The Coolest Runway At Milan Fashion Week Isn't Even A Runway At All

Overpasses and other non-traditional spaces are being commandeered by fashion brands

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An overpass from a station concourse is an unlikely show location even by fashion standards, but the coolest runway in Milan this week runs between the Porta Genova terminus and the Via Tortona.

Specially constructed to allow the swarms of models who descend on the city for Fashion Week better access to the main showroom district, the overpass has become "the stage for auditions", with bookers lurking in wait to snag girls before they even arrive at their castings.

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This casual energy emblematises a new spirit to the Milan shows- exuberant, vivacious, progressive - which is also reflected in designers' increasingly varied choice of venues. It started with last year's inauguration of Gucci Hub, the brand's new headquarters in a converted aeroplane hangar, but this season everyone's talking about Donatella Versace's decision to show at Gate 17 in the new Fiera Zone.

The construction of Milan's first skyscraper quarter was met with loathing by many Milanese, but Versace is convinced that using "il skyline" as a backdrop will emphasise a new direction for her brand: "so modern, so forward looking".

Equally controversial is Bottega Veneta's decision to show again at the Accademia di Brera, the art school of one of Europe's most important Renaissance museums.

The art establishment have expressed outrage at such a venerable location being used for such a frivolous purpose, but the brand sees it as a means of "revaluing" this rather fusty space. Another audacious choice is Blumarine, showing in the gorgeous interiors of the Collegio delle Fanciulle (a girls school founded by Napoleon in 1808).

Flirtatious feminine luxe feels somehow naughtier in such a formal setting.
"I think it's fantastic", says Eva, 23, a student at the Brera- "Fashion Week used to feel so "cut-off"- it went on over everyone's heads. Now it's spilling out all over the city, fashion is everywhere, and you can really feel the excitement."

It's true - it feels like every corner of this rather secretive city is suddenly alive.

Luisa Beccaria is staging a whimsical invasion of the Societa del Giardino, an eighteenth century gentleman's club, Wunderkind are taking over the Triennale gallery and Laura Biagiotti is inside the Piccolo Teatro. But the best thing- even if you don't have a ticket for a single show, you only have to hang around the Porta Genova overpass to catch this year's new spirit of Milanese adventure.

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