What a Summer in Milan Can Do for a Fashion Designer

Milan, Capital of Fashion

Milan is the fashion capital of the world. This is the place where it all happens because the city revolves around fashion and great design. In Milan, the biggest offense you can commit is having an imitation purse. This is the reason why people who want to learn about fashion often dream about attending a fashion school in Milan, but the idea of living in Italy for years can be intimidating–not to mention expensive. That is why designers should consider an intensive, summer program instead.

So what can an up and coming fashion designer hope to gain from summer school in Milan?

1) Experience – Being in the center of the fashion capital means that you have the chance to see your education in action. You have a chance to see just how fashion works in the real world. Experience is something that you truly need when you want to be the best at something. Attending a design school in Milan is the fashion equivalent of a soldier going through boot camp in Afghanistan.

This experience will look great on a resume and help a young designer get in the door of the real decision makers back in the States because experience is the best teacher. Here is a little secret about resumes–executives rarely read them word for word. Basically, if a company is hiring, the boss will skim through a stack of resumes looking for any interesting detail that sets a person apart. Having the name of a fashion school in Milan on a designer’s resume, combined with some great looks and styles in their portfolio, might be the winning combination to landing that dream job. Rubbing elbows with the fashion elite in Milan will inspire new design ideas while toughening a designer up to be able to handle rejection and harsh criticism.

2) Competition – Since Milan is the fashion capital, it is only natural that people all over the place are competing with each other for the top spot. This will help the new designer become more competitive when they are launching their new line and establishing their presence in the business. Stiff competition is the best thing that can help the development of new talent in fashion design. By going to a summer fashion school in Milan, designers will be putting themselves through a trial by fire.

3) Discipline – Because of the high expectations of fashion schools in Milan, a new designer will learn how to be disciplined and get things done on tight deadlines. Fashion, although it involves creativity, requires a lot of discipline and downright hard work in order to be successful.

4) Opportunity – When attending a fashion school in Milan, there will be all kinds of contacts and opportunities available. Attending a fashion summer program in Milan means having the opportunity to scout the industry for niches while still having the freedom of being a student. Because of this, a designer who stands out in Milan, will be on the fast track to finding a job within the fashion industry. Establish connections and get to know the big players. Also, don’t attend a program unless it will also be able to supply some contacts in order to help a new designer get started in a career in fashion.

Is Milan Still One of the Fashion Capitals?

A few days ago Men’s Fashion Week in Milan ended and in less than a month Women’s Fashion Week will begin. The city will turn into chaos, the bloggers will occupy the streets and nervous journalist and editors will run hysterically from one show to another.

This makes me wonder: is all this hype justified? Can Milan still think of itself as one of the main fashion capitals along with Paris, London and New York or is it slowly losing the battle against some rising fashion metropolis like Madrid, Berlin and São Paulo?

There is no doubt that when it comes to the commercial aspect Milan is the winner. What you see on Milan’s catwalks is what sells all over the world and there will always be big brands like Gucci, Armani, D&G, Prada that will attract international buyers and press. But what matters for the future of any fashion industry is the young and upcoming talent. And that is exactly what is missing in Milan, or rather it is not featured enough as in other fashion weeks around the world. When I think about it, I can’t really come up with any Italian designer that has emerged in last ten years and has created an internationally known and successful brand. Maybe DSquared2, but they are originally from Canada, based in Italy, but not really representatives of Italian taste and style.

So what is missing? There are countless fashion schools all over Italy, there is even a solid platform for the manufacturing process… Maybe Italian fashion community doesn’t do enough to support and guide young designer so they just end up working as assistant designers for some major brand never getting the real recognition for their work. Sure there are events like “Who is on Next?” but still after all these years not one young designer has managed to surpass the borders of Italy and make it big worldwide. And young designer always have their shows on the last day of the fashion week, after all major brands have already finished their shows, and all the press and buyers have left for Paris wich is the next fashion week in the calendar.

So how can we explain the phenomenon of two extraordinary talented Italian designers like Riccardo Tisci who has resurrected the french maison Givenchy; and Giambattista Valli who is equally successful both in prêt-à-porter and haute couture. And somehow they are both based in Paris and are fully embraced by the French fashion industry.

Maybe what is happening to Milan is what used to be the problem of London till recently. It just didn’t have the support system. But one of the biggest British brands Burberry has eventually returned to the London Fashion Week. I don’t see Italian brands like Valentino ever coming back from Paris to Milan.

And lastly, maybe it is to consider also the fact that fashion lives where creativity and young energy burst. In a city that can simply be described with the color grey, where walking down the streets there are significantly more old than young people, and where anxiety and bitterness is the common state of mind, even the fashion has given up. It has moved to a better, warmer and more prosperous place. I bet it is having a fabulous time somewhere in the streets of Rio.


NYC: Shopping the Fashion Capital

Girls weekend! In need of some retail therapy, a girlfriend from high school and I went to exciting New York City for a weekend of shopping and, well, more shopping.

Our hotel, the Ritz Carlton, was located merely a block away from fabulous Fifth Avenue where we spent the majority of our weekend. Saturday morning, as soon as the shops opened, we energetically began perusing the racks at Bergdorf Goodman. Floor after floor of beautiful clothing beckoned us. Three hours and a pair of Armani pants later, we emerged slightly less energetically from the historic walls and began our walk down Fifth Avenue. Louis Vuitton, Prada, Tiffany, Escada, Cartier, Gucci! We could have shopped for days, if our feet would have allowed it. After making it halfway down the strip of shops, my perfectly pedicured and Manolo Blahnik shoed feet begged me to take a break. Reluctantly, we stopped into a sandwich shop for lunch. After reenergizing with food and rest, we found ourselves back on Fifth Avenue in Yves Saint Laurent. I was in search of a pair of sunglasses that would fit my face, and be trendy without being too trendy. Erin, my good friend and former optician’s assistant, had been brutally honest about the glasses I had been trying on throughout the day. But we both found ourselves falling in love with a pair of dark brown round lenses in YSL. I usually deliberate over my potential purchases, but I didn’t blink before handing the sales associate my credit card.
Erin’s beautifully tailored Armani pants and my YSL sunglasses were the only purchases made on this first day. We walked tiredly back to the hotel, purchases in tow, to collapse in our room watching The Cosby Show before heading out for the evening.

We did not leave that first shopping day without a valuable lesson, though. Food, caffeine, and comfortable (while still cute) shoes are necessary for the abundant amount of shopping we had planned.

The next morning was a fresh start. Donning my much more practical Cole Haan sandals, we ate a hearty breakfast (okay, I had a Coke, a waffle with chocolate syrup, honey, and sugar on it, and a bowl of fruit, but I was not lacking energy afterwards). The evening before, we had made a list of all our must see stores and we started on our trek to find them. By chance, we wandered into Salvatore Ferragamo where I found a perfectly adorable silver charm bracelet. In addition to two Ferragamo horseshoe charms, there were two crystal studded shoe charms and a crystal encrusted heart. As I mentioned earlier, I brood over my potential purchases before committing to them. Erin and I made it exactly one half block before I made us turn around so I could buy the bracelet.

We then proceeded to SoHo where we stopped for lunch. Long term energy was a goal in this meal, so I stuck to a turkey sandwich, no chocolate syrup on top. In SoHo, we wandered through the narrow streets taking in the New York City atmosphere and searching through the shops. The crowds and hot, humid weather started to exhaust us and so we began searching for a Starbucks. What we found was even better…Betsey Johnson. The boutique seemed a wonderful resting place. Erin could relax while I got to try on all those adorable girly girl dresses and shoes. To our dismay, the air conditioning in the store was not working but it didn’t stop us. The dress I found had an old fashioned rose print on cream fabric and a pink silk bow wrapped around to create an empire waist. The classic style was redefined with a form fitting shape and a double cut V neckline. I also found myself purchasing the most perfectly pink stiletto heels. For lack of a better way to describe them, I have nicknamed them my Barbie shoes. They are bright pink with an ankle strap and a peep toed heel adorned on top with a large pink and light pink wire and glass beaded flower. I love the dress because it will never go out of style and any time I want to feel feminine, I now have the perfect shoes to do so in.

We spent a significant amount of time debating the pros and cons of a sexy black and red corseted and ruched gown in Dolce and Gabbana, but I ultimately decided against it and we headed back to our Central Park hotel.
Monday, our last day in the city, we found ourselves back on Fifth Avenue one last time to visit Burberry (where Erin found a trendy pair of blue shades with the Burberry plaid logo on the sides) and Christian Dior. In Dior, I found a gorgeous brightly colored bikini (for half off, mind you) and a cute gold bracelet with pink glass beads and charms that spelled out Dior. Shopping in Dior was the perfect way to end our perfect New York weekend.

If you find yourself in New York City, I would recommend going to SoHo before Fifth Avenue. The area feels much less touristy and much more New York City. July, although quite hot, is a great time of year to visit. All the pre-fall clothing is coming in and stores have dropped the prices on many of the summer clothes to make room for the new merchandise. Be sure to think carefully and plan out your excursion. There is so much shopping to be done in this metropolis and you could never make it into the stores you truly want to see if you don’t plan carefully. Don’t do as Erin and I did and look hopelessly for Saks on Madison or Park Avenue without remembering that the store is called Saks Fifth Avenue. Check to see what time shops open before you get up early to go to them just to find they are all closed. No matter how comfortable you think your three inch Jimmy Choo stilettos are at 10 am, don’t wear them. They won’t be comfortable at 3 pm when you are making your way up four flights of stairs at Louis Vuitton. Be sure to eat a healthy breakfast, drink lots of Starbucks and water, stop for lunch, and, most importantly, have fun!