No traffic jams and no front rows, as Milan Fashion Week goes fully digital


Videos were broadcasted on a maxi-screen in the heart of Milan’s shopping district. This is the first time in history that the city's fashion week has not included physical runway shows. Photo: AP

No traffic jams, no rush to the next venue, no front rows – not even socially distanced.

Milan Fashion Week is unfolding entirely on computer screens and social media platforms this round for the first time ever, as the persistent virus resurgence dashed any hopes of even a handful of physical shows.

This is after having announced in December last year that the event would be a hybrid of physical and digital shows.

Luxury is in an enforced period of evolution in this new world order of rotating lockdowns, where virtually no one has anywhere to go.

So it was a mostly captive audience that flocked to social media by the hundreds of thousands (and counting as the shows live on virtually) to watch Milan designers unveil new menswear collections for the coming Autumn/Winter 2021 season, which, vaccines willing, may see a return to in-person shopping.

Read more: Strutting into 2021, what can you expect from fashion trends?

In its digitally conceived preview, Prada on Sunday (Jan 18) introduced the new anti-uniform that speaks to our new intimacy in our ever-tighter circles: luxury long-johns.

The first menswear collection by the Miuccia Prada-Raf Simons collaboration announced almost a year ago was unveiled on a runway traversing spaces clad in soft faux fur in purple, celeste and scarlet.

Skinny men in tight knit union suits in graphic architecture-inspired patterns grooved in outtakes spliced into the runway show. The union suits emphasised both the human body and freedom, elements fundamental to the collection, the designers said in notes.

They were worn tightly under oversized coats and huge V-neck sweaters, or as a layer of comfort under a work suit, should the occasion arise.

Read more: Luxury fashion is now turning to Twitch to live-stream runway shows

"It is not often we find in fashion something that's so flexible, with so many facets, ” Prada said in a video conversation with international fashion students. "With one piece you can express so many things, leaving open many possibilities.”

The designers said their still-new collaboration was based on the principle: if the other didn’t like an idea, it gets dropped. Or the other is won over, which was the case with Prada accepting pinstripes she has long loathed.

"What I think is good, is the possibility to change my mind, ’’ Prada said.

A shift in trends

The show, like others, was broadcast on a maxi-screen in the heart of Milan’s shopping district. But with the city and region around it plunged into yet another partial lockdown on Sunday (Jan 18), the previews attracted little notice.

What energy was missing from the streets of Milan was recouped on social media. Fendi, Etro and outdoor brand Kway intended physical shows with guests, but had to scale back to closed-door runways.

Dolce & Gabbana cancelled, saying the restrictions in place wouldn't have allowed the necessary conditions for them to show.

Read more: It took a pandemic for fashion to finally find its moral fibre

Fendi's collection, designed by Silvia Venturini Fendi, featured quilted pieces made for easy layering, in the spirit of comfort and cocooning. Etro's paisley took on a casual flair, in silky tops or baggy trousers paired with crossbody bags and baseball caps.

Kway's rain slickers, trenches and parkas got their fashion cred from streaks bright colour and varied silhouettes.

Now, more than ever, as people have more time at home to consider how they want to present themselves to the world, fashion is less about trends, and more about individuality.

"Everybody should follow themselves," Prada said. "That for me is crucial, and fundamental. Clothes are an expression of your idea, of your personality... The clothes are at the service of your life, of the person.” – AP

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