This grande dame of a hotel, in all its splendour and elegance, transforms completely during the three key dates of this bi-annual menswear occasion, hot of the back of LC:M in London and Pitti Uomo in Florence. The entire ground floor and lobby area are rocking with the influx of the world’s opinion-leaders, designers, models, stylists and international press. Congregating here from about 11pm onwards until the early hours, it’s the wind-down after the day’s appointments, which have been a roller-coaster of presentations, fashion shows and entertainment hosted by leading menswear designer brands such as Giorgio Armani, Gucci, Prada, Burberry, Pal Zileri, Missoni, Brioni….
The concept to throw open the doors of this influential entourage was the vision of Angelo Rizzi, Resident Manager of the Hotel, who has made this the playground for the fashion press and brand designers to exchange ideas and opinions, and spin off new contacts and concepts for their next presentations, features and interviews.
When we arrive at the hotel (rather on the later side by now after a truly exquisite Milanese dinner with Pal Zileri’s creative director Yvan Benbanaste at the oldest trattoria, La Libera), I ask for Mr. Rizzi. At this request, I sense unexpected electricity in the efficiency of the staff, who put out a search party and within 5 minutes, he appears. It has now gone midnight and he is impeccably dressed in a double-breasted navy blue pinstripe suit; with a radiant smile, he explains he is on call 24/7 at this very busy time. Angelo speaks with energy about the hotel and its eclectic clientele, which is always very diverse, but also quite different to the collective here tonight, and to be fair, most walk past him without the slightest knowledge as to who they owe this momentary, parallel universe to.
He casually walks us through the jam-packed bar, arranging some drinks along the way, whilst talking to us over his shoulder. At this point, I must mention the Bar Manager Daniele Confalonieri, who worked really hard to guarantee an impeccable service, and he definitely did an amazing job. The DJ was playing his latest mix from his pop-up booth in the middle of the bar, and the music was loud.
As we walked, we greeted a host of interesting people, including the new investor behind Kiton, who are building a whole Palazzo for the brand; the Malenotti brothers, who are busying themselves with the launch of a new Belstaff-type brand (that explains the motorbikes and leather jackets dotted all around the hotel lobby); the editor of GQ Japan in D&G; the president of Europe’s largest silk screen-printing company in Como; the fashion editor of Figaro in the latest Berlutti fedora hat; the entire équipe of British GQ all in sharp British suits; Esquire USA in more casual mode wearing denim and leather bombers; the FT How To Spend It team dressed in Gieves & Hawkes, and many more. Yvan Benbanaste, in his bespoke Pal Zileri Sartoriale navy wool suit, is discussing the new winter 2015 collection which has just launched at their showroom on Via Montenapoleone no. 1. Manuela Miola, the Director of Marketing & Communications at Pal Zileri, discusses the new Doge jacket and the photoshoot scheduled for the next day. All rub their fashionable shoulders here and catch up on the day’s style direction and fashion news.
And when this dynamic troupe takes off again and the music stops? Well, it never stops. Mr. Rizzi then starts his globetrotting and networking demands with all the top hotels of the group, which today includes The Dorchester, The Beverly Hills Hotel, Le Meurice and the Hôtel Plaza Athénée in Paris, The New York Palace, Hôtel Bel-Air, Coworth Park and 45 Park Lane in the UK.
The fashion industry reaches into many walks of life and to see such a monumental building of international fame and timeless style host such a progressive collection of people, is a testimony to the common denominator this exceptional hotel and its old world luxury can give to all.