Milan Fashion Week SS21: New normal meets old normal

Sandra Halliday
05 October 2020

Milan Fashion Week wasn’t at all like New York and London. In fact, it felt almost like old times: real shows, with real models and even the occasional real audience mixed in among the virtual and the lookbooks. But it wasn’t completely like old times, of course. The days when Fashion Week was all about crowds, street style, dashing from show to show, air kissing and the like have long gone (for now at least).

But there was one traditional feature — a host of trends. We may not be set to take radical steps forward for SS21 , but the week offered plenty to talk and think about.

Key Items


Milan Fashion Week SS21

Sportmax, Versace, Philosophy di Lorenzo Serafini, Fendi, DSquared, Sportmax, Tod’s, Dolce & Gabbana

Whether it’s part of a suit or worn as standalone statement piece, the blazer dominates. Often cut wide, it can come in the most traditional or unexpected fabrics and colours.


Alberta Ferretti, Dolce & Gabbana, Sportmax, Versace, Alberta Ferretti, Versace

Think after-dark or beachwear for the youth market as a standalone. And it can also work for the contemporary market when combined with a key piece like the season’s blazer.

Mini skirts

Alberta Ferretti, Alberta Ferretti, DSquared, Philosophy di Lorenzo Serafini, Valentino, Dolce & Gabbana, Versace, Sportmax, Valentino

A powerful statement for day and night, mini lengths could help coax the body-conscious back into skirts after a year of living in loungewear.

Maxi sheers

Alberta Ferretti, Fendi, Valentino, Philosophy di Lorenzo Serafini, Valentino, Emporio Armani, Sportmax, Valentino, Valentino

The gala evening dress isn’t completely a thing of the past but post-pandemic dressing means eveningwear is a lot softer and more relaxed. And sheer is the perfect solution when designers want to make an impression.

Shirt dressing

Valentino, DSquared, Fendi, Valentino, Dolce & Gabbana, Fendi, Philosophy di Lorenzo Serafini, Valentino, Dolce & Gabbana

Shirtdresses are big but shirts in general are bigger. The statement shirt, whether frilled, in crisp cotton, lace or printed silk is an anchor piece that can be teamed with shorts or pants, or worn alone either as a mini or elongated into a loose dress.

The power skirt

DSquared, Dolce & Gabbana, Fendi, Prada, Marni

The skirt may have taken a back seat to pants in recent seasons but the timeless appeal of a skirt/top combo is key for SS21. Either pencil thin or flared, it’s a strong semi-formal alternative to a business/occasion suit.


DSquared, Sportmax, Versace, Dolce & Gabbana

We may have spent the past year in WFH garb, but sexy dressing is making a comeback for 2021. Close cut dresses with an obligatory thigh split are hot news.

Technicolour dreamcoats

Prada, Fendi, Marni, MSGM, Sportmax Dolce & Gabbana, Valentino

The trench is big news for summer coats, but if such a classic doesn’t set some consumers’ pulses racing, the alternative is a coat of many colours (think florals or patchwork), or one in a single can’t-miss-it shade.


Valentino, Dolce & Gabbana, Dolce & Gabbana, DSquared, Philosophy di Lorenzo Serafini, Dolce & Gabbana, Valentino

SS20 may have been all about jersey loungewear but don’t dismiss denim for SS21. Jeans have a small but significant place in many collections, from Valentino’s Levi’s link-up on bootcut jeans, to the OTT embellishment, paint effects or washes seen in other collections, Jeans are an important foil to the season’s all-important tops and blazers.

Seasonal themes

The simple life

Alberta Ferretti, Emporio Armani, Fendi, Prada, Sportmax, Emporio Armani, Prada, Sportmax, Valentino

Celebrate the beauty of a simple tunic or slip dress, a one-piece devoid of detail, a top/trousers combo with barely a sign of decoration, or a team-it-with-anything mini dress. The season has a strongly ascetic strand running through it, perhaps a reaction to the over-indulgence of fashion pre-pandemic?

Think big

DSquared, MSGM, Prada, Valentino, MSGM, Sportmax, Emporio Armani

Volume is key for 2021 as a powerful (and more frequent) alternative to the bodycon trend that’s creeping back into fashion’s mainstream. But while ultra-volume has been on show for coats, tops and dresses, the look doesn’t have to be OTT. At its most wearable, it’s all about a loose and comfortable silhouette that’s a strong easy-wear option.

Casual femininity 

Versace, Prada, Emporio Armani, Dolce & Gabbana, Valentino, DSquared, MSGM, Prada, DSquared

Maybe it’s a reaction to too much time spent in gender-neutral loungewear this year, but designers are adding feminine touches to casual pieces. That means a lace or sequinned top teamed with fatigues, to bodycon athleisure, utility pieces in soft sheers or with feminine prints, and key items like heavy boots in zingy colours.

Ladies who lunch

Dolce & Gabbana, Dolce & Gabbana, Fendi, Philosophy di Lorenzo Serafini, Emporio Armani, Fendi, Moschino, Moschino

There hasn’t ben much lunching going on this year, but for SS21, labels clearly think their affluent customers will want to get out there and be seen. And when they do, they’ll be doing so in suits and cocktail dresses. With a US Presidential inauguration coming up in January and lots of cancelled events from this year happening in the next, 2021 could be formalwear’s big moment.



Tod’s, Fendi, Prada, Sportmax, Versace, Marni, Valentino, Sportmax, Prada

Designers are in love with colour for SS21, either choosing intense brights like fuchsia, vivid orange, rich blues and sunshine yellow, or power versions of the season’s favourite pastels, made more intense by materials such as shimmering satins.

Mix it up

Fendi, Fendi, Dolce & Gabbana, Sportmax, Tod’s, MSGM, MSGM, Versace, Fendi

Unexpected colour combos are on the agenda for the new season. Think lavenders and oranges in pole position, while blues and yellows, pinks with just about anything, or neutrals given added interest by accessories in vivid brights all add to the importance of colour.


Prada, Emporio Armani, Fendi, MSGM, Philosophy di Lorenzo Serafini, Prada, Alberta Ferretti

Soft mint greens, palest pinks, toning neutrals, and any colour that doesn’t overpower the look are big news for SS21 and underline the simple approach taken to many collections.


Alberta Ferretti, Alberta Ferretti, DSquared, Fendi

White has a starring role for the season, both in warm tones and cooler, almost clinical whites. It’s a colour story that lends itself well to a number of other stories from sheers to tailoring and utility.

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