Sex appeal and star power help Milan’s designers vie for global attention during Milan Fashion Week

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Beware, those who recall Milan Fashion Week as a distillation of well-made and wearable clothes, devoid of sex, drama or snazzy editorial content. Glenn Martens tucked blown-glass sex toys into the invitations to his Diesel show — and that was merely the week’s curtain-raiser.

Labels turned to reality television, identical twin models, artist collaborations and a plethora of transparent looks across many runways as they moved to revitalise themselves and compete for attention in an increasingly loud fashion world. Even Prada has morphed from the highly intellectual celebrity guests of the past — architects and artists — to influencers such as Chiara Ferragni and her neck-tattooed Italian rock star husband, Fedez, who sat front row at the show at the Fondazione Prada museum.

Alessandro Michele’s Twinsburg Spring/Summer 2023 show in Milan, which saw 68 sets of twins and doppelgangers down the runway.

Photo: Daniele Venturelli/Getty Images for Gucci

Tellingly, a litmus test of pandemic awareness suggests that Covid is far from top of mind in Milan. Bisous bisous returned to fashion week, starting on the left cheek as one does in Italy. It turns out that reports of cheek-kissing’s pandemic-related demise were premature, as were promises that collections would become smaller and more succinctly edited.

And those promises to reduce the waste associated with fashion week? Also largely out the window. According to some involved in productions, construction materials such as walls, carpets, and glass beads covering runways were all headed to landfills. As for the week’s carbon footprint, collections were often scheduled across town from each other, leading to daily 30-minute races across Milan. Editors, in desperation, bailed on schedules that required impossible civic traverses, such as the 35-minute drive from 7pm Bally to 8pm Bottega Veneta on Saturday evening.

That smashingly smart Bottega collection signalled a move toward ultra-luxury sportswear by opening what looked like blue jeans, khaki pants and flannel shirts, but was actually intricately printed leather.