Milan is the centre of luxury fabrics, refined tailoring, and all things elegant. Even during this wild period, when in-person events are mostly on pause, designers made sure to get this point across, utilising films, livestreams, look books, and more. Ahead, we curate all the best looks from the fall 2021 season.
This article first appeared on Harper’s BAZAAR US.
Showing for the first time at Milan Fashion Week, Onitsuka Tiger—under the creative helm of Andrea Pompilio—presented its Fall/Winter 2021 collection melding functionality and handcrafted details. The Japanese label opted for a hybrid runway presentation with artistic performances by M ¥ SS KETA, dancer Gabriele Esposito and visual artist OZMO. Minimalist design elements and details inspired by the Himalayas and ’70s trekking were rendered in the form of mountaineering gear, such as special fleeces worked with nylon radzimir inlays and contrasting vintage-inspired piping. A palette of black and gray nylon, coupled with pops of orange, yellow, neon blue, gave the collection a lively edge. In collaboration with Toyoki Adachi, designer and artistic director of textile graphic brand “nowartt,” Pompilio also incorporated textile graphics into the collection, seen on down jackets, trousers and backpacks. The big move from Tokyo Fashion Week to Milan reinforces the dual nature of the brand while upholding its “East-meets-West” aesthetic. —Shermin Ng
Gigi Hadid returned to the runway for Donatella Versace’s Fall 2021 presentation this morning, which showcased slim silhouettes, sharp tailoring, and sultry riffs on power dressing. The looks felt like veritable suits of armor, making their way through the season’s Versace maze, inspired by the Greek Key. That La Greca code was combined with the brand’s signature logo into a motif that echoed throughout the collection, alongside sultry cuts, mod minis, and eveningwear that will resonate with fashion renegades and red carpet frequenters alike. This season featured a rebellious spirit with looks that felt strong, powerful, and bold, but also pieces that were easy-to-wear, perfect for throwing on post-lockdown to take to the streets by day, or out for a sexy night on the town. —Carrie Goldberg
When it comes to luxury, you have to touch to sense true richness. Fabiana Filippi is known for its fabrics, and fall collections are the place to really show that off. This season was no different, with a range that included everything sumptuous and lovely you’d want to stroke and touch and pull snugly around your shoulders. Beautiful coats and jackets and sweaters, staples all, were peppered with standout pieces (like a knit poncho with long fringe that drapes to the elbows). While it always feels wrong to wish for cool weather to return as you’re approaching spring, clothing this lovely makes it hard not to.—Leah Melby Clinton
Cynthia Erivo wore a fluorescent green scuba dress from Pierpaolo Piccioli’s most recent couture collection at last night’s socially distanced Golden Globes, but for Fall 2021 ready to wear, the Valentino creative director was working in a more muted colour palette of black and white with pops of gold. One year after lockdowns swept Italy and much of the world, shuttering performing arts spaces and much of our cultural life in their wake, he reopened Milan’s Piccolo Teatro for one night only to stage a 66 look spectacular titled Valentino ACT.
The historic public theater is in the process of digitizing and cataloguing its renowned costume archives. The mod Valentino styles that processed under a spotlight through the darkened space as Cosima sang live accompanied by a string quartet—pleated A-line mini skirts, pointed collar white shirts, turtlenecks, and swingy cape coats, paired with sturdy boots covered in rubber petals and macro studs—translated the house’s own ’60s origins for the here and now. As the models stood six feet apart in formation for the finale and the backdrop changed from white to Valentino red, the message was clear: the show must go on. —Alison S. Cohn
Luxurious ease is what so many of us are naturally gravitating toward now, and it’s a banner thing for Loro Piano: Luxe simplicity is its signature stock-in-trade. The silhouette for fall is all about long, lean lines: wide-legged pants that drop to the floor and monochromatic sets that utilise color as the ultimate lengthener. The collection found its inspiration in Milan, its “way of dressing and behaving,” and the effortless, utterly mixable pieces certainly speak volumes about the person wearing them without ever needing to do more than whisper. That said, the label achieves its aim of wanting the wearer to shine through—these are not clothes that overwhelm or steal the spotlight—yet there’s no denying that the combination of palette, fabric, and silhouette all make for an undeniable message.—Leah Melby Clinton
After a backwards, inside-out, down-is-up kind of year, the flipping and switching and reworking seen on the MM6 runway felt par for the course. You’re forced to reconsider anything when it appears different than expected, and that idea was utilised everywhere here. Take the show opener for starters, which featured an inside-out camisole and a pair of trousers with its guts on display (the pocket, previously a heard-but-not-seen type of element, flapped about off the hip). Overall, the reimagining throughout comes across as more wearable than one might think, a testament to our adjusted realities that we’re comfortable with expecting the unexpected.—Leah Melby Clinton
Quality over quantity—or frills or drama or loudness, honestly. Marco Zanini seemingly took the strange, quiet time of the pandemic to further study and refine what defines his clothes, turning out a fall collection that turns heads not immediately, but slowly and seductively. It’s a testament to the fabrics used that their luxe handfeel is apparent even through a screen; these are clothes you’d want to let your fingers slowly graze over, instinctively understanding that not all wools and cashmeres are created equal. It’s a near perfect example of the oft-instructed idea to invest in classics that will stand the test of time, both in appearance and construction. From long sweater dresses to coats and suiting, every single piece is of the sort you’d hold onto forever.—Leah Melby Clinton
Lorenzo Serafini explored a school-uniform fantasy of the Ryan Murphy variety for fall: Everything is a little bit bolder, brighter, and more exaggerated than what you’d really see standing in front of a locker, but there’s nothing wrong with maximalism. Pleats and letterman patches are always rich with nostalgia, but something feels especially emotional about the peppy, preppy attitude at this moment in time. With so much of the school year conducted virtually, uniforms didn’t get much airtime, and plenty of collegians decided to make alternative plans when faced with an unprecedented year. By tripling down on schoolgirl-chic, we’re ready to dress for the world we want.—Leah Melby Clinton
When it comes to parsing a collection, it’s common to look at the decades past being referenced and reworked. And while Paul Andrew did do some cinematic mining when crafting this season, the films he looked to all referenced the future (The Matrix; Gattaca). “The objective was to engineer a collection that sees the present through a prism of the future,” he wrote. The Ferragamo blueprints are about uniforms with military-inspired tailoring or sporty energy (and true-blue sports, like scuba or cycling or motorbiking, not the more leisurely lifestyle associated with American sportswear); the bolder or more feminine moments are constrained enough that they could be uniforms too. It should also be noted that Andrew’s future is sustainable: Up- and recycling were part of the process, as were other choices that resulted in a lower environmental impact.—Leah Melby Clinton
If all of us have spent part of the last year taking stock of where we’re at and rethinking what really matters, Francesco Risso is no different. All that thought resulted in a belief that fun and joy and beautifully made things—things that maybe don’t show their full beauty on a cold screen—are more important than ever. There’s a tongue-way-in-cheek attitude threaded throughout, with a feeling that the models have naughtily stolen into a mother’s closet and are sashaying around while she’s out (a feeling definitely helped by the comically large top-handle bag perched in the nook of one’s arm). It’s a reworking of the knits and nap dresses and sweats, tie-dye sets included, that we’ve spent so much time in. Recognizable elements remain, yet the updated versions have both more joy and craftsmanship going for them.—Leah Melby Clinton
Giorgio Armani is forever soft and subtle—precise, but never harsh. His particular presentation of femininity is brought to life with ruffles and petals and peeks of skin (jackets that flare open over the navel and long skirts layered over shorter ones to let legs emerge mid-stride). Rich velvets and rippling silks coyly suggest you touch without demanding it, a demure attitude upheld even by the more must-touch crystals and spiral ruffles. Entitled “Nocturnal,” it seems fair to read the collection’s palette as a sign that we’re collectively emerging from what’s felt like one very long night. Every hue of blue was used, including the inkiest iteration of a midnight sky, and spots of blush warmed things up much like the first tentacles of sun do upon the dawning of a new day. Lovely and surefooted, it’s a wonderful forecast for the future.—Leah Melby Clinton
Freedom was the throughline of Etro‘s printed, pop-colored, and layered showing today, with two artists—both pioneers in their fields—serving as the core source of inspiration. Victoria Etro channeled the rebellion and free-spirited natures of dancer Rudolf Nureyev and Jimi Hendrix when crafting this season, which doesn’t play by the rules.
Much like Erdem, who was also inspired by the ease in photos of Nureyev and his dance partner off-duty, Etro was eager to infuse ease into sophisticated shapes, and (per the brand’s signature) mix prints, texture, volume, and accessories in unexpected ways, much like Hendrix did in his heyday. The result is a cool ease; a mix of slouchy separates with sex appeal—a look that doesn’t feel far-reaching for the fashion-obsessed emerging from lockdown, looking for a sense of freedom themselves. —Carrie Goldberg
Best known for luxury utility, Tod’s‘ Walter Chiapponi tapped fanciful elements more often seen in evening dressing and couture to expand on the brand’s vernacular this season. Staples like leather coats and trenches were elevated with ruffle-like collars and strong shoulders; sheer elements made an otherwise basic day dress transform into an edgy look for evening. The accessories, which are always a focal point, were ever-more elevated; sunglasses done in all leather and a range of exaggerated, oversized handbags and hats stood out, and added to the drama.
This season, Chiapponi played with proportion, volume, and styling much like someone designing for the red carpet—but in media and methods that feel inherently Tod’s.
Trends are cyclical, yes, yet some decades are less forgiving than others. The ’80s can be the hardest for designers to make palatable what with all of that era’s insistence on things that fall so far from classical aesthetic principles, yet Emporio Armani’s reincarnation feels more than palatable. It’s a softer version of some of the harsher shapes, with pleated-front trousers, skinny suspenders, and drop waist silhouettes included. The prints are bold and the velvet soft, yet neither read garish in a way vintage pieces might shriek. The ’80s reliably make for fun costume parties but not always real-life fodder; it feels refreshing to see a take that’s not just acceptable but actually exciting.—Leah Melby Clinton
A Moschino show is a show, an experience, a prance through different worlds and scenarios. For the latest tour, Jeremy Scott was inspired by George Cukor‘s The Women and set out to wardrobe the entire panoply of female tropes. There are boss-heroines in tailored pinstripes; prairie housewives in calico and paisley (plus some potato sacks for good measure); adventurers in safari garb; and, of course, plenty of sirens. Never one to shy away from drama or attention-grabbing elements, Moschino was also stacked with big-name models (like Hailey Beiber, Amber Valletta, Winnie Harlow, Dita Von Teese). It’s par for the course at the label, but also feels especially necessary given the entire season is inspired by scene-stealing women.—Leah Melby Clinton
The latest installment from the partnership made in fashion dreams—Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons—is inspired by change, transformation, and opening possibilities. Those ideas live in jacquard knits, statement faux furs, menswear inspired suiting, bold coloured coats, and feminine skirt suits. The looks are only seemingly simple—with bold hits of colour like cobalt and orange, against black, brown, and white. Models walked on an interior landscape created out of vibrant faux fur and marble by Rem Koolhaas and AMO. All of it will be eventually donated to Meta, a circular economy project based in Milan, “which offers
sustainable solutions to waste disposal within ephemeral events by collecting and recovering materials for selling and rentals.” This is the future—clothes to collect and not discard, an awareness around waste, a venture into creativity with thought for what happens next.
English mainstays meet a chic Italiana woman for Max Mara‘s Fall collection. Think: tartans and cashmere, headscarves and Fair Isle knits. Who doesn’t want to be her? The creator of the famed teddy coat (they’re in here too, don’t worry) is celebrating 70 years since Achille Maramotti founded the storied brand as a shopping destination for the wives of local notaries and doctors. Luckily, now the ladies who frequent Max Mara’s boutiques are the professionals themselves—all the better for investing in all those camel coats. -Kerry Pieri
Brunello Cucinelli is no stranger to the luxe leisure trend that has swept the fashion industry. To wit: The Italian designer built his brand on tailored double-faced cashmere tops and cardigans, along with mohair sweaters and coats. He has also consistently offered tailored drawstring trousers. Where others are now just presenting pieces inspired by pandemic life, Cucinelli was ahead of the curve. As a result, his fall 2021 collection—comprised of his stalwarts in subtle shades of brown, beige, cream, and grey—were miles ahead of the simple ribbed knit dresses that sprung up in most presentations this season. Indeed, the proportions of his pieces was a masterclass, the mixing textures was sublime, and the addition of crochet styles were a fun surprise.—Barry Samaha
For No. 21’s fall 2021 collection, designer Alessandro Dell’Acqua presented looks that each highlighted a sensual part of the body: A cropped Bar jacket with a fringe skirt accented the legs, an ocelot-printed brassiere and matching pencil skirt showcased the midriff, and fitted strapless lace dress accentuated the arms and shoulders. The lineup was a celebration of the subtle sex appeal; there was nothing flagrant about the display of flesh. His inspiration was, after all, Carlo Mollino, the famed photographer, architect, and product designer whose work often reflected the curves of the female form.—Barry Samaha
All things comfy and cozy reached new heights in Alberta Ferretti’s fall 2021 collection. The Italian designer, via video of a runway show, presented a lineup of cold-weather staples—blanket capes, shearling coats, cashmere sweaters, turtlenecks, and suede trousers—that, though roomy in cut, were tailored with precision and featured hand-stitched details. Ferretti started with black and charcoal-grey hues, gradually adding flesh tones, pine green, mustard yellow, robin’s-egg blue, and shimmering gold. The overall vibe was relaxed minimalism with a dose of glamour. And though known primarily for being a red-carpet favourite, her recent offering proved that she is equally adept in creating luxe, no-fuss daywear. —Barry Samaha
Kim Jones is the designer of the moment, and his latest livestreamed show at Milan Fashion Week proved once again that Fendi made the perfect choice in naming him artistic director of womenswear. For the fall 2021 season, a swift follow-up to his debut couture show in January, the British designer presented a collection that paid homage to the Roman label’s storied history, while also adding his signature sleek, streetwise edge. There was a slew of fitted fur coats with sizeable shawl lapels and floor-grazing fringe at the hem, cinched with tiny belts; flowing V-neck silk dresses; knit crop tops with matching pencil skirts; and tie-front satin blouses with paperbag-waist trousers. The colour palette stuck to neutral tones: cream, tan, blush pink, grape, and black. “I’m taking the amazing, strong women who I both know and work with, and listening to their needs,” Jones said. “There’s a usefulness to the collection, explored in a chic, timeless way.” —Barry Samaha