Italy's Shopping Mecca

Often derided as Rome's ugly sister, Milan is getting a facelift equal to its fashionable reputation.

Milans glass-domed Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II built in the late 19th century

Milan's glass-domed Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, built in the late 19th century.

Photo By WWD Staff

Often derided as Rome's ugly sister, Milan is getting a facelift equal to its fashionable reputation.

The city may lack crumbling ruins and scenic vistas the Italian capital boasts, but it is experiencing an urban renaissance, partly inspired by its recent winning bid to host the Expo world's fair in 2015.

There's no doubting the importance of fashion to Milan. Italy's fashion powerhouses — Giorgio Armani, Dolce & Gabbana, Prada, Ferré, Missoni and Versace — are all headquartered here, in an industry boasting income of 6.6 billion euros ($9.6 billion at current exchange) and 22,500 employees last year.

"Milan is a small city but integral to the fashion industry. Italian fashion is the bread and butter of the industry," observed Mario Boselli, president of the Italian Chamber of Fashion.

Fashion is the fulcrum of Milan's vibrant trade-show calendar as well, featuring the biannual textile fair Unica, Micam shoe fair and Mipel leather goods expo, and the four-day annual eyewear event Mido, which kicks off on May 9. Next year Micam, Mipel and Mido will be held the same week in March, with the trio expected to attract 100,000 visitors.

"By anticipating the dates, we are further linking eyewear and the fashion system," said Dan Emanuele Levi, vice president of Anfao, organizer of Mido. Unica will move to new fairgrounds Rho in 2009, where the other trade shows are held, and a fast train connecting the Rho fairgrounds to Malpensa airport is under construction. Another key attraction is Milan's design week in April, which nets 300,000 visitors.

New architectural works in progress include development of the old fairgrounds site east of Milan's center. Dubbed CityLife, the area will have a trio of skyscrapers designed by Zaha Hadid, Arata Isozaki and Daniel Libeskind. The 40 million euro ($58.5 million) project, expected to finish in 2012, features a new museum of contemporary art, also designed by Libeskind.

In the same neighborhood and near Corso Como, home to multibrand boutique 10 Corso Como, the much-anticipated Città Della Moda is expected to open by 2011. The "Fashion City" complex of showrooms, educational facilities, catwalk spaces and stores is primarily aimed to foster Italy's young up-and-coming fashion designers.
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