Fashionable Milan: a Weekend-Long Surprise

A weekend in Milano is all you need.

Strolling under the glass arches of Vittorio Emanuele Gallery, the sun waves “hello” from the other side, while the Baroque buildings whisper untold stories about forgotten dukes and princesses.

The massive wooden gates of red-brick Neo-Classical Palazzo di Brera stand behind, tall and quiet, like an appointed castle-guard, as we enter the inner court.

The symmetrical arches of the Main Central Station, in their signature Art Deco-style, embrace me as I rush through them to catch a local train.

Vittorio Emanuele Gallery in Milan

A weekend in Milano is all you need.

Two days of walking around the narrow streets and on the large corso boulevards to figure it all out. The palaces and basilicas, the opera and the central mansions, they all have fallen behind. They all have stepped down to the second place, leaving the podium for clothing stores in the city where “Milan” becomes synonymous with “fashion”.

Architecture and fashion in Milan

Architecture and fashion in Milan

Not Really a Surprise

Home to over 50 world-renown Italian fashion designers, from Armani to Versace, it’s not really a surprise to discover high-end fashion stores on every corner. What’s surprising is the auxiliary position historic buildings were doomed to take, being used as a year-round “catwalk” for brands’ displays of fashion.

The carved stone lace on the walls, the gothic arches, the century-old inner courts of mansions, they are now mere decorative elements in the visitors’ quest for a fashion-fix. Walls holding historic sculptures on their back for centuries are now dressed up with newer stories, those of high-end brands talking of luxury and desire. Under medieval arches, cracked by the passage of times, shine the intact billboards with wearable slogans.

Window shopping includes admiring the “del 1919” or “del 1937” labels, which refer to the year of the establishment on the market of the clothing company, having nothing to do with the age of the building the year is plastered on.

Architecture and fashion in Milan

Clothes and Coffee

Not forgetting that I am in Italy, the country of fashion, pasta and… coffee, I couldn’t help but comparing all the clothes hanging in medieval mansions with a good cup of espresso macchiato.

How so? Perhaps I was tired of being splashed in the camera objective with the glitzy colors of the trendy brands, and I needed a caffeine boost.

I dreamt of a foamy Italian coffee brought to me in an antique porcelain coffee set. Wondering, would I notice the cup before drinking my espresso I so much was craving? Or would I completely ignore it and go directly for the brew? How many times have I admired the porcelain cups and plates in the past month?

Something similar is happening to Milan’s architecture, for the sake of the fashion brands it houses. The inside is so colorful and trendy, who’s looking anymore at the roof the mannequins stand under?!

Architecture and fashion in Milan's Central Station

The Golden Square Supremacy (?)

Milan is proud of its quadrilatero d’oro, the Golden Square. It hints to a four-avenue central area, including Vittorio Emanuele Gallery, where all high-end shops are concentrated, for the fashion shoppers’ convenience.

But how about an architecture golden square? How about the Duomo, Milan’s Dome (still most visited sight), the Palazzo Reale, La Scala, the Pinacoteca di Brera? They could form another type of “golden square”, in which, thankfully, there are still no fashion stores set up.

To be fair, I definitely enjoyed window shopping on Milan’s deluxe fashion stores. Fashion is art and art has entered gradually in fashion. But seeing the historic buildings – works of art made in stone – take the runner-up place for a trend, made me skeptical to the supremacy fashion has here.

I remain hopeful that Milan will know how to accomodate the two forms of art it owns, fashion and architecture, without bringing prejudice to either of them.

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