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  • Julia Mao

Milan Fashion Week and the Return of Pop-Ups

October 12th, 2021

By: Julia Mao

As an exchange student studying in Milan (part of Stern’s IBEX at Luigi Bocconi University), I knew I couldn’t miss out on the fashion week events happening throughout the week. This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I figured it would be a great way to see how luxury fashion companies approach marketing and branding during fashion week, aside from exclusive fashion shows. I discovered most of the public events ended up being pop-ups, which seems to be a marketing tactic here to stick around especially after COVID. Because long-term leases are seen as much riskier now (and humans are inherently risk-averse), the more flexible and temporary exhibits of pop-ups are much more attractive and also give brands more creative freedom in terms of what they can do. Here are the top five pop-up events and exhibits I came across during #MFW2021!

Dior Millefiori Garden

The Dior Millefiori Garden was the prettiest pop-up I’ve seen and was promoting the new Miss Dior perfume collection. Since it was right by the Duomo in the center of Milan, the eye-catching colors of the flowers surrounding the pop-up drew people in. Dior focused on sensory marketing; while you walked through the exhibit, they let you smell the perfume, watch a video of the story of the flowers, and offered to take photos of you at the end (as they know the exhibit is very Instagrammable). They also offered every visitor a bag with a small men’s perfume sample, face serum, and lipstick, which could possibly hook in more everyday consumers if they enjoyed the products.

Armani Silos

The new exhibit “THE WAY WE ARE” opened to the public during Milan Fashion Week and is scheduled to last until February. Each room showcased Armani outfits from different decades with different mood-board-like aesthetics (from a black and white room full of suits to a colorful collage room with a 360 mirror). Alongside the immersive exhibit, there were billboards across the city celebrating the 40th-anniversary date. This is an effective branding strategy, as the exhibit and billboards successfully emphasized the brand value of inclusion and the idea that anyone can find something for themselves at Armani.

Gucci Vault

I actually didn’t get a chance to enter Gucci Vault myself since it was invite-only, but it easily captured my attention while I was walking through the park with its colorful exterior designs. The vault was a collaboration project featuring “refurbished vintage Gucci pieces alongside capsule collections by young designers chosen by Gucci creative director Alessandro Michele” (AP News). Although the designs are from the past, it is what Michele believes to also be shapers of the future. This shows how, out of the pandemic, brands are looking to reach new groups of customers through the utilization of collaborations.

Furla Re-Candy

Within the Furla store itself, they hung up their colorful new collection: Re-Candy. This collection celebrates the 10th anniversary of the Furla Candy handbag with a sustainable and environmentally conscious twist to it. The new bags are made with recycled plastic and produced by a company powered by renewable sources. With the shift to consumers wanting companies they buy from to be dedicated to a social cause (read here: Marketing Trends to Watch In 2021), Furla is making sure they are making a difference in society and keeping up with what consumers are looking for in brands. The showcase also appealed to customers as it was only in the Milan store for that limited period of time before its drop in the Spring of 2022.

Feels like Prada

Huge and beautiful street-art murals around Milan were set up in order to promote the new “Feels like Prada” campaign. They are definitely not easy to miss as the two I saw were painted over whole buildings in bold colors - one being a bright pink and black with a wavy geometric pattern and another being gold, black and white with stripes - both of which were meant to replicate and echo the striking designs of Prada as a part of their Fall/Winter collection campaign. They’ve also collaborated with some bakeries to provide plastic wraps with the Feels-like Prada design to customers. This campaign has definitely made me remember the new Prada designs and further look into their new collection.

Fashion week is a great way to see how luxury marketing is evolving today and how brands are continuously developing their image decades later, shifting from their original brand personality. In a more general sense, it’s great to see collaborations and pop-ups starting to dominate the marketing world, and would be interesting to see how other brands follow in the future!


Julia Mao is one of MktSoc 2021-2022 Co-Social Media Directors. She is a junior at Stern studying Marketing and minoring in BEMT. She is currently studying abroad at Luigi Bocconi University in Milan participating in the IBEX program.

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