Buongiorno, fashion and shopping in Milan!

September 27, 2012

So, I felt a little bad heading to Milan without much of anything planned or written down (save a few restaurants - more on those in another post) in my usual pre-travel way. I'm sure there were scores of amazing sights I didn't see and lots of cool things I missed, but I was in the mood for a wandering, low-key kind of holiday. I knew I wanted to shop, I wanted to eat well and most of all, I didn't want to feel like a tourist in such a touristy city. I wanted to get by on my own (while the hubby was at work) in language I didn't speak in a city I didn't know.

Before even getting into town on the first day (we were staying on the outskirts in San Donato Milanese), I had an altercation with a gypsy in the train station trying to take my money, where I had to grab her hand away and yell to get her to leave me alone. So I knew, much like I tell my husband he becomes a much more aggressive version of himself behind the wheel when driving in a big city, I too had immediately switched on 'city mode'. I looked down instead of gawking open-mouthed at all the glorious architecture above me and avoided the hoards of scam artists jumping on every obvious tourist in the main piazza at the Duomo. I managed to snap a couple of photos, but really, I played the local card as much as I could.

Apparently this worked well enough to be asked something (a place nearby, perhaps?? I speak next to no Italian...) by a couple of Italians while I was sitting and enjoying a foccacia lunch one day, though I still felt terribly unstylish next to the real locals. Whether they were glammed out in the latest designer offerings and handbags worth more than my yearly clothing allowance or tatted up with short, punky hair and bras worn as integral parts of an outfit, it was clear they were serious about fashion as an art form. It was a far cry from the 'fashion' I'm used to seeing in our town - head-to-toe Marc O'Polo and Louis Vuitton handbags. Women look nice, but it's just not the same. I felt inspired just being around such inspiring people, not to mention inspiring retail space. The Zara on Corso Vittorio Emanuele II was one of the most impressive shops I've ever seen (which I describe in this post) and the Replay store was literally a rainforest, with real, live plants growing out of the two-story walls in the front and what looked to be a working metal waterfall. 

Serendipitously, it was also Fashion Week. As the events got going halfway through the week, the influx of increasingly glamorous-looking people was incredible. Every time I turned around, there was another woman in a pleated leather dress, a strapless satin dress or an amazing pair of printed pants - of course all with 3, 4, or 5" heels on. When we headed out of town on Friday, we passed a massive event at which I spied this girl out front and just knew she would wind up photographed for her impressive style. A few days later, as expected, I see her photo pop up on Elle UK's round-up of Milan Fashion Week style. I was hoping to see Scott Schuman in action, but only saw one street photographer I didn't know taking photos of a woman on super swanky Via Della Spiga wearing these amazing trousers and the requisite impossibly high heels.

The models were also out in full-force, their stick-like arms clutching their Books and never once seen with any food (whereas I was rarely seen without gelato or a cheesy, fried panzerotti in hand). I almost had to laugh when the super nice metro station man helping me with directions asked if I was a model (likely just because he had to look up at me), since it's pretty clear I love to eat. I even debated getting this tee to sport while there, but was a little embarrassed to be so presumptuous. Ah well, at least I got to enjoy the culinary greatness Milan had to offer while all those models looked so hungry.

Sure, the Duomo was pretty impressive...

But I was here for the fashion! Nearly every window had some reference to Fashion Week:

There was even an amazing giant 'snowglobe' in front of one of the H&Ms promoting the upcoming collaboration with Italian fashionista Anna Dello Russo (ahhh, a giant shoe...):

A few of my favorite shopping acquisitions include this sweater, an awesome combination of two of my favorite sweater details - stripes and fair isle:

... these dominatrix-esque Zara heels:

...and finally, the perfect slouchy grey hat I've been on the lookout for for over a year:

There were of course a few things I had to pass up that I'm sorry I did. Like this H&M cardi:

... and this Benetton duffle (especially after discovering it's sold out everywhere in Germany in my size already):

Aside from fighting off the gypsies, the other major downfall in Milan was being out at night with the mosquitoes (which I have terrible reactions from, obviously):

It's making me seriously rethink that trip to Thailand, where I'm likely to wind up in the hospital from all the bug bites I will probably get, much like our trip to Hawaii where 40+ infected mosquito bites landed me at a nearby clinic. I think my delicate constitution requires that I stay in colder European climates. I suppose there are worse things. 

So the next time I want to shop - and eat! - Milan may be my city of choice. Next up, a round-up of the amazing things we ate...

Daily Drop Cap by Jessica Hische