Shocking Fashion Week Break - Milan Fashion Week | 2024 News

Shocking Fashion Week Break - Milan Fashion Week | 2024 News

On Wednesday, an injection of unconventional new talent comes to the Milan Fashion Week (MFW) schedule. London-based Australian artist and designer Michaela Stark is bringing her size-inclusive, celebratory exploration of womanhood to the city, supported by Fondazione Sozzani.

With the support of Fondazione Sozzani, London-based designer Michaela Stark is debuting her size-inclusive lingerie and ready-to-wear brand Panty in Milan.

Stark has become known in some London circles for her avant-garde pieces made from corsets and ribbons, constructed with strategically placed holes to create bulges or cradle the curve of a breast or stomach. She launched her couture business in 2022, operating on a made-to-order basis, with modest revenues. Her Milan show marks the launch of a new venture: lingerie and ready-to-wear label Panty.

Italian Fashion Shocking designer

Stark's work is designed to challenge beauty ideals and give women freedom. Photo: Charlotte Rutherford

In the face of scepticism, Stark is determined to show that she can create pieces that can be worn every day. “Rather than trying to fight with the body like my corsetry does, or morphing the body into different extremes that I do in my couture, [Panty] plays with the softness and shape of the body — creating garments that have really simple cuts to show off curves,” says Stark. The debut collection is made with deadstock fabric from luxury fashion houses, including silk, chantilly lace and tulle, and will be sold direct-to-consumer (DTC) before moving into wholesale later this year. She projects a turnover of £100,000 in Panty’s first year.

MFW has become known for its establishment take on fashion, with major houses taking up most of the space. But with the help of Fondazione Sozzani and 10 Corso Como founder Carla Sozzani, as well as brands like Gucci and Dolce & Gabbana — who provide showroom space or show support for emerging names — there’s a subtle undercurrent of change in the city. Magliano is arguably Milan’s most talked about rising star and is a proponent of gender fluidity, size inclusivity and upcycling. Last season, size-inclusive designer Karoline Vitto did a one-off show in Milan, supported by Dolce & Gabbana. This season, Dolce & Gabbana will support emerging talent Feben, who expresses her lived experiences and unique cultural background through her designs.

Sozzani first approached Stark some years ago, after being introduced to Stark’s work by her daughter Sara Sozzani Maino, the foundation’s creative director and international new talent and brands ambassador of MFW. After many discussions, and one false start a couple of years ago due to the pandemic, Stark was accepted onto the official MFW schedule this season. “It’s so important to have young talent like Michaela on the schedule in Milan,” says Sozzani. “Young talents can’t afford to do big shows or big showrooms, it’s very difficult to be independent. We support as much as we can.” She adds that she was drawn to Stark’s “strong message about the freedom of women”


Aside from the venue provided by Fondazione Sozzani, the Panty show is self-funded, Stark says, from her couture business and brand projects. “I think that having a mix between the old luxury, more established houses and new talent in any city is really important,” says Stark. “What they have to offer is so completely different. Our young generation is so focused on making quite provocative clothing. But I think that the only way to really have a true lasting impact is to make clothing that’s also beautiful and made well.”


Facing scepticism

Stark’s work has been featured in shoots for swathes of publications, including Vogue Italia, Dazed and Perfect magazine (the latter on a cover with Sam Smith). She has also collaborated with brands from Jean Paul Gaultier to Sports Banger on collections, and in September 2023, was selected to design a capsule for the Victoria’s Secret fashion show, as the brand aimed to shake off criticism that it didn’t welcome all bodies; she designed pieces for herself and two curve models. Last year, Stark was named in Forbes’s 30 under 30 in the art and design category.


But it took a while to get there. After graduating in fashion design from Queensland University of Technology, Stark spent six months at Milan Design School, so she’s familiar with the city. “I wish I could tell my teenage self that this was happening because I remember my art wasn’t perceived so well when I was at the school in Milan. Now I’ve grown so much as an artist. I’m coming back, ready to show my work.”

After working on couture for six years, she feels it’s time to show her range. “I’ve had a lot of scepticism on whether or not I actually have what it takes to be a ready-to-wear designer. It is one thing creating beautiful couture looks and obviously I have the skillset to do that. But I feel like it’s another thing creating genuine products that people can wear on the street or that people want to buy on a more day-to-day level. I think that’s when you really turn the page and become a designer.”

The collection, which will go up to a 5XL, is versatile: there’s a silk and taffeta top that can also be worn as a garter belt, and a boned wrap belt made of silk taffeta that can fit any size. “It’s not only comfortable, but also it feels so liberating because it’s cut to shape my stomach. So the fact that my stomach is sticking out from it doesn’t feel like it’s something that should not happen,” says Stark.

While she learns from major houses, it is also important the major houses take note of what the next generation is doing, Stark says. She joins a cohort of young female designers advocating for size inclusivity in fashion, including Karoline Vitto, Sinéad O’Dwyer and Ester Manas. 

“Young artists are usually the ones that are really pushing forward messages and are bringing fashion into new political conversations and realms. I think that’s so important to include in any fashion schedule. It adds a whole different perspective that is really needed that often isn’t catered for,” Stark says. “There’s a beautiful dichotomy between the two and I think any fashion week should have both for it to be a successful fashion week. I’m grateful that the Camera [Nazionale] della Moda Italiana has included me.”

Article written by Lucy M., Vogue

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