Milan Fashion Week: What is it, who goes and what are the best shows?

All eyes will be on Fendi this season following the death of creative director Karl Lagerfeld

Olivia Petter
Wednesday 20 February 2019 17:54
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Milan Fashion Week (MFW) is always the penultimate phase of a jam-packed Fashion Month, preceded by London and followed by Paris.

But don’t let its middle-of-the-road slot lead you to underestimate the significance of this bi-annual affair.

In fact, MFW is often one of the most glamorous fashion weeks of them all, thanks to the roster of A-list attendees (Nicki Minaj, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and Freida Pinto all sat front row last season) and top model castings, with Gigi and Bella Hadid usually making several runway appearances between them.

Then, of course, there are the shows themselves, with Gucci, Prada and Versace all perennial highlights.

This season, however, all eyes will undoubtedly be on Fendi, which is set for a seismic change following the death of its long-standing creative director, Karl Lagerfeld, who passed away in Paris on Tuesday.

Read on for everything you need to know about Milan Fashion Week.

What is it?

Milan Fashion Week is a trade event organised by the Camera Nazioale della Moda Italiana, which is a non-profit organisation that represents more than 200 companies distributing clothing, accessories and footwear across Italy.

Like its counterparts in New York, London and Paris, it happens twice a year: once in February, when autumn/winter collections are shown, and once in September, for the spring/summer collections.

Traditionally, the aim has been to give designers the opportunity to showcase their new collections ahead of when they will be available for purchase.

This allows buyers and editors to see what brands have planned for next season and identify the key trends and pieces that influence which clothes and accessories we see in shops, on websites and in magazines.

When is it?

Milan is the third fashion week, preceded by New York and London, with Paris taking place after.

This year, proceedings officially began on Tuesday 19 February but the shows themselves will not start until Wednesday 20 February, with Gucci, Alberta Ferretti and Jil Sander all notable first day highlights.

Who goes?

In addition to the buyers, editors and influencers in attendance, MFW typically boasts one of the most celebrity-heavy crowds.

This is usually because many of the brands showing (Gucci, Armani, Prada and Moschino) boast high-profile muses and often have contracts with some of the biggest names in Hollywood e.g. Dakota Johnson, Salma Hayek and Lana del Rey for Gucci and Nicki Minaj and Emily Ratajkowski for Versace.

What are the main shows?

There are more than 50 shows on the MFW schedule, but there are a few that remain highlights season to season thanks to their opulent sets and flamboyant designs. These include: Gucci, Versace, Dolce & Gabbana, Valentino, Roberto Cavalli, Prada, Giorgio Armani and Marni.

This season, however, there are some standout shows to keep a close eye on.

Bottega Veneta, for example, will see the debut of 32-year-old British designer Daniel Lee, who was hired as creative director in 2018 to take over from Tomas Maier.

The Central Saint Martins graduate was previously director of ready-to-wear at Céline, where he worked under the much-loved and now-departed creative director, Phoebe Philo.

The fashion set were thrilled to hear of Lee’s appointment, hoping he might bring some of Philo’s aesthetic into Bottega Veneta. The show takes place at 10.30am GMT on Friday 22 February.

Fendi will be another high-anticipated show, given the death of its former creative director, Karl Lagerfeld, who had been at the helm of the Italian fashion house since 1965.

It’s not yet known if the LVMH-owned label will pay tribute to its late designer, but rumours of an homage have been rife.

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