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Eric Wilson
May 06, 2015 @ 5:30 pm

Welcome to Now You Know, InStyle fashion news director Eric Wilson’s column that will help you become a fashion know-it-all in one easy read. Each week, he’ll take a look at an endearing fashion influence and why it’s relevant right now. Enjoy!

Milan is nothing if not a company town. Italy’s capital of fashion has such a high concentration of designers per capita that the tony stores along via Montenapoleone are arguably as popular a tourist attraction as Leonardo da Vinci’s mural of the “Last Supper.” But with the city’s ongoing revitalization, with major new attractions timed along with the opening of the Milan Expo last week, there are three more reasons than just shopping to make the city a can’t-miss destination this year.

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Fashion designers there are like the modern-day version of the Medicis, sponsoring the restoration of major landmarks, while living lavishly in their extravagant palazzos. Now Giorgio Armani and Miuccia Prada are adding their own touches to the skyline of Milan. Last week, Armani opened the new Armani Silos museum, a four-story exhibition space built in a former grain warehouse for rotating displays of his work (and possibly others) from the last 40 years.

This week, Prada unveils its long-awaited new venue, conceived by OMA and the architect Rem Koolhaus, for the Fondazione Prada and its contemporary art exhibitions. The first Milan structure, created in a former distillery and part of a campus that will eventually include a tower gallery for Prada’s permanent art collection, opens on Saturday with an exhibition on the subject of reproductions of Greek and Roman statuary, called “Serial Classic” (pictured, above). A companion exhibition called “Portable Classic” opens the same day in Fondazione Prada’s existing gallery in Venice, focusing on small-scale reproductions.

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While Prada’s museum is designed to be distinctly separate from Prada’s fashion – unlike Armani’s museum – there will naturally be associations to make between the two. I found it particularly thought-provoking that the first subject, of classical sculptures no less, emphasizes that a tradition of copying of the nearly unattainable originals has existed from ancient Rome through modern Europe, which is surely something Prada herself can relate to. And the very idea of bringing antiquities into this very contemporary space will surely place them in a startling new context.

While Prada and Armani will provide food for thought for years to come, the third reason to visit Milan now is the world’s fair that opened on Friday. Milan Expo 2015, as it happens, is all about food, with more than 50 pavilions creating a nearly mile-long parade of opportunities to eat. The theme of the fair is “Feeding the Planet,” with creative displays from many exhibitors that will make you evaluate the way food is produced and consumed, and also make you very hungry. I happened to visit on the opening day, when Armani participated in a ceremony as one of its VIP ambassadors, and, after seven hours or so of walking and eating, I had managed to sample only a fraction of the offerings.

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While the pavilions range from the architecturally amazing to the average and kind of tacky, the fair, roughly a 30-minute train ride from the center of Milan, offers numerous unexpected delights, such as crossing an undulating rope bridge to enter the Brazilian pavilion, or dining in a virtual restaurant in the Japanese pavilion, where the food is projected on the chopstick-controlled placemats. The USA pavilion, designed by architect James Biber, includes a vertical farm growing along one wall, but mostly what you will notice are life-size video monitors showing President Obama, along with a caravan of food trucks parked out back. During my visit, a grand total of zero people were partaking of the hamburgers, lobster rolls, kale salads, and apple pies on offer, but perhaps it wasn’t the right day. (The regionally-themed Italian stalls of a mall-like food court organized by Eataly, meanwhile, were packed, each offering local dishes like beef cheeks with polenta, and delicious sandwiches stuffed with anchovies and a garlicky green sauce.)

The most popular pavilions, meanwhile, included the fantastic beehive-inspired aluminum and steel structure at the heart of the UK pavilion (pictured, below), and the enormous field of illuminated glass-like tubes, surrounded by a viewing platform and projecting scenes of marine life underneath the wavy thatched roof of the China pavilion. Some practical information if you plan to visit: Wear comfortable shoes, and bring plenty of euros along with your appetite.

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