If I had to describe it in a few words to somebody who doesn't know what to expect from Milan or as Yann called it during our stay "Milaaaanooooooo" impersonating Sophia Neophitou's recognizable accent (if you're not acquainted with this woman working for 10Magazine, you really should! In addition to her personal & interesting insight into the fashion world, her videos for the magazine's Instagram account are absolutely unmissable & pretty funny too!), I think I'd go for something like this:"The City of Quiet Opulence". I know what you're thinking and I'm quite surprised as well! I would never have guessed that this definition could fit this Italian luxury capital. Yet, despite the tacky Ferraris, Lamborghinis (some even pretending to be the Batmobile) and the Philipp Plein (the Pope of Good Taste!) stores more numerous than H&M, this is a silent luxury but nonetheless a genuine one! You just have to visit the Quadrilatero d'Oro to get convinced (if you really need to); this is the hugest concentration of luxury stores we've ever seen. Close you eyes, think about a brand and here it is! When you love window-shopping like us (don't worry we sometimes come into the stores!) it is Heaven on Earth; with a special mention to the ravishing all pink Gucci windows. When you have the money to buy luxury goods, Milan is the Place to go (and the food is so damn good!). Of course, if you're definitely into shopping don't forget to visit the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II (right next to the Duomo, Milan majestic lace-like cathedral looking like some fantastic places from Lord of the Rings) whose ceiling, floor and stores (Prada, Versace, Louis Vuitton...) are absolutely beautiful (actually, this whole place is beyond beautiful!) and the legendary concept store 10 Corso Como founded by Carla Sozzani (art gallery owner among many other activities and sister of Franca from Vogue Italia). This place is worth a detour - would it only be for its beautiful architecture, nested inside an incredible & verdant courtyard. Contrary to Dover Street Market or Colette for instance, this Concept Store is really really expensive (a Corso Como tote bag is around 95 euros...) but it displays an incredible number of designers and its bookstore is really really cool for book/magazine lovers like us. The good point of 10 Corso Como is that contrary to DSM or Colette, it has an outlet store, a few blocks away from its parent company (use a map otherwise you could get lost! If we had just one piece of advice it would be always have a map with you, in Milan it's really useful!); their selection of women's clothes & accessories is quite good but please don't pay attention to the sales assistants, they don't deserve it (as we did not deserve their nasty & bored stares...). The whole Corso Como district is something to be seen with its brand new luxury stores (Moschino, Y-3, Vivienne Westwood...) and its futuristic architecture; and if you're lucky & observant enough, you could run into some fashion designers just like us who bumped into Consuelo Castiglioni (Dear you'll be greatly missed at Marni).

casual signs in Milan




However, far from this mere mercantile aspect, Milan is also the place where we've experienced one of our most intriguing & powerful artistic experiences courtesy of Fondazione Prada. It's been a while since we wanted to visit this unique place perhaps because the word PRADA has a huge impact upon us. To be honest, we have an immense admiration for Miuccia Prada, her unique & visionary voice in the Fashion Sphere (this is quite visible if you're often browsing through this blog...) This appeal needed to be satisfied thanks to a visit to this mythical place. And who knows, perhaps we would be lucky enough to come upon Miuccia's toboggan? (Miuccia Prada has a toboggan in her office, leading outside... this is also quite mythical! To have a look at it, you should read System's latest issue.) Unfortunately, and in order to avoid a way too heavy & useless suspense, we did not see it but what we saw there was even more unusual. The building itself (or should we say the buildings) is disconcerting. The first thing we saw is a faded building with FONDAZIONE PRADA written on the front (originally, this was a distillery complex dating back to the 1910s). And then the golden building, shining in the sun, bedazzling us in every possible way. Inside it, here is the Haunted House with works from Robert Gober & Louise Bourgeois; the beginning of a very special & intimate experience with the building itself. The climax being the heart of the house beating in a manhole. The rest of the visit went crescendo. Everything there is meant to puzzle you. Doors that are not doors. Hidden entrances. Corridors. Circular rooms like labyrinths. You feel immersed. Submerged. And this is only the beginning. Mirrors everywhere (quite useful to take cool #ootd). A perfect blend of future and things from the Past; a recurring theme in Miuccia Prada's work. RETROFUTURE. And the power of the exhibitions featured at the moment. It is common practice to say that Art is the reflection of society at a given moment; this is particularly true when it comes to what we saw during our visit. Even though all these works of art are not actual ones (i.e made in the last few years), they are all resonating in a very odd way to what's going on in "Trump's America". This is at the same time fascinating & quite frightening too. First, with William N. Copley's work celebrated in the largest retrospective ever: more than 150 works around the theme of pornography, abstraction & surrealism, political & geographical issues. Quite striking to see the US flag he re-imagined with a large THINK upon it. Another room is featuring Betye Saar's works in a retrospective entitled Uneasy Dancer. This American artist also questions the themes of Race & Gender with the help of powerful objects she created or twisted. The result is a critique of all the stereotypes Americans might/may have regarding Black people; a critique filled with a strong sense of spirituality & intimacy aiming at showing that Black people deserves respect & consideration, far from the usual & despicable clichés & caricatures. And then the shock. Yann & I were literally knocked out by the work of Edward Kienholz & wife Nancy Reddin Kienholz gathered in a retrospective entitled Five Car Stud. This one can be seen as a violent pamphlet against America, against the way men are treating women (as sexual objects only meant for pleasure, "Hello Mr Trump"...), against justice or should we rather say the masquerade of Justice, against religion and its lack of spirituality. We were completely stunned by what we saw. Stunned and quite ill-at-ease to be honest. Yet, this malaise was necessary and vital because after all, we want Art to punch us in the face, we definitely need the power of Art to remind us the world we're living in. The grand finale of this retrospective was the work of art that gave its name to the exhibition: Five Car Stud or the reconstruction in a big dark place of a racial crime. Hard to bear but once again necessary and terribly actual (though this was created between 1969 and 1972). Even in our most confident dreams we could not imagine that this visit at the Fondazione Prada would be so intense & meaningful, so intense that in the end we did not even think about taking pictures.

 Louise Bourgeois (both pictures above)

 Robert Gober (both pictures above)




Words by Charles Margueritte

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