Milan Fashion Week shudders in shadow of Russian invasion

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Milan Fashion Week proceeded on Thursday amid a sense of profound shock as Russian troops invaded Ukraine.

Some attendees re-assessed their own safety. “I woke up to 10 messages from my mother,” said Sweden-based influencer and blogger Bryan Grey-Yambao, known as BryanBoy, whose mother lives in his native Philippines. “As someone who lives near the Baltic, it’s too close… If Mr Putin gets away with invading Ukraine, what’s next?”

At Kiton, designer Maria Giovanna Paone described in show notes the muse of her Autumn 2022 collection, presented on Thursday, as: “Born in Naples, she has an art degree in London, a job between Moscow and Dubai, and lives in New York.” Naples-based Kiton makes some of the most expensive and well-tailored suits in the world. Among its primary markets are the US, Ukraine and Russia, Paone said, standing surrounded by an autumn womenswear collection of double-faced cashmere coats and exquisite tailoring.

The Moscow reference by Thursday morning seemed unfortunate, but Paone said it did not suggest partisanship. It’s a sign of how quickly symbols can metamorphose following dramatic events. “I spent this morning with the news,” Paone said, her face darkening. “Until yesterday, if you asked me, everything was fine.”

Her statement reflects an industry that – along with much of the world – struggled to absorb the reality of a potential invasion and ensuing war even during weeks of warnings. On Thursday, luxury stock prices fell in the face of the mounting crisis. Bernstein analyst Luca Solca wrote in a note that while luxury’s overall direct exposure to Russia and Ukraine is low, sanctions, inflation and a resulting recession would have the greatest impact on the industry’s economic outlook.

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For Kiton, business boomed from 2020 to 2021, growing 23 per cent globally, according to a spokeswoman. Much of that growth came from womenswear, which expanded its revenues by 40 per cent over that time as sophisticated female consumers seek out high-end tailoring and fabrics. Paone is the daughter of Kiton founder Ciro Paone as well as the designer of its womenswear. While the company weaves its cashmere and wools in Biella, Italy, and has its tailoring in its Naples factory, its customers are among the global jetset, shopping at 50 Kiton stores and other retailers.

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