Milan Fashion Week Cheat Sheet


If the death of Queen Elizabeth II has dominated the conversation at London Fashion Week, the narrative taking shape ahead of Milan is harder to pin down. Many Italian fashion companies are flying high after a rapid rebound in luxury sales after the coronavirus, but even the country’s strongest and most respected players still have something to prove.

Gucci

Italy’s fashion industry is predicting record sales in 2022, but Gucci, by far the country’s biggest luxury brand, has yet to break through a long stretch of average growth. Sales have returned to pre-pandemic levels, but are still growing more slowly than other brands of a similar scale.

Earlier this year, the label’s leadership promised renewal, both creatively and commercially. A commercial revival is underway, with store openings, moves to build beauty and other emerging categories, and a transition to higher-priced products, including leather bags featuring exotic hides and more luxurious details. The brand has continued to hit exposure to discount-prone channels like online wholesalers.

Friday’s show may offer some insight into the creative side of the equation. Alessandro Michele’s maximalist vision for Gucci still works, supporting a business with over $10 billion in annual sales. But it’s been nearly eight years since he joined the brand, and his vision isn’t as fresh as it once was.

Earlier this year, Gucci tapped long-time deputy Michele to oversee its commercial collections in the newly created role of design studio director (as well as making a key new hire to oversee merchandising and set-up brand, and reorganizing its marketing and communications team), but Michele remains Gucci’s sole creative director, responsible for establishing the label’s aesthetic. This week, we can see how he plans to evolve that aesthetic to justify higher prices and reignite growth in line with the rapid expansion of mega-brand rivals Gucci. Everyone from Kering executives in Paris to luxury mall owners in Shanghai will be watching.

Prada

Growth is not a problem at Prada – the brand reported a 22 percent increase in sales in the first half of the year. The question is whether the smart trading strategy that has gotten him to this point will continue to deliver results. “Raf is obsessed with the triangle,” Miuccia Prada told the Financial Times last year about designer Raf Simons’ first collections as co-creative director. This is evidenced by a proliferation of Prada’s inverted triangle logos across its product offering.

Simons’ vision extends beyond geometry, of course: it’s also his sleeker, more minimal approach with fewer crazy patterns that has helped revive sales, especially for menswear. But the market’s thirst for innovation presents its own challenges and raises interest in Prada’s next show.

Designer debuts

Milan will also feature plenty of designer debuts at established labels in need of revitalization. Bally, Etro, Ferragamo and Missoni. In each case, new creative directors were brought in to help regenerate labels with international brand recognition but slow-growing businesses.

The similarities mostly end there; Rhuigi Villaseñor hails from the streetwear world of California, a background Bally hopes will revive its appeal with American consumers (and create an exit for owner JAB). Marco de Vincenzo joins Etro after two decades creating leather goods at Fendi and is expected to bring long-awaited change to the brand, which sold to LVMH-backed private equity firm L Catterton last year. Missoni, too, is moving its design away from family control, giving designer Filippo Grazioli his first shot as creative director after years of working behind the scenes at Margiela, Hermès, Givenchy and Burberry.

Ferragamo is the largest of the four, with a global store network and the strongest brand awareness, which it hopes a new CEO (Marco Gobbetti) and young designer (Manchester-born Maximilian Davis) can use .

After nearly a decade of giant global brands dominating the luxury category, there may be an opportunity for smaller names to capture the attention of consumers, especially when they can draw on long histories of Italian design and craftsmanship.

They will also need investment to compete with Gucci and Prada, but a unique and compelling creative vision can help close the gap.

Sunday

London Day 4 Highlights: Nancy Dojaka, Simone Rocha, Erdem, Christopher Kane

The MAGIC New York trade show runs until September 20

Sephora’s annual beauty event, Sephoria, returns as a virtual experience

Monday

Funeral for Queen Elizabeth II

Tuesday

London Day 5 Highlights: Chet Lo, Richard Quinn

Stitch Fix reports quarterly results

Milan Fashion Week begins, which lasts until September 26

Wednesday

Milan Day 2 Highlights: Brunello Cucinelli, Diesel, Fendi, Roberto Cavalli

The US Federal Reserve is expected to raise interest rates by 75 basis points to 3.25 percent, the highest since 2008

Thursday

Milan Day 3 highlights: Prada, Emporio Armani, Moschino, Boss, Max Mara

Friday

Milan Day 4 Highlights: Tod’s, Missoni, Loro Piana, Etro, Gucci, Versace

Saturday

Milan Day 5 Highlights: Jil Sander, Salvatore Ferragamo, Bally, Bottega Veneta, Moncler

Next week wants to hear from you! Send tips, suggestions, complaints and compliments to brian.baskin@businessoffashion.com.



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