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Milan Fashion Week Needs to Find the Fountain of Youth

06/02/2014 13:19 GMT | Updated 08/04/2014 10:59 BST

The biannual whirlwind of Ready-to-Wear fashion month is almost upon us, kicking off in New York this week with the fall/winter 2014 collections; with London, Milan and Paris to follow.

The tour of fashion's capitals comes to end on March 5th in Paris, but with just about every country on the planet hosting at least one fashion week - the parade of "covetable must-haves" is endless. Currently the four capitals dominate but who's to say how geographic shifts in spending power will effect how fashion is marketed. The current seasonal fashion cycle is already rendered meaningless if you live in the southern hemisphere.

A book by the architect of Milan Fashion Week, Beppe Modenese came out at the end of last year. Essentially it's an autobiography by Italy's 'Prime Minister of Fashion', but he is so closely associated with the founding of Milan Fashion Week and the Made In Italy marque that it really is a history of the rise of Italian fashion over the past 50 years.

It's easy to assume that the 'big four' have always held sway, but Milan only really gained international recognition in the 1970s and 1980s thanks to the crop of new designers from that era. Currently Milan is facing criticism for its lack of new talent and its slowness in harnessing the digital age of bloggers and social media. Milan has seen its influence as a fashion capital slide down the Global Language Monitor rankings to No. 12, with L.A. taking its place at No. 4 due to the power and immediacy of celebrities on the red carpet.

If Milan is to regain its crown as a global arbiter of style it needs to nurture new talent. The latest Milan Fashion Week schedule was published last week and it does feature some new names with some good slots in the calendar. No.21, Costume National, Uma Wang and Grinko are some of the labels getting traction with fashion editorials. MSGM in particular is a major new success story, known for its bold prints the label is popular with street style stars and fashion bloggers looking to get noticed.

To its credit Milan has recognized the problem and is launching new initiatives to help discover young designers, but what it really needs is mentoring schemes, innovation and financial investment in young talent. Umit Benan a winner of 'Who's On Next' in 2009 and rising star caused shockwaves in the Milan fashion fraternity by defecting to Paris last year; the designer cited the lack of international buyers and creative risk-taking in Milan as a reason for the move. Complacency has replaced the economic miracle of Milan Fashion Week's birth in 1958 and if Milan is to stay relevant it's high time the old guard made way for youth.

Milan Fashion Week runs from February 19-24th.

B.m. Beppe Modenese, Minister of Elegance is published by Skira. It features contributions by Suzy Menkes and Vogue Italia's Franca Sozzani.