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Milan Fashion Week Presentations: The Must-See Shoes During a Season Like No Other

During the final days of Milan Fashion Week in February, the coronavirus pandemic hit Italy quickly and dramatically. This summer, after months of trauma and suffering, Italian footwear players showed their determination and got back to business.

That resiliency is evident in designers’ upbeat spring ’21 collections, which were shown over the past week in Milan. Some brands held in-person appointments. Others went fully digital. But no matter the platform, the message from the spirited Italian industry is clear: It’s time to add some glamour and joy back into our shoe wardrobe.

Here are highlights from the top presentations.

Giuseppe Zanotti

Zanotti presented a smaller collection of men’s and women’s styles that ranged from sandals with oversized gold chain accents to western-inspired boots with a star embellishment to silk-adorned sneakers. “When I used to do shoes for couture 30 years ago, silk was the most beautiful material ever,” Zanotti said, as he talked about his artistic kicks. “I translated all the elegant and special elements from the past into the sneaker direction. I never did sport, I’m not a sport person.” While Zanotti explored sneakers long before most luxury players, he is still fiercely passionate about heels. Among his favorites this season were square-toe sandals featuring a banana heel. “It looks like half the shape of a heart, it’s my love letter to women,” Zanotti said.

Giuseppe Zanotti Spring '21 Sandal
Giuseppe Zanotti spring ’21 sandal.

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Gianvito Rossi

The designer was inspired by the signature beaded craftsmanship of the Masai arts, which he said “contrast so beautifully with the region’s landscape. I wanted to give strength to summer sandals by interpreting the gladiator in various moods.” The star of the season was the Ribbon Gladiator, a tall sandal that features a ribbon ornamentation on the criss-cross ankle strap. Rossi offered a number of striking takes on gladiator the style this season, including a stunning laser cut style in gold. The ribbon theme carried over into other looks, including a sturdy black boot dressed up with the embellishment. Rossi said he has “never been prouder” to be a made-in-Italy brand. “Consumers expect the finest quality and craftsmanship in the world from our region, and I feel that they value this now more than ever.”

Gianvito Rossi
Another look at Rossi’s gladiator sandal, which ties like a ribbon, just below the knee.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Gianvito Rossi

Sergio Rossi

Sergio Rossi staged a hi-tech digital event called Grazie Sergio — a tribute to its eponymous founder who died in April — to unveil a spring ’21 capsule collection that reimagines 10 of Sergio Rossi’s most emblematic styles from the 1960s to the 2000s. Each tribute shoe retains the logo and packaging of its original. CEO Riccardo Sciutto credited the current fascination with the square toe as an evolution of Sergio Rossi designs from the late ’90s and early ’00s. The goal of the capsule, he says, is to keep the memory of the founder alive while underscoring the timeless nature of his designs and their continued relevance today.

Sergio Rossi
FN exclusive image from the Grazie Sergio, Sergio Rossi tribute capsule.

Santoni

The Renaissance art showcased in the rooms of Urbino’s Palazzo Ducale served as the inspiration for the first footwear collection that Andrea Renieri designed for Santoni. Playing up the brand’s heritage, the designer crafted feminine sandals and flats with leather interwoven motifs. He also unveiled with a knot element on slingbacks.

Giannico

Giannico reimagined signature styles such the Daphne mule and Eve cage sandal have with day-friendly options. “Women shouldn’t have to give up on being feminine just because they want to be comfortable. They do not want to buy shoes just for occasional moments such as dinners, parties or weddings,” said founder and creative director Nicolò Beretta. “They want to wear them all the time, even while they are running errands or going to work. This is something I really care about.”

Giannico
Giannico Spring ’21

Casadei

Casadei creative director Cesare Casadei told FN that resilience was a central theme of his spring collection. “Facing such a traumatic moment, I decided to react with positivity, accepting the reality, reorganizing my team and developing a creative storytelling where timeless designs meet highly innovative elements,” he said. Natural shades are a nod to the Italian landscape and coast, while neon accents represent a positive take on the future. 

Casadei
Casadei’s new take on the Blade heel.
CREDIT: Casadei

AGL

The Giusti Sisters injected a sense of lightness and positivity into their latest footwear collection via laser cuts and chromatic combinations. Chunky-soled boots with cutouts came in pastel tones — including butter and lilac — as well as in more eccentric, animal-printed versions. Iridescent styles oozed a summer-night vibe while bicolor flats, medium-heeled sandals and wedges also looked fresh and fun, in addition to telegraphing the Giustis’ ultimate mission of delivering comfort.

AGL’s architectural leopard print boot.
CREDIT: Gianni Mazzotta

Geox

The new sneaker was called Spherica for both men and women, an ultra-light design crafted from hi-tech fabric featuring the Zero-Shock system, which cradles the foot with a completely new cushioning system made up of two different-density EVA layers extending over the entire surface of the breathable outsole. Chairman and founder Mario Moretti Polegato said he was also proud to talk about the Aerantis, which got some sustainable updates, including an upper made of a nylon yarn made from recycled fishing nets and other plastic materials retrieved from the sea.

Geox Spring '21 Sneaker
The Spherica is a highlight for spring ’21.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Geox

Hogan

Hogan presented a video showing Italian model Chiara Scelsi and musician Robbie Wadge. The season’s focus is once again on sneakers — with simplified silhouettes and fits — decked out with bright green laces, along with pink, platinum or silver details.

René Caovilla

Presented through a fashion film titled “Walk Your Way,” hinging on women’s empowerment, the collection worked a range of styles spanning from the signature Cleo sandal embellished with crystal and pearl accents to flat sandals for an edgier reinterpretation.

Aera x Redemption

New York-based Vegan brand Aera teamed up with Milanese fashion label Redemption for its digital runway show. The two brands share a vision of merging high fashion with socially responsible designs. Starting in December, the collection of signature high and low boots as well as sandals and pumps will be available to purchase online and in the Redemption store in New York as well as through wholesale partners. “This partnership feels so natural not only because we have complimentary product offerings but because of shared values and similar visions of Italian luxury craftsmanship with a consciousness,” said Tina Bhojwani, co-founder and CEO of Aera.

Aera Redemption Collaboration
Aera boots starred in Redemption’s Milan Fashion Week film.

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