It should come as no surprise, given Italy’s position as the world’s leading producer of handcrafted and bespoke design, that Milan Fashion Week is a mecca of sorts for designers across the globe.
Despite being home to the most established fashion houses in Europe — Fendi, Gucci, Prada and Versace to name a few— Milan is becoming a hub that attracts emerging talent, who look to capture the attention of press and buyers during fashion week, while taking advantage of the country’s fabled manufacturing and rich heritage.
By no means are they intimidated by the old guard — unbridled by tradition and full of the confidence of young brands with nothing to lose, they show unapologetically adventurous, highly conceptual and ethically conscious collections to the Italian fashion set, who look on curiously at these bright new additions to the Milanese calendar.
In partnership with ORDRE, Camera Nazionale Della Moda invited 14 local and international designers to showcase at the Fashion Hub Market in Milan, with the opportunity to present in the physical showroom and online through ORDRE’s digital platform. In the wake of Milan Fashion Week, ORDRE caught up with a selection of footwear and accessories designers to reflect on their experience at the Fashion Hub Market and learn more about their collections.
“Being associated with an institution like Camera Della Moda is invaluable for a young fashion brand,” says Manfredi Manara, an eponymous footwear designer from Milan, who founded his label in 2017. “Not only is it wonderful to have the ongoing support, but it enabled us to have a much wider reach during Milan Fashion Week and gave [the brand] legitimacy in the eyes of the fashion industry.”
Manara, who studied in London before launching his label in Italy, is building his brand identity through his recognisable design aesthetic, which translates satin and velvet fabrics into delicate footwear designs. Showcasing his collection at the Fashion Hub Market meant Manara was spotted by influential media platforms, including Vogue Italia. “For me, it is important to create shoes that are precious and feminine — shoes for a modern princess,”
Alex Melnikov and Roman Ilyukhov, the designers behind Fakbyfak were proud to be the first Russian eyewear label to take part in the event. “ It was a very touching moment,” says Melnikov. “We worked around the clock to prove to ourselves and others that approaching the creation of eyewear and brand positioning can be different. During Milan Fashion Week we were surrounded by people who share the same ideas as we do, and fortunately we were able to deliver our message without fear of being misunderstood.”
Undeterred by tradition or trends, the duo is fuelled by their desire to break down creative and commercial barriers through their work, which caught the attention of Belgian design legend Walter Van Beirendonck and lead to a collaboration between the two brands for AW’18.
“Fakbyfak is an example of the fact that the world is different now,” Melnikov believes. “We no longer have to follow norms and dogmas that ruled the industry for decades — we create our own trends and play by our own rules with no regards for what is considered fashionable.”
This season, Fakbyfak continue to deliver its message through their unique, hybrid visual language. “On one hand, it's a brutal, masculine ‘anti-bling-bling’ story steeped in the spirit of Flintstones-style glamour,” explains Melnikov of the collection. “And on the other, we want to tell a very touching, playful and futuristic story inspired by beloved glamorous features related to ‘80s design.”
Founded in 2015 in Barcelona, Pardo Hats is the brainchild of designer Sol Pardo, whose background in costume and textile design informs her brand ethos, focusing on the reinstatement of handcraft techniques and slow fashion.
“Knowing that Camera Della Moda values and recognises my work as a designer gave me a lot of joy,” says Pardo, of the experience. “I will always be grateful for the place they gave me as a young designer — it was fantastic.”
“The entire collection is composed of unique pieces, made entirely by hand,” she continues. “The straw comes from Ecuador, where indigenous weavers knit it by hand, taking 3 days to make each piece and the acrylic part is made by a computer. The mix of natural [materials] and technology is my way of seeing the world.”
That the board of Milan Fashion Week welcomed these emerging designers with such enthusiasm is a promising sign: the once-guarded industry is finally opening up to emerging talent. With a wealth of knowledge and handcraft traditions to share, the next generation of footwear and accessories designers look to Italy for inspiration but are steadfast in carving out their own space in the global fashion industry with uncompromising beliefs, unique brand identities and a fresh vision for the future of fashion.
Watch ORDRE's Fashion Director Kirsten Lock chat to all 14 selected designers at this year's Fashion Hub Market.