Cover We're breaking down the highlights from Milan Fashion Week SS21

Milan Fashion Week offered clothing of comfort and a dash of surprise

Our correspondent Declan Chan tells you, this Milan Fashion Week has been strange in many ways but still managed to offer up some moments of happy surprise. From innovative show formats (Moschino) to beautiful, wearable clothes (Fendi), fashion reminds us that there will always be a place for fashion. Perhaps Valentino's show setting of a dilapidated warehouse decorated with naturally sprouting greenery sums it up best—even in times of gloom and doom, fashion can bring a moment of joy, hope and respite.

See also: London Fashion Week SS21 Highlights: The Good, The Bad, And The Apocalyptic

Raf Simons Partners with Miuccia Prada

The most highly-anticipated show this Milan Fashion Week was undoubtedly Prada, where Raf Simons debuted his creative director partnership with founder Miuccia. While some critics felt the resulting collection was a little too safe for its first, Simons and Prada explained in the live Q&A (where they answered questions submitted by fans around the world) that they fell into a natural step, and did not have a solid plan to merge their aesthetics. Perhaps the next one will see Simons' point of view take charge and another might lean more heavily into Prada's. Nevertheless, the punctured, layered knits in bright yellows and pinks were definitely reminiscent of Simons' tenure at Calvin Klein and the hooded nylon jackets over pleated skirts were, as Simons said, a nod to Prada's uniform. The elongated kitten heels with exposed tongues and shawls with attached pouches that models clutched closed at the chest will without a doubt be seen on the fashion set next season.

Silvia Venturini Fendi's Last Solo Show

With Dior Men's designer Kim Jones announced as Fendi's new creative director just weeks ago, this marks Silvia Venturini Fendi's final solo show. Set in its Milan headquarters amongst drapes on which were projected shadows of windowpanes, the show with a small group of live audiences felt intimate as did the collection. There were sheer layers of windowpane checks, flowing bell sleeves and gentle colours, ombre mohair coats, lacy, embroidered tablecloth linen and a cloud-like purse, and the finale number was satin quilt draped over the model's shoulder like a cape. Soft, feminine and vulnerable, it was as Venturini Fendi intended (and the show invite of Fendi pasta suggested)—a reflection of sweet family moments.

See also: Kim Jones Named Artistic Director At Fendi, But He's Not Leaving Dior

Shows We Loved: Salvatore Ferragamo, Versace, Max Mara, Boss, Giorgio Armani

Above Ferragamo show

Salvatore Ferragamo: The Italian staple was the first brand so far to utilise VR technology, giving out the nifty gadget to press to allow them to have a "front row seat" to the live show through their phones. Paul Andrew served a collection of clean lines and muted colours, the clingy knit set and giant duffel totes were definitely the highlights. 

Versace: Creating a "Versaceopolis", Donatella Versace created a set that looked like the remnants of Atlantis underwater as models strutted in starfish and shell prints clashed clashing on oversized blazers and tight pencil skirts. There were scuba tops and tiny, exposed bedazzled bralets and lots of neon in keeping with the house's high-octane leanings.

Max Mara: Leave it to Max Mara to always offer polished yet cosy workwear but with seasonal twists. For spring-summer, it meant open-sleeved caped jackets, giant cargo pockets and traditional shapes made billowy and sporty with parka drawstring details on everything from bomber jackets, to off-the-shoulder dresses.

Boss: The general trend of loosening collars can be seen even at a traditional tailoring house like Boss where vests and shorts and socks worn under sandals will be staples for the coming season. A metallic eyelet detail found on almost every dress and suit in colours of dusty blue and apple green and a smattering of squiggly floral prints is the house's update for spring. 

Giorgio Armani: Comfort is key in Armani's latest offering—clashing moree and floral prints find themselves on palazzo trousers and flowing gowns, offset by fitted boleros for sophistication. There were clearly kimono-inspired shapes mixed in with smoking jackets and a dash of sparkle—nostalgic salon-style Armani does well.

Short Films We Loved: Tod's, Brunello Cucinelli

Above Tod's film

Tod's: Eschewing a show format, Tod's instead gave us a lively Zoom montage with models from staged living rooms around the world dancing in the latest collection to a live performance of a song. Look forward to a new plexi kitten heel, neon versions of their classic leather goods and raffia hammocks come spring.

Brunello Cucinelli: Cucinelli's offering of glam-safari looks were presented in a short film, like a moving lookbook. Sheer shirt dresses, straw crochet vests and perfect linen suits all in sandy hues continue to be the Italian brand's bread-and-butter.

Moschino: Fashion goes miniature in Moschino's puppet show, complete with marionette models and spot-on imitations of the frow. The idea was inspired by the Théâtre de la Mode when designers created miniature couture dresses to sell on the road after WWII in the midst of scarce resources and clients unable to travel. For 2020, he recruited today's master pupeteer, Jim Henson’s Creature Shop who created the Muppets to bring his collection to life. 

A Stunning Performance At Valentino

Pierpaolo Piccioli, ever the master of making fashion shows into emotional statements, turned a warehouse into a greenhouse, arranging wildflowers and plants into the crevices of a dilapidated industrial building. It felt like a fierce call for hope, and a stubborn show of romanticism. Though presented in more casual silhouettes like oversized shirtdresses and short-shorts all paired with flats with giant Rockstuds, there were delicate floral perforated lace and prints splattered throughout with punches of neon amongst an otherwise earthy palette.

The street casting also added a sense of realism to this collection, although of course Piccioli's love of couture eventually came into play with diaphanous chiffon gowns billowing through the space like flowers in bloom. A moving, live special performance by Labrinth completed the sense of enchantment.

See also: Balenciaga Will Introduce Menswear In Its First Couture Show In Over 50 Years

A Surprise Collaboration: Emilio Pucci x Tomo Koizumi

Following a collaboration with Koche last season, Emilio Pucci partners with Japanese designer Tomo Koizumi known for his frothy confections and beloved by the likes of Marc Jacobs. This time, Koizumi translates Pucci's resort Veterate prints onto his mini loofa-esque ruffle bodices and dresses, all in zesty hues for a capsule of 11 pieces. 

See also: Designer Gary Graham Collaborates With Joyce Hong Kong