From crowds jammed like sardines in the middle of Venice to crowds, considerably more elegant and less packed together, in Italy’s fashion capital, Milan. The gal took the train, and thoroughly recommends it, any time. You leave from Venice’s main rail station, three minutes’ from the boat station, and two and a half hours later you are right in the centre of Milan, handy for all the top luxury hotels in town (Principe di Savoia is nearest, actually – a ten minutes walk). The first thing the gal saw were these chic Rimowa attendants wheeling bags, presumably full of haute couture somethings.
It was Milan fashion week, kicking off at 10.30 on the Saturday, with Ermenegildo Zegna and going through to Versace, that night at eight. Gosh they work hard. The following day started with Bottega Veneta at 9.30 but before that, at eight – IN THE MORNING – Diego Della Valle (owner of Tod’s, and Fiorentina football club) and Dior’s Sidney Toledano hosted a media breakfast – ON A SUNDAY – at Four Seasons Milano. I saw people arriving for it. They were all in black, including circles under their eyes. Press people just do not do breakfasts at that hour, any day of the week.
Meanwhile, outside, whole week long, press people and celebs were desperately trying to get from one show to another. Some used cars – if you can call these two vehicles cars. Others got on their bikes, and left them, wherever they could find a slot (I am told by Milanese friends that no-one uses a decent bike as either it is stolen, in whole, or plundered for spare parts). The sensible use Milan’s buttercup-yellow rent-a-bikes. Just behind this ancient bike, to its left, is the doyenne of fashion writing, Suzy Menkes of the International Herald Tribune.
Of course there were thousands of tourists around too, and most of them sported at least one high-designer bag. Some even wore things they thought looked fashionable – though, because of the cobblestones, sensibly no-one was trying to wear these boots, in the Casadei window. Much to my surprise, the busiest coming and going in the shoe sector was the Giuseppe Zanotti store at Montenapoleone 8. A former DJ, this guy started as a freelance shoe designer for Cavalli, Dior, Missoni and Valentino until he bought out the Vicini factory. He now employs over 350, producing 400,000 pairs of shoes a year (he has 50 stores, including New York and Moscow).
As I said, you can wear anything here, within reason. A peroxided man of mature years in a pink shorts-suit and striped socks did attract a lot of attention in Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, claimed to be the world’s oldest shopping mall, designed in 1861 by Giuseppe Mengoni.
By contrast, several male models were flitting around in straw boaters, designer – long-leg – suits and co-respondent shoes, and no-one turned a hair.
I continued on my way, back to the luxury hotel where Della Valle and Toledano had been hosting breakfast – yes, tomorrow I too would be trying their breakfast (watch this space). On my way back from the Galleria, and all within ten minutes’ walk of Four Seasons Milano, I passed Bulgari, Ralph Lauren, Audemars Piguet, Ferragamo, Bottega Veneta, Etro, Dior, Pucci, Cartier and Versace. Turn up via Gesu to the hotel and there is Acqua di Parma, Brioni Uomo, St Laurent. What kind of ‘super’ market is this, then?