This was my first trip to Milan Fashion Week. (My first trip to Italy, actually.) And while the London and Paris shows were certainly learning experiences the first time around, I left Milan feeling truly educated. Here's what I learned:
1. Milan is serious business. In a country where fabric is still produced, craftsmanship is still revered and apparel and leather goods is a big part of the GDP, Milan's fashion houses take their work seriously. There are separate shows for the buyers and press. And there is little fanfare--only a few celebrities sat front row. And many houses--Versace, Armani, Jil Sander, Dolce & Gabbana--have built their own auditoriums to hold shows.
2. You must respect the old guard. I wrote earlier that, at Emporio Armani, people were clapping throughout the show to let Mr. Armani know they approved of the collection. I've never seen this at another show. But it made me realize that, in Italy, these designers are not only fashion icons, they're cultural icons.
3. Milan is the perfect cross between editorial and commercial. While there are commercial designers in New York, Paris and London and editorial designers in New York, Paris and London, few straddle the line between the two worlds. In Milan, you've got Prada, Jil Sander, Versus, Dolce & Gabbana, etc. These are brands that you'll see across the glossies come fall, but you'll also see on real women.
4. Devotees of Italian fashion brands are rabid. Of course, there's the cult of Marni, but if you attended Dolce, Roberto Cavalli or Jil Sander, you'd see plenty of fans wearing those brands on their sleeves, too.
5. If you want to get a good meal in Italy, you must be willing to eat at either 1pm-3pm or 8pm-10.30pm. Otherwise, you will be forced to rely on the free tapas buffet served at most bars, which only tastes good in the Dolce & Gabbana salon. (Thank you again, D&G, for feeding me in between shows.)