Milan Fashion Week has made a case in point for craftsmanship and why designers should helm fashion houses.
Italy’s fashion industry is one that is rooted in family businesses, in factories and ateliers with long histories of crafting clothes. While revolution and innovation have sometimes been slow to breathe new life into the sector, it is precisely the qualities of heritage artisanship that fuels an incomparable knowledge of making fabrics and garments that is passed down through generations. One could not image a celebrity to replace the cobblers creating footwear at Ferragamo, or the ethereal dresses at Luisa Beccaria or the complicated wovens and knitwear at Missoni.
At Max Mara's Fall 2023 show, Ian Griffiths' parade of striking outerwear, particularly the swathe of camel coats in various iterations, amplified a singular vision that would not benefit from convoluted styling or nonsensical hype. They spoke of sophistication and a quiet luxury on their own. They also spoke of a designer who understands fabric, cut and commerce, where anything other than authenticity would only lead to distraction.
At Diesel, one of Milan’s most coveted shows, Belgian designer Glenn Martens has quietly revolutionised a once staid denim brand into a spectacle of innovation and modernism. Honing techniques that are not only a departure of what was deemed impossible to achieve with fabric – the velvet devoré denim shown on the catwalk is a prime example - but continuing to surprise with craft and humour, edging the boundaries of good taste by mirroring the zeitgeist, but in the most imaginative and striking ways.
Detailing versus ornaments
At Prada, the uniforms and utility wear was so pared down and restrained that every detail would be an unnecessary ornament were it not considered for its relevance. The opening look, a grey cashmere sweater worn over a white, multi-layered calf length skirt, spoke of simplicity and practicality, yet also of modernity. The flat shoes were masterpieces of origami, with their industrial-like folded leather. The way Prada translates currency into clothes, amalgamating conversations that balance emotion and mirroring the state of the world to create something relevant and desirable each season, well, you couldn’t imagine it being executed by a celebrity.