Saturday, April 16, 2011

Mila Schon -


 Ugo Mulas book on Mila Schon.

Mila Schon in the showroom at Via Montenapoleone 2 Milano Italy.

    Mila Schon boutique in Rome.


 Mila Schon in New York to receive her Neiman Marcus Award  in 1966

Mila Schon greeting customers after a fashion show. at Palazzo Pitti in Florence.

Maria Carmen Nutrizio was born on September 28 1915 in Tau-Dalmatia  (now Croatia.)
She was from a aristocratic  family that moved to Trieste in Italy when the Communist took over Yugoslavia after the First World War. She grew up in Trieste and moved to Milan in 1946 where she married Aurelio Schon. He was a fashionable jeweler and they had a luxurious life style .She was a couture client of Balenciaga as well as Dior. In 1958 after her marriage broke up she had to take care of her son Giorgio ,and started copying French fashions and selling them to friends  in Milan .The company grew rapidly as she developed her own style and in 1966 she moved to Via Montenapoleone 2 - the most elegant street in Milan. She redesigned the old palazzo in a ultra modern fashion with furniture by Eero Saarinen ( that designed the Arches in St Louis as well as the TWA terminal at JFK Airport) and Joe Columbo.

Mila Schon supervising a customer's fitting.

 Mila Schon boutique in Rome.

Double Face Wool Coat
Double Faced Wool become her trade mark .

Mila Schon's creation photographed by South African photographer Barry Lategan .
 Italian Vogue 1970.

Alitalia Uniforms .

Mila Schon with Mina.

Mila Schon. Via Condotti.  Rome.

Mila Schon photographed by Barry Lategan.


Veruschka wearing Mila Schon.

Marisa Berenson wearing Mila Schon.

Anna Zegna  photographed with  a Mila Schon suit her mother wore.

Soon the international  press was calling Mila Schon  the Chanel of Italy as well as the female Courreges.

Mila Schon and her son Giorgio.

Loris Abate and Mila Schon.

Mila Schon Japanese promotion.

Jackie Onassis wearing a Mila Schon print.

Her first famous customer was Marella Agnelli wife of the owner of Fiat. Soon the jet set started to buy her clothes .On the 28 of November 1966 Truman Capote gave his famous "Black and White" ball at the Plaza Hotel in New York. Marella Agnelli was voted the best dressed in a beaded sheer Mila Schon caftan . Princess Lee Radziwill ,Jacqueline Onassis' s sister ,was placed third  in a Mila Schon sheath.

Marella Agnelli wearing Mila Schon.

Lee Radziwell in Mila Schon with Truman Capote .

Princess Lee Radziwill in Mila Schon.

Original sketches for Lee Radziwill.

Mila Schon  with her beaded dresses.

Beaded detail on a Mila Schon gown.

As Mrs. Onassis- Jackie Kennedy became one of Mila Schon's best customers .We even had a dress form made to her measurements in the workroom in Milan .She would view the collection in New York and the clothes would be made for her to fit the dress form .I remember Signora showing me a telegram from Mrs. Onassis -thanking her for the clothes, and how well they fitted.

Jackie Onassis (with Bunny Mellon) wearing Mila Schon. 

Jackie Onassis wearing Mila Schon .

Mila Schon was famous for her double wool dress and coat ensembles.
Mrs. Onassis wore them very often.

Jacqueline Onassis wearing a blue dress and coat by Mila Schon.

Window pane coat by Mila Schon.

 Image result for mrs. jacqueline onassis 70's

Image result for jackie onassis fashion

Soon Mila Schon added a men's wear collection as well as shoes, handbags sunglasses to her collection. She also started her selling her clothes in Japan the first Italian designer to do so .Her clothes were also available at Neiman Marcus, Henri Bendel, Bergdorf Goodman and Saks Fifth Avenue in the USA.

Into this magical world of high fashion elegance I found myself the first day as  I walked through  the doors of Montenapoleone 2 . A 23 year old unsophisticated Afrikaans kid from Southern Africa. What was I letting myself in for? Fools rush in where angels fear to tread -so I just kept going.
 I remember the smell of perfume and the very modern showroom on ground level that was the ready-to-wear boutique. All very luxurious .The sales women in there  were dressed in  purple or brown silk blouses, 3/4 wrap wool skirts and knee high boots. Everything matched .The colors they wore  changed with every new season. The girls with long hair wore it is a chic chignon and those with  short hair had it cut in a Vidal Sassoon bob. . Mila Schon's stamp was on everything you saw. Elegant understated chic and very modern .

Vidal Sassoon bob.

In my best Italian I asked the sales woman where I would find the design studio. In perfect  English she directed me into the old palazzo .Everything was white with very modern chrome furniture .I was taken to a small office over looking the red rooftops of Milan. It had a very modern desk, chrome chair and lamp and very little else. As I was there at 10:00 am .Signora Schon was not expected until later so I sat and waited. After about an hour a secretary fetched me and took me into the design studio to meet Signora.She was dressed in a saffron yellow silk blouse with  a saffron yellow summer wool wrap skirt- and a beautiful black crocodile belt- the buckle a silver M -around her waist. She was not very tall but  very elegant and trim and healthy looking with  little  make up. Her hair was cut  short and grey. She was about 56 year old. She had a black pearl in one ear and a white pearl in the other ear .A big diamond ring was on the little finger of her left hand-all set in platinum. She wore flesh colored hose and  elegant leather pumps in crocodile leather  with a low heel. So simple but oh so very elegant .I will never forget that. Her English was almost non existing and I had to communicate in Italian with her. Her secretary helped as she could speak English very well .She became the main  go between us when we met.

Here one can see the black and white pearl earring she always wore.
Black on the right ear and the white one on  the left ear.

Mila Schon in her home.

Mila Schon coat with  Lucio Fontana painting.

Signora took me into a back room where the samples were kept- and told me to spend some time there looking at all the clothes. She wanted me to see what her "look " was so I had to study every garment and detail. She said everything that I design -must have the Mila Schon "look"-"Mila Schon -non Enrico" I was called Enrico -the Italian version of my name.After she left I did not know where to start. The clothes were magnificent .Very simple and clean cut but the fabrics were of the best quality .I have never felt wools and silk like that .Very simple cut gowns in tulle with every hole in the tulle covered with a bead. I was in heaven and started to work my way through the collection. The must have been 300 outfits. The gowns in those day were around $10,000.00 and one could see why. Slowly the Mila Schon "look" became clear to me.
In the beginning I would arrive in the morning to find a sample of fabric on my desk with instructions to design coats or suits for this fabric. I would spend the whole day sketching an every evening the sketches were taken to Signora .She would choose the ones she liked at the that moment, but the rest were filed away for later use. I never saw her discard one sketch. The next morning a clear desk with a stack of white sketch paper and pencils waited for me! New ideas -new ideas -that is what I was there for.....Some days I would be asked to design stocking, belts, handbags or even scarves...never in color just designs .Once she told  me to use the M  for inspiration. Most of her skirts in the collection were wrap skirts ,so when a woman sat down and crossed her legs, the skirt would fall away and expose her leg above the knee .I designed stockings with her motto M woven into the stocking placed above the knee as well one on each ankle. She loved that.

Another time I confused the word "capotto"(that means coat in Italian)  when she used the word "mantello"- that could mean a coat or a cape. Not to make a fool of myself I sketched some coats with a cape affect over the shoulders that she loved as well. I sat in this little office and many times I looked out over the rooftops of Milan praying for inspiration! There were no fashion books around to inspire you. Every design had to be original. As this was all I was asked to do for weeks on end. It opened my eyes to everything around me .One looked at buildings, trees, flowers with different eyes seeking a  a new line ,or a design idea. Even those red roof tops inspired me! It really taught  me to see design and line in everything.

A couture house has two sections -the tailored area where the day wear is manufactured and the softer division where the dresses and evening wear was made. Some men work as tailors in the suits and coat area ,but  women mostly worked on the gowns and softer fabrics. They sat at long  table. Each garment was covered with a cotton sheet and only the piece that is been worked on is exposed. Almost everything was stitched by hand in the dress section.

Inspiration for the century - Prada - David Hicks Interiors - Mila Schon.

When a private customer was fitted- the dress division would first go and fit the dress or blouse. After they are done the tailors will come and fit the jacket or coat. This is all done under the eyes of the directrice of the house. She ran the workroom. Signora would only appear if it was a very important customer or to give the final outfit the once over.
I was not allowed to disturb the work room and was kept out  of there. It was the inner sanctuary. I found it rather frustrating as I wanted to learn all that went on in all the levels of a  top European Couture House. While I worked  in the clothing factory  in Cape Town I was part of every section -Designing, pattern making, the manufacturing side as well as the selling . Here I was confided to my little office sketching and sketching -8 hours a day producing new ideas. I had to get use to the idea of specializing in a field that was the way companies were run in  Europe and America as well.

Mila Schon workers on strike.

I remember an occasion when I did see more of the work rooms. A few weeks before the Alta Moda Collection (High Fashion -the same as the French Couture Collection) ) was to be shown in Rome the workers union called out a strike. For an hour the workers would work, and for the next one hour they will get out their whistles, and walk around the palazzo blowing their whistles and scream slogans. After the hour of fresh air they will be back to work for an hour- before the left to walk around for the next hour. This went on for weeks and the show date was getting closer and closer. During this time all of us were allowed in the work rooms to help wherever we  could. A handful of loyal workers did not leave and stayed on and even worked late into the night to make sure  all the garments were ready when the collection had to leave for Rome.

Every know and then I would be called in to Signora's office when  the men's division wanted me to fit a coat or jacket- and the model was not available. I dreamt of the day that I could afford clothes of
 that quality and fit.

Open this link:-



September 29 2008 -

Mila Schon Retrospective opened three weeks before  her death at 93 in the Palazzo Reale.
  Milano. Italy.



Mila Schon September 28, 1915- September 5, 2008

Mila Schon's funeral in Milano.

Giorgio Schon at his mother's funeral.