MILAN — Fashion shows may steal the spotlight, celebrities sitting front row may hog the general attention and influencers may have their say on just about anything, but there’s a lot more to Milan Fashion Week than meets the eye — and international retailers know it.
While designer brands have increasingly ventured into new territory, experimenting with see-now-buy-now (which was quickly ditched by the Italians), capsule drops or the coed format, a cluster of major labels opt for more low-key presentations, often via installations in storied, frescoed Milanese palazzi, museums or, when the temperatures allow it, in the city’s hidden gardens. This all contributes to the Italian lifestyle and culture that continue to have a hold around the world. Brunello Cucinelli goes as far as setting up a veritable buffet feast in the courtyard of his Milan showroom, delighting guests with treats and wines from the Umbria region, where his Solomeo headquarters are based.

Alessandro Maria Ferreri, chief executive officer and owner of The Style Gate consulting firm, said there are a number of brands that are “the reference point for different categories,” such as Loretta Caponi for its handmade loungewear and innerwear, or Faliero Sarti for its precious silk scarves made in Como. “These are brands for those in the know, who have a certain kind of lifestyle, who wear a certain kind of refined clothes, who want the best, the highest kind of craftsmanship and exceptional design,” Ferreri said. “But make no mistake, these are brands that are internationally distributed, that have a wholesale business, with the highest performance but they are not industrial.They are the obvious choice for those who love luxury.”
Loretta Caponi has been in business for more than five decades, catering to royal families from Belgium to England as well as the Kennedys, the Rockefellers, the Rothschilds, the Gettys and celebrities including Madonna and Jane Fonda. The brand stood out with the use of cotton, linen and silk at a time when the innerwear category was defined by synthetics and nylon.
In other categories, these brands could be compared to Pineider for its pens and writing paper, or Santa Maria Novella for fragrances, for example. “These are all leaders in their sectors. My grandmother used to say, ‘You need some luck to make money, but you need culture to spend it,’ ” Ferreri concluded.