Milan Design Week: something old, something new and a few gems
After three sunny days, rain spoiled the Design Week festivities in Milan on Thursday, without slowing down its frenetic pace. An overabundant array of events are being held in every nook and cranny of the city, the whole extravaganza has lost a little in quality, and also some of its poetic charm. For the fashion and luxury industry, Milan Design Week has become primarily a promotional opportunity. Provided one chooses the right slot, and deploys a unique idea to stand out from the crowd.
Besides the top luxury names, whose events have become a must over the years, smaller and lesser-known brands have had to redouble their efforts. Among the countless options on offer, there were a few interesting initiatives. For example, the Contïnuum project promoted by Ukrainian designer/architect Victoria Yakusha, who brought together in the same venue five creatives/artisans from her country, each with a unique vision in their field. Like designer Irina Dzhus, who won over the audience with her transformist fashion performance.
Irina Dzhus, 30, founded her multifunctional apparel label Dzhus in 2010 in Kiev, where she still manufactures her products despite the war. Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, she had to go into exile, working between Paris, Berlin and Warsaw. She is an advocate of ethical fashion, favouring a utilitarian but avant-garde style featuring clothes made with natural materials. Her innovative garment construction allows clothes to morph according to inspiration and necessity.
Another thirty-year-old, jewellery designer Cynthia Vilchez, struck a chord with her poetic installation. Vilchez, who is of Venezuelan and Dutch origin, presented her brand Aliita's latest collection in her workshop, by devising a treasure hunt in an enchanted world, along a path scattered with wicker baskets and containers made of bread, with small secret doors behind which she hid her delicate gold creations decorated with miniature silhouettes.
Vilchez came to Milan to study fashion marketing. After working for Vionnet, she began to create jewellery, her passion, and founded her brand in 2015. Quietly, she has managed to make a name for herself, distributing Aliita through a selection of retailers in Japan, Germany, the USA, Italy and France, at La Samaritaine. Half of Aliita’s sales are made on its e-shop. Aliita jewellery retails at between €300 and €400, and all items are made in Italy.
Another sector, another approach. Lanerossi, a long-established Italian manufacturer of upholstery fabrics and household linen, has decked out its first store, opened in Milan last October, in one of its renowned geometric archival patterns from the 1930s, reissued as a series of throws for the Milan Design Fair. Inside the store, other re-interpretations of past patterns are on display, all of them in the form of throws.
Lanerossi was founded in 1817 in Schio, near Vicenza, where the company still has a factory, in addition to a spinning mill in Lithuania. It was acquired in 1987 by the Marzotto textile group, becoming part of the Marzotto Lab division which specialises in natural fibres (cotton, linen, velvet) and upholstery fabrics.
In 2019, the company took control of its brand name again, and revived Lanerossi by launching a range of home linen, including wool blankets and linen or cotton sheets, tapping the brand’s archives. Throughout its history, Lanerossi has collaborated with top design names. A strategy that enabled Lanerossi’s revenue to grow from €9 million to €15 million between 2019 and 2022.
Adopting a more classic register, Etro invited visitors to its long-established Milanese headquarters at via Spartaco, where it unveiled its interior design creations by new creative director Marco De Vincenzo, displayed across a series of halls furnished with items from the new collection. Fabric, Etro’s hallmark, was the collection’s protagonist.
De Vincenzo drew on Etro’s vast archives to choose three fabrics, called Pluma, Amanti and Onda, with distinctive geometric and toile de Jouy patterns. He featured them in an earthy green and blue palette, and used them for velvet upholstery, tapestries and wallpapers, composing cosy sets with armchairs, sofas, tables, lamps, and more. He also called on US artist Amy Lincoln, who created four nature-inspired designs which Etro reproduced on various panels and upholstery.
The label is developing its Etro Home line internally. It consists of accessories, such as vases, cushions, tablecloths etc. The Etro Home Interiors furniture line is instead managed under license by Italian high-end furniture producer Oniro Group, which also manufactures the furniture collections by Roberto Cavalli and Gianfranco Ferré, alongside its own Jumbo Collection line.
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