Best of indie fashion in Milan
Step away from the quadrilatero d’oro fashion quarter and you might just land a one-of-a kind bargain at one of Milan’s growing colony of indie boutiques.
Milan, famously home to Italy’s colossal fashion houses and labels, is also an emerging haven for independent designers.
One of them is Jeong-Ah Yooj, who opened her own atelier in the Navigli area, just a couple of metro stops from the famous Duomo, in 2011. A graduate of the Marangoni fashion school, and originally from Korea, she designed for Max Mara and Krizia before going independent.
“I thought it would be great to open my own studio and create something unique for my clients,” she says.
Yooj works with a group of women in India and Bangladesh who embroider her fabrics, which are sourced from Italian artisans. The lace is imported from France.
Dress to impress
Milan-based stylist and fashion editor Flavia Liberatori has collaborated with independent designers and the big labels for ten years, and works for the Italian fashion magazine D la Repubblica.
“It’s hard for indie designers,” she says. “First they must compete with the Italian giants like Prada and Gucci. And now noteworthy competition is coming from northern Europe, Asia and Russia. But working from the epicentre of the fashion world gives designers more opportunities,” says Liberatori.
Getting noticed amidst the competition is the key.
“Social networks provide giant opportunities. The stronger the identity of the brand, the better its chances of success. I enjoy discovering talented new designers, and that they embrace their freedom, but sometimes independent designers overdo things to impress,” says Liberatori.
Social media has driven fashion consumers to be increasingly progressive, giving edgier designers an advantage.
“My clients want to know the background story behind the item, the fabric and the embroidery. They like the uniqueness of my work,” adds Yooj.
The indie design scene and community is smaller than in London, and the dominance of the big fashion houses in Milan has been tough on designers like Yooj.
But change is in the air.
A few streets down on the picturesque Navigli Grande canal is the colourful showroom of emerging brands incubator Meet2Biz. Silvia Bentivoglio explains how the market has changed for independent designers in Milan.
“Ten years ago people wanted big labels, now it’s completel
y different, the same people come here and ask for unique pieces, or they want leather items from Tuscany or Morocco,” says Bentivoglio, project manager and also a designer herself.
“It’s still very difficult for small brands to do everything though. We help them improve their production, choose the right products and prices for the market, and we also match brands so that they can buy fabrics in bulk and sometimes even co-create collections,” she says.
Text and photos by Andrew Taylor
Hotspots for indie lovers
Beautiful workshop adorned with works-in-progress, ready-to-wear items and Jeong-Ah Yooj’s homeware collection.
Via Mortara 4 (by appointment only)
Prêt-à-porter at Shop Saman, Galvano Fiamma, 5
Blue Deep Milano
Cool, minimal shop showcasing both self-designed and other small-label women’s collections.
Via Solferino 5
Cavalli E Nastri Vintage
Beautifully selected and presented vintage women’s items. Men’s items can be found at Via Gian Giacomo Mora 3.
Via Brera 2
L’Artigiano di Brera
Handmade woman’s shoes designed by welcoming Maurizio Capillo.
Via Solferino 1
Showroom and emerging brands incubator. Women’s clothing and men’s and women’s accessories and bags.
Alzaia Naviglio Grande 14
Pourquoi Moi Vintage
Cheery, friendly independent boutique stocking gently worn women’s vintage items.
Ripa di Porta Ticinese 27
This article is published in the October 2015 issue of Blue Wings.