Was Milan Fashion Week Really a “Fiasco”?

When the French newspaper Le Figaro branded Milan Fashion Week a “fiasco” in a headline last Tuesday—before Milan Fashion Week had even begun—it went down in Italy about as well as a Hawaiian pizza with a side of SpaghettiOs. “Ridiculous, stupid, ignorant, wrong!” one eminent Italian editor summarized it to me. “They are just projecting their own fears about Paris Fashion Week and health issues onto us,” said an Italian house PR, more circumspectly. 

Reading below the incendiary and clumsy headline (so clumsy that Le Figaro later changed it without explanation) the evidence presented to support it was circumstantial; Bottega Veneta and Gucci were not showing (correct), Versace and Prada U-turned from physical to digital (correct), social distancing had to be maintained at the physical shows that were happening (like, obviously correct), British visitors to Italy faced a quarantine when returning home (incorrect), and—this was probably the main cause of Le Figaro’s pique—French visitors were required to test negative for COVID-19 before being allowed into the country.

Yesterday, the last few digital stragglers on the Milan calendar played out even as Paris took up the baton of this strangest of fashion seasons. It’s too early to judge Paris, of course—but taking the temperature of Milan, how did it pan out?

Being here, on the ground, the pleasure taken by those who were involved in physical shows was tangible. As Silvia Fendi put it before her show, the first real-real out of the week: “at last, some physical activity!” As Kim Jones came backstage to wish her luck, and Sam McKnight rushed Eva Herzigova to a newly-moved makeup station, and Penelope Tree discussed appearing in her first show since the 1980s, the atmosphere mixed joy and caution. 

Silvia Fendi and Kim Jones backstage before the Fendi spring 2021 show. Photographed by Luke Leitch. 

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