Alongside the catwalk shows in Milan, there is another fashion week on the streets that is rivaling big name brands and is bursting with creative energy, self-promotion and pure exhibitionism.
It started out as a sideshow, but there are now more photographers outside than in, snapping VIP guests, young designers and social media celebrities — many of whom show up ticketless, armed only with ambition.
Alessandro Somma used to work taking pictures on the catwalks of the world’s top fashion houses, but he got fed up and now earns his living outside the shows documenting the eclectic mix of “street style.”
“It was a continuous repetition of the same things again and again. There was always the same battle to take exactly the same picture,” he said, standing by a graffiti-covered brick wall outside the Fendi show.
“The street is becoming bigger and bigger,” he said.
“There are a lot of bloggers, a lot of photographers for big newspapers who do street, and for up-and-coming designers it’s an important chance to show off their production,” he added.
Asked if there was an alternative “street fashion week,” he answered: “Absolutely.”
Just a few minutes before the Fendi show, paparazzi suddenly crowd the pavement around a young woman in a flowing dress and a Mary Poppins-style hat clutching a bead-encrusted box handbag.
Her name is Cecilie Fabricius and for a few seconds she is suddenly famous.
“For me street style is art, so I like to dress up like a painting,” she said, handing out business cards stating her profession as “Multi Artist” and explaining that she hangs out outside all the shows wearing her own work.
The attention quickly moves on to a new arrival on the street catwalk.
Alessia Sica, a doe-eyed brunette and young fashion blogger, is wearing Fendi shoes and a black-and-white pencil skirt that she made herself.
“This is a way of advertising ourselves,” she said, as she preened.
The stars of this other fashion week might be virtually unknown to the jet-setting fashion community, but they have tens of thousands of followers online who follow their every move and get a few style tips to boot.
For Vogue Italia editor Franca Sozzani, the street show has become an integral part of every fashion week that can provide original insights.
“Times have changed,” she said at a party in a palazzo, where actresses Blake Lively and Cate Blanchett could be seen milling.
“It is all one thing now. Fashion week includes everyone, young people, older people, bloggers. Involving them is very important,” she said.
“They are youthful and they have a much more freer look than mine for example and so I am interested in their points of view,” she said.
Within this fashion week tribe, many are a hybrid of model, photographer and blogger and some have almost street artist performances — balancing on impossibly high heels, pouting on Vespas, even hula-hooping for attention.
A select few have the means to travel to the global fashion industry hubs.
One example is Daria Shapovalova from Ukraine, who is photographed in an amazing array of elegant outfits and writes for a fashion Web site in Kiev.
“I think fashion is becoming more like pop culture, people come, but it’s like they’re coming to a concert,” said Shapovalova, wearing a dress by a Ukrainian designer with car prints.
She says she has a lot of interaction with the 100,000 Web sites who look at her Web site and helps them find inspiration on how to dress fashionably without having to shell out for the famous brands.
“People are usually asking me what I am wearing or how they can pair different bags with their outfits. They are commenting if they like my look today or not, but in most cases they do,” she said.