Stella McCartney Hosts English Garden Party During Milan Men's Fashion Week

Stella McCartney - Women’s and Men’s Spring Summer 2019 Collection Milan- Publicity-H 2018
Courtesy of Stella McCartney

Aperol spritzes, sportswear-infused suiting and platform shoes that screamed Baby Spice were on the menu.

In a walled-off garden ringed with towering chestnut trees, just a stone’s throw from the Santa Maria Delle Grazie Cathedral where Da Vinci’s "Last Supper" lives, Stella McCartney brought the best of English summertime to steamy Milan for her debut at Men's Fashion Week.

Armed with citronella-scented anti-mosquito patches and a military-grade arsenal of chilled prosecco, guests were treated to a garden party presentation of the British designer’s Spring/Summer '19 men’s and women’s collections. It was a summertime sequel to her pre-fall presentation that saw her filling up the SIR Rehearsal Studios in Hollywood with a cabal of stars — Katy Perry, Chris Martin, Leonardo DiCaprio and Emma Roberts, among others — for performances by her ex-Beatle father alongside Grimes and Beck.

“We’re aware that fashion can be relentless,” McCartney explained of this season’s event, buzzing with excitement in a zipper-covered khaki pilot’s suit and transparent heels. “We just wanted everyone to have a good time.”

In that, McCartney succeeded. In the pinkish light of floating lanterns and the ubiquitous orange glow of fishbowl-size Aperol spritzes, guests including actress Isabella Ferrari, artist Francesco Vezzoli, actor Luka Sabbat, singer Levante and musician Boosta feasted on spaghetti pomodoro swirled in wheels of fresh Parmesan and Margherita pizza hot out of a van-size oven carted into the gardens for and served in McCartney-branded pizza boxes.

Models draped in silk and lace or decked in shimmering fringed minidresses stormed the dance floor (young British artists Cosmo Pyke and Nadia Rose provided the music) and took turns playing the picnic games that had been set up across the lawn: throwing horseshoes, knocking down bowling pins and lobbing ill-aimed ping-pong balls at one another. At one point, they seemed to have choreographed a complicated take on the table sport, which saw them circling each other like a maypole and launching the ball into the unsuspecting crowd. In short, they seemed to be having genuine fun.

As for the collection, it was a self-described offering of McCartney’s greatest hits. “The inspiration is very much the best of Stella McCartney,” explained the designer, who touched on her training as a Saville Row tailor for sportswear-infused suiting, checkered Mac trenches and elongated trousers for men. “It’s what people come to us for,” she continued, “but elevated and twisted.” She described the look — which included extra-large striped jumpers, oversize gingham shirts with embroidered bibs, and patchwork leather overcoats — as "Retro West London," though there was a touch of present-day art school thrown in for good measure.

“For the women’s collection we wanted to have a conversation between sportswear and femininity,” said McCartney, who mixed masculine tailoring — boxy, fringed faux leather jackets and trippy puffer coats photo-printed with stages of the moon — with wispy monogrammed silk gowns and dropped-hem lace dresses in bubblegum pink, all stacked on top of thick-soled trainers that by now have become McCartney’s calling card. And though the fate of a Spice Girls reunion may be up in the air, McCartney seemed to be putting herself into the hypothetical running for the role of costumer: a silk slip was paired with six-inch white Velcro platforms for a look that distinctly screamed Baby Spice.

The Milan presentation marks the first McCartney has had since she bought back control of her company from luxury conglomerate Kering in March. Showing during Milan Men's Fashion Week puts the spotlight on the menswear collection McCartney first launched in 2017, which has been worn by Idris Elba, Ansel Elgort and Justin Timberlake for his Super Bowl halftime show in February 2018, among others. 

As the night wore on, partygoers drifted — alongside a few models, who had to be herded by handlers back to their posts — to a secluded clearing at the back of the sprawling garden, where a massive screen had been set up on the grass. McCartney admitted that’s where her mind was at the moment: “We need to find the football!” she shouted, scanning the opposite side of the party for a glimpse at the World Cup game that was being projected, “England’s playing tonight! I need to go and watch it. It’s my dad’s birthday, so I’m hoping that brings us good luck,” she declared as she disappeared into the heaving crowd. “Come on, England!”