concept: Salvatore Ferragamo

Trendspotting: Sophistication, short length, chic minimalism

Must-have item: Valentino cape

Video format: Prada

Budgets: Moscow at the moment is fully open so we are positive in the future.

Buying process: Also this season, I’m in Milan and my buying team is flying in to do in-person buying [appointments with] all major brands. We are the only big retail group that from the beginning kept buying in person. I personally thank all the brands that welcome us, Camera Moda and Italy business ministers that allow our buyers to come to Milan.

General comment on the season: I felt really vivid the desire of going back to live fashion shows and to return to normal activities in our business. I think the city of Milan, a city that lives on fashion and design, is suffering a lot and I look forward to seeing all my colleagues from around the world back here. In regards to business, I see the future really positive. Customers across the world desire to dress up again and socialize, travel and enjoy the life, and fashion is a big part of that.

Arielle Siboni, Bloomingdale’s ready-to-wear fashion director

Favorite collections: The collaboration between Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons continues to be a success. I loved that they layered vibrant colors, graphic prints and unexpected textures among a sea of monochromatic and neutral shows. I thought Kim Jones’ debut for Fendi was a good start and added a youthful energy to the brand. The collection also balanced duality as it was opulent but wearable, and strong but still sexy.

Trendspotting: Second skin layers, tailoring, knit sets, quilting, and oversize and chunky knits, emerged as prominent trends this season. In terms of color, designers opted for monochromatic dressing and neutral color palettes.

Must-have item: The oversize knit and puffer capes at Marni, graphic print black and white outerwear at Valentino, and the quilted patchwork pants paired with a Fair Isle-esque sweater at Etro were standouts this season. Let’s not forget about the graphic second skin knits, nylon outerwear lined in faux fur and bright-colored car coats at Prada.

Video format: Jeremy Scott’s videos have proven to be a highlight of virtual fashion week. He is great at giving us glamorous clothes that allow us to dream a bit. His super model lineup was also a highlight. Both Prada’s music and set were captivating. Designed by Rem Koolhaas, the set was made of contrasting marble and faux fur color combinations that caught your eye while keeping the focus on the collection. Personally, I loved the pairing of the pistachio marble floor and fuchsia faux fur wall.

General comment on the season: Wearability dominated the runways at Milan Fashion Week. Most fashion houses chose to stick to what they know best: quiet luxury and investment pieces in sumptuous fabrics. They focused on wearable separates, comfortable knits, and precise tailoring in the form of neutral color palettes and monochromatic looks — all of which we’re excited to showcase to our Bloomingdale’s customers this fall. However, it was the designers who were able to take these investment pieces and honor their timeliness, while simultaneously breathing new life into them, that were the most successful this season.