Economical recession aside, the last decade has seen Milan blooming with interesting initiatives that combine fashion, good living and urban upgrading. The Italian business capital, sharing the symbolical throne with institutional capital Rome, is worldwide renowned as the epicentre of the prêt-à-porter fashion revolution, which, in the '70s, surfing the social emancipation of women and working classes, promoted and nurtured new creative talents such as Giorgio Armani, Gianni Versace and Elio Fiorucci, not to forget already established houses like Prada and Missoni. There is no doubt about the artistic and architectural superiority of Florence and Rome, where, across the 50s and 60s, the local aristocratic class and the rising cinematographic industry have respectively catalysed the international focus on the Italian craftsmanship and haute couture; nevertheless; it is only in Milan where a unique entrepreneurial energy, interlaced with the ability to create majestic venues and the surging of influential fashion periodicals, has been attracting a wide audience of clientele, buyers and journalists.
In 2012, adding to the traditional shopping district, located in the very core of the city and identified with the name of "Quadrilatero della moda" (fashion quadrangle), another area emerged with the aim to offer an alternative location for retailers and financial enterprises. Argentinian architect Cesar Pelli is responsible for the refurbishment of Garibaldi-Isola-Varesine neighbourhoods, a bright example of organic vertical architecture which has its vibrant centre in Gae Aulenti Square, where music, water and light installations offer a new multi-sensorial way of living the city. A footbridge fashionably connects the square to lively Como Street which hosts a multitude of independent shops, cool cocktail bars and clubs. Here is also located the famous 10 Corso Como concept store, founded in 1990 by fashion editor and gallerist Carla Sozzani. The store, hosting numerous emerging and affirmed fashion brands, stands out as an eccentric and colourful clash of aesthetics.
The 2005 relocation of the historical exhibition complex from the west-centre of the city to Rho and Pero suburbs has marked the start for the just recently completed City-Llife project, evocatively named "The Three Towers" after the three main skyscrapers and designed by archistars Hadid-Libeskind-Isozaki. Upscale residential buildings with a vaguely American-west-coast feeling and refurbished glorious sport venues (like the ex velodrome Vigorelli) are "woven" together with the new pulsing nucleus of high street shopping.
Not far from here, in Accursio Square 86, Michele De Lucchi revamped former Agip gas station to transform it into Garage Italia: the quintessential Italian business car-food formula which combines the expertise of Michelin-starred chef Carlo Cracco and entrepreneur Lapo Elkann. A vaste 1,700 sm space, articulated in two floors decorated with tailor-made furnishing and artworks, which is intended to offer the finest food and personalised services to restyle cars but also boats, planes and motorbikes. The once grim and industrial city, famous for smog and polenta, is now striving to shine and to show to the world how enthusiasm and creativeness can bring us very far. Living and operating in London for so many years have made me very sceptical about other European contexts, but the new Milanese urban landscape and associated life-style proved me wrong. The proof is in the panettone.. Ops, pudding!