Wrapped up in our best Spanish outerwear to ward off the chilly favonio blowing in from the Alps, we check out the success of fashion from Spain in the birthplace of Italian design.
Elegant but excessive, traditional but wacky: Milan is the epicentre of the Italian lifestyle and second on the league table of top world fashion capitals. In the 1970s, it became a beacon for menswear, but it was not until the 1990s that fashion houses like Moschino, Dolce & Gabbana, Versace and Prada revisited the Italian look in search of a new approach based on provocation and arty creativity, laying the foundations for life in the city today.
Now, the ground floor premises of what used to be Renaissance mansion houses are home to the boutiques of top designers, concept stores, clubs and cafés with names like Trussardi, Gucci and Armani. During Milan Fashion Week, these are the meeting place for celebrities, journalists and buyers, all with appointments to keep at leading design events like Milano Unica (textiles), Mipel (leather articles), Micam (footwear), Mipap (ready-to-wear), White (accessories) and Super (contemporary style).
And while we’re on the subject, one of Milan’s biggest attractions is its irresistible shopping itinerary. The Piazza del Duomo is a great place to start. Near its impressive Gothic cathedral stands the historical Galleria Vittorio Emanuele I shopping mall, built in 1866. Under its vaulted glass ceilings, Prada’s first shop in the city, which dates back to 1913, rubs shoulders with the first name on our Spanish tour, Inditex’s smartest brand for men and women, Massimo Dutti, now selling exclusive equestrian lines.
Back to Cathedral Square and to the right of the gallery you’ll find another magnet for fashion pilgrims, La Rinascente. This flagship among Italian department stores is also home to Spanish design, with brands like Desigual, Loewe, Pretty Ballerinas and Lola Cruz who all have shop-in-shops. For refreshments, try the delicatessen on the top floor for a close-up view of the cathedral pinnacles.
Next head for what has become known as the Quadrilatero della Moda or ‘Fashion Rectangle’, starting at Via Montenapoleone, sixth on the list of the world’s most expensive shopping streets. Big luxury brands have set up shop here, like Loewe at number 21. Camper has also exported its handmade footwear concept to this famous street. Carry on to the Carlton Hotel Baglioni spa on Via della Spiga for a high-end cosmetic treatment from Natura Bissé. Window shop along Corso Venezia on your way to Via Manzoni, where El Ganso has a preppy chic boutique at number 40.
In addition to this quintessential style district, other retail arteries include Corso Buenos Aires, one of Europe’s biggest shopping destinations and home to a mass of multi-brand boutiques: Vergelio at number 9 is the place to go for Pedro García designs. Marilena at 25 has retro footwear with that personal touch by Chie Mihara. Then there’s the ever-colourful, eco-friendly Gioseppo at Gatsby (number 51). All the Inditex brands are here too: you’ll find Zara at number 54.
If you’re hunting for the city’s big footwear stores, look no further than Piazza de la Stazione Genova. G. Turci Calzature has collections by Hispanitas, El Naturalista and The Art Company. In other parts of town, there’s Foschetti Antonio for Pikolinos at 34, Viale Gorizia, Jump for Munich and Victoria, Antonioli for Muñoz Vrandecic at 1, Via P. Paoli, Biffi Boutique for Castañer at 6, Corso Genova and Daniele Ancarani at 51 Via Vincenzo Monti for Pura López.
For the more discerning fashionista, 10 Corso Como is the place to go. One of Europe’s top concept stores, it offers fashion, music, culture and food all under one roof. Founded by Carla Sozzani, sister of the editor at Vogue Italy, it sells top names like Manolo Blahnik and Etnia Barcelona.
Spanish bridalwear has also won over the city. Yolan Cris, Novia d’art, Rosa Clará and Jesús Peiró hang from the racks of Le Spose di Milano (8, Piazzale Principessa Clotilde) and Aire Barcelona at Centro Sposi Paradiso (1, Via A. Costa). Pronovias has its own store at 6, Via San Pietro All'Orto.
To bring our itinerary to a close, check out the shops for youngsters. La Casa de Pepa (23, Via Andrea Solari) has colourful kidswear by Ágatha Ruiz de la Prada, TucTuc and Limo Basics. Neck & Neck and Mango Kids are both available from Coin department store.
What better end to a hard day’s shopping a la española than some Spanish tapas? Stop off at hip Lleva-Taps at 31, Via Ariberto. Later on, why not show your face at one of the city’s exclusive clubs, where you’ll be rubbing shoulders with models, designers and assorted VIPs: the icing on the cake of your Milanese experience.