Made In Milan
When it comes to fashionable cities, there are few more evocative of high style than Milan. As one of the renowned ‘big four’, including London, Paris and New York, fashion’s finest flock to the city bi-annually to take in the latest menswear and womenswear catwalk collections from the world’s top designers. But what the city has to offer for the fashionably minded isn’t restricted to the elite. Milan has a veritable feast of shops, bars, restaurants and sights to explore, whether you’re a die hard fashionista, or simply looking to immerse yourself in the lifestyle for a few days.
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Emily Norval is a London-based journalist, specialising in the fashion and retail sector. She frequently travels to fashion weeks and major events to cover the next trends in the industry.
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Milan has been a centre of fashion through much of its long history, emerging as a hub of luxury goods, along with Venice and Florence, during the Middle Ages and Renaissance. Such was the influence of the city in the world of luxury fashion that the English word ‘milaner’, meaning fine jewellery and apparel (later to become the modern word ‘millinery’), was derived from the city’s name in the 16th century. Today the city thrives as a modern hub of fashion with a reputation for creativity and glamour. While Florence is known for its highly luxurious, more formal offerings, Milan is more closely associated with ready to wear and hot young labels.
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“I love to spend my days in Milan because it’s a city where you can discover something new every day: a shop, a bar, a restaurant, a bookshop or a gallery,” says Italian fashion journalist Beatrice Campani, who regularly travels to the city to report on fashion week. “I love to walk in Milan or take a bicycle to get around. I choose hotels in the Brera district, which is sparkling day and night. Walking in Corso Garibaldi you can find restaurants from all over the world, from Chinese to typical Milanese.”
This sense of variety is what gives Milan its exceptionality, from the astonishing historical architecture of the famous Duomo cathedral to the modernity of its latest hotels and bars. Of course, many true fashionistas coming to explore the city are searching for authentic Italian flavour, much of which comes in the form of its shops.
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“In Milan you can enjoy great fashion,” says Angela Calvaca, Italian Editor at global fashion magazine WeAr. “You can find your favorite sandals at Antonia, shop for a coat at Banner, or uncover a special design piece at Rossana Orlandi.” The joy is really to be found in the discovery. Apart from the world famous designers who call Milan home, including the likes of Prada, Marni, Dolce and Gabbana and Versace who all have flagships in the city, the independent boutiques and stores are equally outstanding. Lose an hour or so browsing the vast ranges in department store La Rinascente or head to Biffi and Excelsior for exclusive designer finds. It’s also worth enjoying some time sitting in one of the city’s many squares and outside terraces, observing the street style of the passers by.
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“Men and women in Milan are very fashionable,” explains Campani. “The women’s style is an exclusive, effortless chic. It’s classic with special touches like hats, necklaces or rings, while men love a sartorial look with details like scarves and bags.” Before you head out with your credit card, take some time to scout out influences from the fashion savvy locals to gain the authentic Italian shopping experience and a token or two from your trip that will feel like the real deal.
Shopping aside, the cultural aspect of fashion is frequently presented via exhibitions and galleries in Milan, which are a worthy way to spend an afternoon in the city. The design and art museum Triennale di Milano frequently plays host to designer retrospectives and fashion exhibitions, while the Armani/Silos museum holds a permanent Giorgio Armani exhibition that should be considered a must-see for anyone interested in designer style. The Palazzo Morando is also a popular attraction for a historical view of Milanese fashion and design, located in the heart of the city’s fashion district.
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After a long day exploring the sights, fashion lovers looking to extend their fun into the evening won’t be disappointed by the range of bars and restaurants. In typical Italian style, innovators and creatives have come up with plenty of concept bars and eateries which combine a love for fashion and food. “If you want a sophisticated but wonderful place, go to the Armani Cafe or Nobu (located within the Emporio Armani store) to eat sushi, or take an aperitivo at the Bulgari Hotel,” suggests Campani. Other sartorially-minded suggestions include Bar Luce at the Fondazione Prada, which was designed by film director Wes Anderson, or the Marc Jacobs café for late night cocktails in an ultra-cool atmosphere representative of the Marc Jacobs brand (the bar is open until 2am). Tiramisu delishoes, which opened in Milan’s Brera district in 2015 should also not be missed. Described as “the first Fashion Restaurant Dessert Bar in Italy,” it offers food and fashion accessories as well as a dessert bar concept and is also open until 2am.
For a truly indulgent experience, Milan has several luxury hotels that stand out as second homes to the fashion glitterati when visiting the city. The aforementioned Bulgari Hotel Milan is an elegant option, while the Armani hotel is another obvious choice, featuring a Michelin star restaurant and design details by Giorgio Armani himself. The Boscolo and Diana Majestic are also highly recommended choices.
Whether or not your heart truly lies with fashion, it’s hard not to get caught up in the style and chic of the city during a visit to Milan. Even the vaguest acquaintances to the world of design can appreciate the creativity and elegance of the fashion houses that call it home, are and expanding their influence into its lifestyle, bars and even hotels. It’s a city that combines luxury with a true sense of fun and indulgence, which makes it little wonder that fashion’s elite are clamouring to return time and time again.