Milan Fashion Week SS23, these were your best bits
From Bottega Veneta’s norm-couture to Diesel’s record-breaking arena show, this is your one-stop shop for Milan Fashion Week SS23
The SS23 edition of Milan Fashion Week has officially come to a close. Known to be a little flashier, a little more gaudy than the other fashion capitals, this was the season that Milan almost broke with tradition.
Beyond all the vampish sirens of Versace, Blumarine, and Trussardi, where the body is very much on display in foxy, fluttery minidresses, emerged a slightly more elevated look – one which was chic, casual, and quite cerebral. The cold-blooded vision of sexuality which has dominated the past few seasons began to thaw at Ferragamo, Bottega Veneta, Jil Sander, and Prada, all of which introduced a newfound elegance into womenswear, albeit ever-so-slightly corrupted. But then came Diesel, Han Kjøbenhavn, and Matty Bovan, each one more chaotic and freaky than the last…
Below, we travel back over some of the best in show from the SS23 season of Milan Fashion Week.
For all its overtures to inclusion, fashion often fails to democratise the industry in any tangible way. A livestream of a fashion show might give the illusion of access, but it doesn’t break down barriers like Glenn Martens did this week, inviting nearly 5,000 people to his SS23 arena show – 3,000 of whom were members of the public. In the centre of the stadium was the world’s biggest-ever inflatable sculpture, its limbs intertwined in an orgiastic struggle. “I wanted to open Diesel up to the public, for people who may never have been to a fashion show,” the designer explained in an accompanying press release, gifting editors a glass-blown butt plug as an invitation. The collection itself was described as a projection of adolescent rage, divided into denim, utility, pop, and extravaganza segments. With almost everything battered, tattered, and frayed at the hem, Martens showcased the manifold potential of denim; there were trompe l’oeil two pieces, flocked overcoats, high-waisted, low-slung jeans with double waistbands, Canadian tuxedos with explosive tufts, and hulkling, stone-washed jawns flapping behind the model like an elephant’s ears.
Less than a week after he staged a lavish 15th anniversary show for the Fendi Baguette, Kim Jones hopped on a plane to Milan and debuted his SS23 collection for the Roman house. Drawing inspiration from the late 90s and early 00s – the same period the It bag gained popularity – the designer reimagined Karl Lagerfeld’s Y2K archives for a new kind of Carrie Bradshaw. Expressed in hues of peppermint, lime, coral, and slate, the collection ran the gamut of diaphanous slips, low-rise trousers, silky cargo pants, shrunken knitwear, and sliced skirting. But who is the metropolitan woman without a slew of misshapen and bizarrely covetable accessories at her side? Alongside furry, graphic bags and logo-strewn pochettes, Jones showcased rubber platform sandals, mini bags worn as necklace pendants, chokers, and hirsute shoppers.
MM6 MAISON MARTIN MARGIELA
At a theatre on the outskirts of Milan, a line of models weaved through an audience seated on stage, while an orchestra played in the auditorium behind them. Though it would have been difficult to discern at first glance, this season, the MM6 design team looked towards dance and the rituals of rehearsal as their modus operandi. But this was no reenactment of Fame. Leotards were scrunched-up and stretched around the waist of leather trench coats, flopped over baggy jeans, or worn unclasped over wide-legged, shirred denim. As a descendant of Martin Margiela, the label was always going to do things a little differently, gesturing to the idea of dancers in satin coats and jeans that had been stained pink from the tights, leg warmers, and character shoes beloved of 80s dance troupes. There was a time-worn quality to the collection, articulated in flesh-toned, distressed knitwear and laser cut, scoop-necked ballet sweaters – it was as if the dancers had been put through an interminable and tortured rehearsal schedule.
As a storm began to brew over Jil Sander’s outdoor location, Luke and Lucie Meier gave each of their 67 models a black umbrella – something that’s since been talked about as an act of generosity, which goes some way to showing just how little some designers care for their casts. But it also gave each of their looks a certain sense of believability. Amid all the Bella Hadids and Malick Bodians – it was the duo’s first coed collection since 2018 – was the image of a very real Jil Sander-phile, schlepping out of galleries and chi-chi restaurants in a rain-splattered Manhattan or Mayfair. There was the standard clean, loose-fitted tailoring, but this time with subtle eccentricities – a feathered skirt here, a double-layered short there, a jewel-toned pochette. An accent of glitz. Kilts came with cloud-shaped mirror embellishments, macramé dresses were spun from sparkly yarn, and stolid evening wear was pumped-up in cascades of sequined fringe.
“Perverse banality,” was how Matthieu Blazy described his second outing at Bottega Veneta – a collection that seems to have caught the fashion set in a stronghold. In collaboration with Italian architect Gaetano Pesce, a painterly catwalk was surrounded by hundreds of one-off chairs moulded in colourful resin, as Blazy pushed the idea of casual comfort into couture. The show opened with a bevy of normie-looking denim, flannel shirts, and cotton tees, but all of them had been made from leather and over-printed multiple types to give them an illusory depth. The idea was to elevate the everyday wardrobe to such a degree that you might mistake it for something completely quotidian – the embodiment of if you know, you know fashion. But their apparent simplicity was then bulldozed – or bolstered – by the rest of the collection, which was an obvious showcase of craftsmanship. From glitch-print dresses swinging in beaded tassels, to sheer tank-dresses embellished with gloopy flowers, laser-cut leather skirts, and fin-seamed tailoring on uber-chic trousers and trench coats. The whole thing reached an explosive climax when Blazy tore the leather hoods off last season’s skirts to reveal a coral of bristling noodles bursting from beneath.
Moncler celebrated its 70th birthday with an enormous flash mob opposite the Duomo in the centre of Milan. 1,956 dancers (a nod to the year the label was founded) moved in complete synchronicity, throwing their limbs into the air and contorting their bodies like they were in the final auditions for a West End revival of the Blue Man Group. Each and every participant wore the brand’s signature Maya jacket in an optic white, transforming the piazza into some kind of interpretative, arctic expedition. To coincide with the anniversary, CEO and Chairman Remo Ruffini invited a slew of designers to reinterpret that same coat, with Pharell, Rick Owens, and Hiroshi Fujiwara’s designs dropping weekly from October 15. Christened by a couple of NFTs – of course – the brand’s epic birthday bonanza will run for 70 days, with an immersive exhibition spanning New York, London, and Seoul in the months to come.
Han Kjøbenhavn had the internet in a – quite literal – chokehold earlier this year when Julia Fox wore one of his gruesome designs to the Vanity Fair afterparty at the Oscars, the grip of a skeletal hand on her bare neck forged from black leather. Things were just as uncomfortable at Milan Fashion Week, as the designer pulled a collection out of the shadowland of his subconscious. “Shadows are what we think of it to be. The objects, shapes, and emotions it carries with it, is up to the receiver to feel,” his show notes read. “My aim is that it is interesting enough for people to engage in.” Those feelings translated into bizzaro evening wear featuring hooded swimsuits, metallic bralettes, and barbed skirts; dresses which took on a Rick Owens sensibility in peak-shoulders, angular hips, and severe cut-outs at the sternum; pincer-like boots and 3D moulded necklines.
Matty Bovan made his Milan Fashion Week debut this season with a retina-burning, vibration-raising, and BRAIN-MELTING collection of club kid buffoonery. On the request of Domenico and Stefano, the CSM graduate set up shop in Dolce & Gabbana’s ateliers, with full access to their seamstresses, materials, and archives, birthing the kind of madcap clothes that almost evade description. Alva Claire, Richie Shazam, and Ashley Graham stomped through a chequerboard runway, bundled in layers of mad, art school creations, among them pannier-hipped corset-dresses cut from clashing, zig zag patterns and illusory squares; mermaid tail quilt-skirts; hand-painted jeans embellished with golden doilies and hot pink straps; and double-sleeved, diamanté-encrusted hoodies cropped at the collarbone. There were glimpses of slightly more commercial pieces, like patchwork cardigans and drag racer gloves, but as soon as the eye could just about distinguish one thing, it was drawn to another – namely all the perspex triangle hats that were plonked onto the models’ heads and shoulders.