The following is a special report from Angie Nardiello, an Italy-based fashion blogger and founder of Reasons to Dress. Read all about her experience navigating Milan Fashion Week, one of the most important weeks in one of the most prestigious cities in the world of fashion.
You may be surprised to learn that Milan Fashion Week is not just for the big players. In a city with literally hundreds (if not thousands) of brands there are so many opportunities for small and medium fashion bloggers to see fashion shows, discover new brands and of course get discovered!
After spending 5 days at one of the world’s most important fashion weeks, I wanted to offer some tips on how to navigate the Italian fashion capital for those of us who are not instantly recognized when we walk down the street.
English Is Everywhere
One of the most intimidating aspects of the Milan Fashion Week for most non-Italian bloggers is the language barrier. The task of getting accredited, reaching out to brands, and communicating with PR contacts can seem daunting if you think you have to do it in Italian. Well, let me assure you….. EVERYONE in Milan speaks English.
When I first moved to Italy I was living in Milan and my boyfriend actually told me that my Italian was getting worse since I was speaking in English so often! It is almost a given that in the fashion world every press contact you meet with be fluent and most designers are as well, so fear not.
Not only is the Camera Moda, Italy’s National Fashion Board and the Milan Fashion Week organizational body website in English, but all forms, e-mails and communications were also translated into English. You’ll be fine!
Accreditation Is not Necessary
There are perks to accreditation, don’t get me wrong, and they are pretty good. However, at 60 euro a person, many bloggers on a budget choose to forego the accreditation since it in no way guarantees you show invites, nor does it place you in contact with brands.
Similar to New York Fashion Week, you’ll have to do all the leg work of contacting brands and designers yourself and many of them will not even ask you if you have been accredited.
Some of the benefits of the accreditation are access to the Press Lounge to charge your phone and have a rest and a breakfast and lunch buffet at the “Fashion Hub,” the newly dedicated space of the Camera Moda offices in the Gae Aulenti Piazza.
I actually found that the Piazza was a little out of the way considering the location of most fashion shows and presentations, so I had to make an effort to go there for lunch and ended up buying something on most days between fashion shows and events.
In fact, you might be better off just exploring Milan for a place to have lunch or eating when you have a moment (which you may not actually have—my schedule was PACKED the entire week).
Another benefit of accreditation was the shuttle service that takes press and bloggers from show to show, however don’t bother asking anyone for the shuttle schedule or where the stops are. No one will know (we are in Italy after all!!).
Throughout my fashion week days I met up with many fashion blogger friends who were running from event to event, invites in hand and none of them had been accredited. I must say though, that if you write for an actual newspaper or printed magazine you may want to consider getting accredited as a journalist because there are a few more benefits as opposed to a blogger accreditation.
Unfortunately in Italy, small and medium sized bloggers don’t receive the same type of importance as they do in North America and are not considered journalists. Here there is an “Order of Journalists” which is similar to a Bachelor’s Degree and you have to demonstrate which magazine you write for by having your editor fill out a form and also sending in examples of fashion-related articles.
The Fashion Hub
The Fashion Hub is a good place to start your Milan Fashion Week adventure because it is open to the public. The dome shaped wood building features a small exposition of selected up and coming brands whose sample collections are on display.
You’ll also find sponsor stands from companies like L’Oreal and Mac offering free makeovers and the Twitter Blue Room for twitter chats hosting celebrities like Bianca Balti!
There are lounge chairs with internet access and charging stations open to the public plus a great guide on how to navigate Milan during fashion week produced by event organizers with everything you need.
All of this is offered to anyone who visits the Fashion Hub as entry is free and unlimited, so take advantage of the space if you have a moment and don’t forget to be social…I mean with actual people in real life! You may be surprised who you run into!
Become the Paparazzi
So let’s just assume you’ve decided to go to Milan Fashion Week but you didn’t get invited to the big fashion shows—that doesn’t mean you can’t attend anyway! The crowds outside of the major designer label shows were packed with hundreds of street style photographers, bloggers and press who wait outside of the show to take photographs of the celebrities who enter and more importantly of the bloggers in line.
This is where many a fashion blogger has been discovered and the more outrageous the look the more attention you’ll receive from the paparazzi.
Dress for the Weather not for the Photo
That being said, it was cold and raining in Milan for many of the days throughout Fashion Week and I cannot tell you how many times I saw open toe shoes, slippers with no socks and clogs and culottes.
The street style photo isn’t worth it if you ruin your shoes and end up with soggy legs and feet the entire day— topped off with a cold for the rest of your time in Milan. So dress appropriately for the weather and wear relatively comfortable shoes (this from the woman who still has bandages on her feet!).
Make the Most of Your Contacts
As I’ve mentioned, just like the NYFW accreditation doesn’t get you much in terms of invites to fashion shows, in Milan you're also better off doing your own research and reaching out to brands and press offices directly.
There are hundreds of niche and boutique brands that would love to get coverage for their shows. It's important to remember that our influence can have a huge impact for these smaller labels. I will be dedicating many articles on my blog to the press events and fashion shows I attended during MFW, with special attention given to the emerging labels that invited me to view their collections.
You should also keep some space open in your schedule for showroom visits where you’ll be introduced to the brands that are not “total look” but are important just the same. Besides the fact that showroom visits are fun and usually involve a cocktail reception, DJs and often gifts for the press, you’ll find them in beautiful turn of the century buildings!
Showrooms in Milan are concentrated geographically in a few areas according to the category of the brand. You’ll find many of the luxury and high-end designer brands have showrooms in the Via Montenapoleone area (which is fabulous for a day of shopping and gourmet treats btw), while the up and coming urban and contemporary brands can be found in the Via Tortona area which is super chic and perfect for an aperitivo.
Beyond the Camera Moda
As I’ve mentioned, The Milan Fashion week is organized by Italy’s National Fashion Board, also known as La Camera Moda. On their website you can find information about the official calendar with all of the catwalks of the major brands involved.
Just like in New York or any other major fashion market there are many events that are not directly connected with the official calendar such as fashion tradeshows which are expositions of up and coming contemporary brands.
Be Prepared and Set Goals
Attending any fashion week is a big deal if you're a small or medium fashion blogger, but don’t loose sight of WHY you’re attending. Make a list of what you hope to learn or accomplish during your stay in Milan and prioritize your goals.
Go beyond just being “seen and photographed” and remember that you can play an important role in the life of an emerging brand with your coverage. Think about your bag and what you want to have on hand: a notepad for interviews, business cards (I can’t tell you how many fashion bloggers I ran into without them, these are a MUST), a phone charger and back-up portable battery charger, your professional camera, water and even ballerina flats.
If one of your goals is to take street style photographs of your outfits around Milan be sure to travel with a friend. Don’t assume you’ll find a photographer who is willing to follow you throughout Milan—and if you do, treat them to an aperitivo!
Navigating one of the most influential and important fashion weeks on the planet when you’re a recognized fashion blogger is easy, but there is also plenty to do for the smaller bloggers as well.
Don’t underestimate the importance of your niche and your audience and focus on the PR contacts of the brands that most align with your specific demographic.
I hope this intro has given you some insight so that attending Milan Fashion Week will be a bit less intimidating! See you here next year!
[All photos by Angie Nardiello]