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There’s a new wave of female designers establishing their own brands in Milan. Few women have founded or led the superbrands that have traditionally dominated Italy’s fashion capital (Miuccia excepted), but many have worked out of the spotlight. Indeed, several of the designers here have spent much of their careers working at big labels before finally taking the plunge and beginning to create, unfettered by brand guidelines. Others felt the impetus to make, inspired by their memories of home or childhood passions. In both cases, these designers tell deeply individual stories of determination and devotion to craft, and provide a kaleidoscope of dynamic new perspectives.

Photography by Andy MassaccesiStyling by Alessia Vanini

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An ode to her childhood love of horse riding, Ilenia Durazzi’s designs reflect personal passion in exquisitely crafted clothes and accessories. It’s already a fully formed world despite the fact that she only founded her brand in 2022. After returning to Italy after ten years in Paris, Durazzi was ready to create on her own terms. Her experience working for Nicolas Ghesquière at Balenciaga and as a menswear designer at Maison Margiela inform the immaculate tailoring at Durazzi Milano. “The rigorous beauty of the equestrian world is an essential inspiration for my creations,” says the designer, whose collection this season is illustrated with jodhpur-like panelling and signature riding boots, though these are more likely to be seen on urban pavements than anywhere near a horse.

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Beatrice wears a top and trousers by J.Cricket and shoes by Vic Matié.


J.Cricket founder Jimin Lee turned her focus to her own designs in 2017 when, after years of working as a fashion buyer, she had a deep sense of gaps in the market. Lee’s fabric choices are uncompromising, solely sourcing deadstock natural materials like cotton, cashmere and silk from mills she tracks down in treasure hunts across Italy, where all her clothes are produced. The Korean-born designer creates essential, staple pieces, unbound from traditional seasons. “Every garment is part of a very limited series because of the unique way we develop our designs and source our fabrics,” says Lee. “My work is informed, if not directed, by the materials and fabrics themselves.” J.Cricket works in the spaces overlooked by the industry and performs a sartorial transmutation, turning discarded material into new yet timeless pieces.


After the birth of her daughter in 2018, Amalfi-born designer Simona Citarella relaunched her footwear brand, Simona Vanth, with a new direction. This updated version of the brand she founded back in 2011 focused on smaller, thematic collections. “Each one is inspired by a fantasy character,” she says. “The next collection will be called ‘Alain Delon-ging’!” Simona’s sculptural collections incorporate quality craft and artisanal design often using techniques outside of shoemaking – she once manufactured a shoe entirely in a car workshop – to produce striking and idiosyncratic footwear made to order by a small network of local, specialist suppliers.

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Beatrice wears shoes by Simona Vanth and the stylist’s own jumpsuit.

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Victoria wears a dress and shoes by QUIRA and the stylist’s own tights. Opposite, Wera wears a dress and shoes by QUIRA and the stylist’s own socks.

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Veronica Leoni’s grandmother – nicknamed Quirina – inspired the designer’s brand QUIRA, which she debuted in 2021. For the former creative director of womenswear at 2 Moncler 1952, who also has an impressive CV at other luxury brands, this personal project is where she finds unbounded expression. Since its inception, one of the buzziest brands to come out of Italy in recent years has stood out for its bold and sculptural silhouettes distinguished by technical detailing. “For spring/summer 2023 I felt I could loosen things up and indulge in a more experimental iteration of QUIRA,” says Leoni of her tactile new collection. “Fluid and feminine shapes took up a bigger space than ever.” A manifestation of her expert consideration of form and fabrication, textile is chalked, crinkled and draped into daringly cut suiting to create looks that marry sharp and soft.

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Geometric shapes cut from vibrant natural gemstones and hand-painted enamel form Aliita’s 1930s Art Deco-inspired jewellery collections. Aliita translates to “important object” in Wayuu, the native language of the people of Guajiros, who live on ancestral lands in Zulia, Venezuela, where founder Cynthia Vilchez Castiglioni was born. “My hometown is full of colours, vibrancy and joy, and so these characteristics are expressed in all of Aliita’s collections,” she says. Also an anagram for “Italia”, Aliita connects Castiglioni’s birthplace to her adopted country of Italy, where all her designs are made. Castiglioni takes inspiration from swimmers, ghosts, fruits, vegetables and other symbols of everyday life, turning them into colourful talismans for the contemporary globetrotter. ◉

Hair and make-up: Fabio D’Onofrio using Alterna Haircare, ADIEducation and Fabwigsarchive / Casting: Tytiah at Unit C / Photography assistants: Angelo Iannone and Andrea Biancofiore / Styling assistant: Ester Di Lorenzo / Hair and make-up assistant: Carlotta Giaon / Models: Wera Kaźmierczak at The Lab Models, Victoria Daropale at Brave Models, Marica Ranno at Wonderwall Management, Beatrice Lenatti at StreetpeopleCasting

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