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FashionFeature

Milanese Luxury, where roots become fashion statements

Bringing clothes back to life has become the new epitome of Milanese luxury. The emotional connection given by a piece of clothing that once belonged to "mamma" has been setting the trends of the fashion capital, Milan.

Elena Cozza

By Elena Cozza18 mars 2021

Bringing clothes back to life has become the new epitome of Milanese luxury (Shutterstock)

Milan is the antonomasia of luxury. The secret of Milan’s iconic sense of fashion lays in the roots. Milanese families are masters to keep secrets within the family, especially if these are a fashion piece. In the neighborhoods of Brera and Montenapoleone, the streets breathe a mix of vintage and haute couture. Bringing clothes back to life has become the new epitome of Milanese luxury. The emotional connection given by a piece of clothing that once belonged to mamma has been setting the trends of the fashion capital, Milan.

Make your grandma stylish again

The Instagram profile @MilanesiaMilano is the master of spotting and sharing the best outfits around the fashion capital, the feed features shades, nuances and facets that complement each other, evoking an Impressionist painting. The undercover team of Milanesi a Milano gives a linear description of the average Milanese, stating “The average meneghino (aka Milanese) is an agè woman (also called sciura in Milan) who wears a mink fur coat, a Pucci-print foulard, and kitten heels, to have caffè at Ravizza, and she can be spotted anywhere, from the exclusive Via della Spiga to the hipster radical chic neighborhood of Porta Romana”.

The emotional connection of a garment that belonged to one's grandparents is what drives trends in the fashion capital of Milan. (Shutterstock)

Sentimental luxury is a deep sense of belonging, it is the subtle joy of surfing generations for fashion enthusiasts' wardrobes, an exhalation of Milanese "sprezzatura"

Fabrizio Maria Pini, Director of International master in Luxury Management at MIP, Milan

However, as Milanesi a Milano’s feed shows, Milan’s newest fashion trend revolves around a cyclic economy of vintage, used, contemporary and avant-garde taste. It is not unusual to spot a teenage girl wearing an oversized Missoni wool coat from the 60s, styled with a bronze-gold double G leather belt from Gucci’s newest season or to contemplate a university student rocking an Aspesi leopard jacket that her mother bought during the 2000’s Christina Aguilera animal-print phase. A Milanese can be an animals’ rights’ advocate, but when going for a gin-tonic with friends, will wear nonna’s mink fur coat from the 70s. Silvia, Chemical Engineering student: “When I was 18 years old, my grandmother gifted me her very first Louis Vuitton handbag, bought in the Louis Vuitton store in Milan. It was the Alma model, to be specific. It is amazing how a handbag that used to be trendy 50 years ago, is still in vogue. All the small defects hold the essence of my grandmother”.

In Milan, they know how to transform the old into the new chic. Both are enriched and reinvented, achieving an effortless look (Shutterstock)

Devotion to Roots: A Milanese Perspective

The new wave of luxury has seen the emerging of sentimental value linked to fashion, thanks to the connection of roots and history. Fabrizio Maria Pini, Director of International master in Luxury Management at MIP, Milan, describes sentimental luxury as “a deep sense of belonging, it is the subtle joy of surfing generations for fashion enthusiasts' wardrobes, it is the homage to a long, endeless line of good taste and understatement, an exhalation of Milanese "sprezzatura": it has the value of evocative items that resonate with the spirit of the city”. The added sentimental value of the items places these as precious and unique pieces. These are treated with reverence and respect, reaching the meaning of a talisman. Chiara, Luxury Management student, Milanese by choice and vintage-addicted says: “I inherited a beautiful gold and diamond ring from my grandmother. It gives me a sense of belonging and protection due to the strong symbolic value of wearing something in your finger. It is a unique piece that cannot be found anywhere, due to its vintage style.”

The added sentimental value of vintage items places these as precious and unique pieces. These are treated with reverence and respect, reaching the meaning of a talisman (Shutterstock)

After so many years, the strong smell of leather, alongside with the fascination of my grandparents' past, still makes this jacket, one of the most precious items I own

Federico, fashion enthusiast

Milanese loved ones live through wearable memory. Every time the unconventional fit is appreciated, the piece of clothing becomes more than mere fabric. It represents a mix of history, roots and devotion. Old becomes new and these enrichen and reinvent themselves through a punctilious thought, achieving an effortless look. The subsequence and merging of years of fashion history allow to see old trends coming back to life, such as shoulder pads, rounded sleeves, flare velvet trousers and sheepskin jackets, in a continuous cycle of tradition and innovation. Federico, professional in Amsterdam, with a thrilling passion for fashion comments: “My vintage leather jacket was gifted to me by my stylish Milanese grandmother, which used to belong to my grandfather. After so many years, the strong smell of leather, alongside with the fascination of my grandparents' past, still makes this jacket, one of the most precious items I own. Needless to say, I feel magic when I wear it.”

A succession of years of fashion history means that old trends are coming back into fashion (Shutterstock)

According to the Milanese spotters per eccellenza, sentimental luxury is also present in the value of customization. Many decades ago, people from Milan used to get their clothes tailored according to their needs and desires, or they would design their own. Behind the process of customization and creation, haute-couture was in fact delineated.

Even though the “Got it from my Mamma” (GFM) fashion trend is highly impacted by the veneration of family-inherited clothes or accessories, these go through a meticulous rejuvenating process every now and then, in order to adapt to the individual’s desires and especially, to the current fashion era. In Milan, vintage becomes dynamic and adaptable. It is, in fact, very common that a "meneghino" will have his/her trusted tailor to renovate any family-loved item, aiming to add stylish details or get rid of aged features that do not resonate with the owner anymore. During this process, the Milanese discovers again the art of tailoring, which goes back to the origins of his/her grandparents.

Fast fashion, the antithesis of the Italian way of living

The devotion to roots can explain the difficulties that fast-fashion experienced in regard to penetrating the Milanese fashion industry. Spanish giant Zara was founded in 1975 in Coruna, Spain and the very first Zara shop in Italy was opened in 2001, subsequent to the opening of hundreds of stores in Europe, New York, Mexico many years before. Italy was placed as one of the latest countries to “welcome” fast fashion, as the antithesis of the Italian way of living. Italian brands tend to reject the immediacy of fast fashion, as contradiction of Italian craftmanship as Milano is the nest of the slow and creative process behind any fashion creations. Overall, “Thank you, it used to be my grandma’s” and the history behind this sentence represents the storytelling, rarity, exclusivity and the emotional connection that come together in a nostalgic bliss at its finest.

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