On January 30, WWD announced that the Mila Schön brand, founded in Milan in 1958, is returning to Milan Fashion Week. In partnership with Itochu, they are backed by new investors with a new creative director, Marc Audibet. The French fashion designer will unveil his first collection in Milan on February 23.
I was intrigued. As someone who came of age in the ’60s, my sartorial aesthetics align with those of the house whose ultra-chic designs were favored by fashionable clients like Jacqueline Kennedy, Lee Radziwill, and Marella Agnelli. In 1969, Vogue described Mila Schön as “the famous Italian designer we revere for impeccable, perfect-tailoring-beyond-words clothes.”
In 2019, Vogue.com’s Laird Borrelli-Persson observed, “Schön’s name might not be one bandied about much these days, but her arrival on the Italian fashion scene in the late 1960s was as big a deal as Phoebe Philo’s arrival at Céline”.
“Most everyone I honor is dead, so when I tell you that I celebrate Marc Audibet, it is because he is one of the great talents, on par with Mme. Gres and Thimister.”Ralph Rucci
But that’s not the only reason I was enthralled by the new appointment. Over lunch with Ralph Rucci three years ago, Rucci hailed Marc Audibet as one of the great living designers. While familiar with Marc’s name, I didn’t immediately recall his many accomplishments.
But after doing some research, I wondered why this forward-thinking visionary, known in the fashion world as a pioneer in developing new stretch fabrics, was not heading up a major fashion house.
Marc is not only a fashion designer and couturier but an industrial designer and a demanding researcher. In 1984, he worked closely with DuPont on a project to mix LYCRA with fabrics such as satin and silk.
Audibet became a textile adviser to the fabric and fiber company. LYCRA was the most important development in fashion in the ’80s, one of the two “significant moments” in his life.
“I think that the real way to fight against excessive consumption and pollution, to “save the planet” is to make “intelligent” clothes, to rediscover the pleasure of making beautiful clothes. There is an art to fashion which cannot be storytelling, which cannot be fables.”Marc Audibet
Marc’s second “most significant moment” was designing the “anonymous” look for Prada in the ’90s. Marc worked there from 1990 – 1996. Marc revolutionized Prada. He became the architect of Prada’s growth.
Audibet’s impressive resume includes design director for Ungaro, 7 years for Hermes as leading designer, and created collections for Grès, Balmain, Hermes and Vionnet — among others.
He served as creative director of Ferragamo from 1999 – 2002 and as a design director at Vionnet in 2007. In 2015, Audibet was named creative director of Connolly, an English-based label, a position he will continue to hold.
Regardless of Marc’s extraordinary credentials, this is a difficult time for fashion, and it’s going to be a challenge for any designer who does not have name recognition, heading up a brand that is under the radar except for in-the-know fashion insiders.
I wanted to know Marc’s vision for the label and how he intends to make it covetable for a new generation. I scheduled a Zoom call with Marc, who is currently working on the collection in Milan. Because he doesn’t speak fluent English, his partner, Marco de Rivera, was on hand to translate from Paris.
Marc is confident that his new appointment will succeed, citing the two designers’ essential commonalities. While Audibet never met Schön, who passed away in 2008, he admires her aesthetic.
Like Mila, Marc is a modern-thinking minimalist who favors clean-lined, elegant, luxurious designs, “the definitive expression of fashion in its essence,” says Audibet.
Both have a penchant for expert construction, precision–cut tailoring, and a love of innovative, “double” fabrics. For this collection, which plays out in black, white, nude, pink, and green, Marc has developed a few new double face textiles, including one with wool on one side and cotton on the other.
Coats, from ¾ length Cabans to maxis, will be prominently featured. Marc emphasizes that the collection is timeless, seasonless, and genderless. While the idea of unisex fashion is now the norm, like everything almost else, Marc was there first.
In 1975, Audibet designed men’s fashion for Cerutti and helped create the designer’s first collection for women based on the principles of men’s wear. Since 2015, Marc has been designing a men’s collection for Connolly, which, thanks to its cuts, can easily be worn by women.
The idea of a unisex “shared wardrobe” is at the heart of the London-based line, connollyengland.com.
The Mila Schön Fall 2023 presentation is on Thursday afternoon in a church in Milan. While the entire collection is about 90 pieces, only 15- 20, representing the “essence” of the line, will be shown to the press and buyers.
Male and female models will wear the same outfits, accessorized with a flat shoe made expressly for the collection, and Marc has created five bags with an architectural and refined line. A shoe line is in the works for next season.
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LOVE this. Thank you, Marilyn, for making the effort to interview this lovely and brilliant man. I wish him every success and blessing.
Love Marc Audibet best choice ever for a revival of Mila Schon. Cannot wait to see the collection through his genius eyes.
Marc is very talented. Much looking forward to seeing his wirk .