This article first appeared in Harper’s Bazaar Singapore, the leading fashion glossy on the best of style, beauty, design, travel and the arts. Go to harpersbazaar.com.sg and follow @harpersbazaarsg on Instagram; harpersbazaarsingapore on Facebook. The January 2023 issue is out on newsstands now.
SINGAPORE – In a fashion capital filled with multi-generational family businesses and designer-founders who reign for decades, change can sometimes feel excruciatingly incremental.
But all of a sudden, for spring/summer 2023, an infusion of new blood in Milan is energising what had been family-owned enterprises such as Missoni and Etro, and accessory giants like Bally and Ferragamo are looking to carve out a bigger slice of the fashion pie.
Here are the designers who turned the heat up at Milan Fashion Week.
Rhuigi Villasenor was one of the pioneers in the luxury streetwear market when he established Rhude in 2015.
Since then, the label has been worn by influential tastemakers the likes of rappers Kendrick Lamar and Jay-Z and model Bella Hadid.
Last year, the American-Filipino designer was tapped for the top job at Bally – the brand’s first creative director in five years.
Founded in Switzerland but showing out of Milan, the brand is mostly known for its accessories.
Villasenor aims to change that. His debut offering injected the 172-year-old brand with a fashion sensibility that was equal parts Californian cool and Hollywood bombshell glamour.
It was the kind of glamour that evoked the sexually charged 1990s, when Italian brand Gucci was revived by a hotshot American designer, Tom Ford.
The first look – a velvet suit in a tiger print – set the tone. Its jacket opened to the navel to reveal a bra underneath. What followed was plenty of skin – of both the leather and flesh variety.
There were metallic leather jackets shown with no pants; unbuttoned shirts worn with skirts slit up to the hip bone, held together only by a double-B clasp. One arresting look was composed of a silk shirt tucked into suede pants tucked into python boots.
Villasenor blended breezy and sexy best in his denim looks. See the denim shirt worn with the sparkly skirt cut ultra-high, or the denim-on-denim ensemble with plenty of cleavage and gold jewellery.
Salvatore Ferragamo founded his business in 1927 and very quickly made his name as shoemaker to the stars, including actresses Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn.
The brand’s newly appointed creative director, Maximilian Davis, is also no stranger to dressing celebrities. The likes of singers Rihanna and Dua Lipa and reality television star Kim Kardashian have worn his eponymous London-based label.
Davis’ first order of business at Ferragamo was coming up with a new signature shade – a rich red inspired by both the beaded pumps the house’s founder made for Monroe, as well as the flag of Trinidad and Tobago, where Davis’ family hails from.
That red covered the floor of the entire venue at his debut show and was splashed onto many of the looks.
The clothes themselves were a potent mix of the slinky, sexy aesthetic for which Davis is known, and a streamlined classicism that would not alienate more conservative customers. The result was sophistication with an athletic ease and nonchalant sex appeal.
There were skin-tight suede suits with drawstring pouches strapped onto the waists; neat mini skirtsuits; body-skimming separates mixed with technical pieces; and midi skirts worn with zip-up jackets or little bandeaus.
In 2021, the LVMH-backed fund, L Catterton, acquired a majority stake in Etro. Before that, it was a family business – started by Gerolamo Etro in 1968 as a textile company and then run by his four children, with Veronica and Kean Etro designing womenswear and menswear respectively.
As a result of the change in ownership, Marco de Vincenzo has been brought in to reenergise the brand.
While the brand has always had a loyal following, its reliance on paisley prints and the haute hippie look has come to look a little expected.
De Vincenzo has long been an insider favourite for the maximalism and quirk he displays at his eponymous label – a breath of fresh air in the often staid Italian fashion system.
For his debut Etro outing, he has taken a reductionist approach, distilling the house’s codes down to their purest essence – rich, sumptuous textiles – which he then remixed with the sporty and the sexy for a youthful, modern take on bohemian glamour.
Full jacquard trousers were paired with a matching little bra top; striped button-downs lent a cool, mannish vibe to jacquard minidresses and wrap skirts; gradient-coloured slips and skirts were worn with easy little tees and knits.
A pair of richly embroidered boxer shorts worn with an oversized silk polo was the epitome of effortlessness. That feeling was further amplified by the clever styling using bucket hats and baseball caps, tube socks and clogs, and chunky lace-up boots.
Founded in 1953, Missoni is a family affair through and through.
At one point, three generations of Missonis were working at the company at the same time. Together, they have built one of Italy’s most enduring ready-to-wear brands.
You can spot a Missoni piece from far away – that iconic rainbow zig-zag is one of modern fashion’s most distinctive visual signifiers. But perhaps it has become too familiar.
The family decided the brand needed a little shake-up and sold a minority stake to private equity firm FSI in 2018. In 2022, a new creative director, Filippo Grazioli, was installed, replacing Angela Missoni.
Grazioli cut his teeth working with Riccardo Tisci at both Burberry and Givenchy. His interpretation of Missoni was defined by a much tighter take on the house’s codes, and not just in the way the silhouettes have been cut so fitted to the body.
He has also ditched the kaleidoscopic prints of old in favour of a more direct, graphic rendition of the brand’s zig-zags and chevrons.
The palette of his debut collection, too, was kept ultra-focused – the only hues being black, white, pink, yellow and blue.
He opened with a series of black and white body-hugging dresses in both midi and maxi lengths, before switching it up to tiny minidresses with sheer panels.
Elsewhere, there were boy shorts under sheer slips, bodysuits under teensy wrap skirts, and a chevron cardigan thrown over a minidress that looked like nothing so much as a belted towel.
All in all, it was a new, sexier (and convincing) take on the optimistic resort fare for which the brand is famed.