Game of Chairs: Drama Defines Milan Fashion Week Amidst Designer Swaps

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In a whirlwind of fashion and style hailing from Italy’s renowned design empires, the drama laced throughout the city’s latest fashion week had a strong resemblance of a high-stakes game of musical chairs among the world’s leading creative directors.

Gucci’s Sabato De Sarno courageously took center stage with his third collection last Monday, which he delivered amidst a palpable anticipation resulting from Gucci’s ongoing style transformation. However, the unveiling of his work was not insulated from direct comparison and competition, as merely hours before, images of the first resort collection by his predecessor, the esteemed Alessandro Michele, surfaced on social media. This debut was under the banner of Valentino, a Rome-established contender and major player in the global fashion scene, which typically unveils its collections in Paris. It was hard not to notice the resemblances to Michele’s era at Gucci.

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The timing of these reveals felt as fickle and convoluted as the affairs of a complex household. With a 30-percent stake carefully tucked away in Valentino, Kering- the French conglomerate that owns Gucci- appeared to have its fingers in more than one pie. Furthering the entanglement, De Sarno, a notable graduate of Valentino, had his resort collection branded with a ‘pussy bow’, a trademark code that Michele brought to Gucci. Forecasts expect Michele to make his runway debut under the Valentino banner during the womenswear previews in Paris later this September.

The climax of Milan Fashion Week on its fourth and final day was not limited to the aforementioned fiasco, but also saw De Sarno take bold strides with his second menswear collection for Gucci. The collection was an explosion of precise silhouettes bathed in color and explored the spectrum all the way from an acid-green bonded leather coat to thigh-baring shorts and a netted shirt, blazing his course through a path that was stoic and yet, paradoxically, boldly experimental.

Models marched through Milan’s Triennale design museum, embodying De Sarno’s outlook on museums as spaces of richness and cultivation. He further invited 400 fashion students to witness the spectacle and later held a meet and greet with them as part of the brand’s revised strategy. This involves moving away from the overwhelmingly large Gucci Hub on the outskirts of Milan, to having De Sarno stake a claim in Italy’s sprawling fashion capital, one venue at a time.

Elements of the Spring-Summer 2025 collection were versatile and easily adaptable to personal tastes and styles. The blend of bonded leather jackets, crisp poplin suits, and undulating, vivid repeating prints of surfers and dolphins on boxy shirts were a testament to De Sarno’s stated aim of cultivating comfort and freedom through his designs.

Serena Williams, dressed in a pretty peach suit with a sparkly knit top, was joined by sister Venus, wearing a Gucci Pantone red leather coat. Venus also showed up at JW Anderson’s show Sunday night. Also on hand was Irish actor Paul Mescal, keeping cool in striped shorts and a GG monogrammed blue dress shirt.

Giorgio Armani, the man who has been at the helm of his namesake fashion house for an unbroken span of 49 years, provided another focal point of the show. His signature relaxed tailoring has continually evolved and developed to establish his fashion hegemony. The Spring-Summer 2024 collection was no different. Models sauntered down the runway surrounded by video images of tropical plants – a motif of the season.

The runway also played host to screen legend Russell Crowe, who came to the show at Armani’s Milan theater clad in jeans as he admitted to being jet-lagged and wanting nothing more than to be comfortable. Matching his attire with the relaxed vibe of the show, Crowe seemed to be right at home amidst the fashion stalwarts.

The fashion industry waits with bated breath to see how this myriad of stories and transitions plays out in the creative outputs of Italy’s top fashion powerhouses and to witness the birth of the new legacies that are bound to be left behind by these creative wizards in the world of design.