Mila Schön

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Mila Schön (September 28, 1916[1] – September 5, 2008) was an Italian fashion designer.

Early Life[edit]

Mila Schön was born Maria Carmen Nutrizio, in Trogir to wealthy Dalmatian Italian aristocratic parents.[2]

With the breakup of the Austo-Hungarian Empire at the end of World War I, Schön's family lost their estates. The family moved to Italy where Schön's father managed a pharmacy.[3]

During World War II, Mila married Aurelio Schön, an Austrian precious metals dealer, whom she met in Milan. In the postwar period, Schön enjoyed a brief return to wealth. She became a client of the most prestigious Parisian couture houses such as Balenciaga and Dior.[3]

Fashion career[edit]

Following the failure of her husband's business and the couple's divorce, Mila once again found herself without financial resources. Unable to afford Parisian couture, Schön paid skilled Milanese seamstresses to copy the latest couture.[3] Other women soon expressed interest in Schön's designs and in 1958 Schön and her mother opened a workshop.[3] Schön had her first show in 1965[1] and in 1966 she opened a boutique on Via Monte Napoleone, the center of the Milan fashion world.[4] The Via Monte Napoleone shop was decoarted with modern furniture by Joe Colombo and Eero Saarinen.[3]

In 1965, Schön showed her collection at the Pitti Palace in Florence along with other major Italian designers.[3] For this show, all of Schön's fashion were in various shades of violet.[3] Afterwards, The New York Times called her “the shrinking violet of the Italian haute couture” (1968) and declared she did not “make clothes for shrinking violets" (1973).[1]

Schön’s work was introduced in the United States in 1967 in Dallas and Houston by Neiman Marcus.[1] In 1969, she designed uniforms for Air Italia.[3] Schön’s men’s line and her her first prêt-à-porter collection for women appeared in 1971.[1] In 1972, she designed uniforms for Iran Air.[3] Schön was the first Italian designer to show ready-to-wear in Japan.[3]

By the 1980s, Schön had shops in Italy, Japan, and the United States with offerings that included handbags and shoes, lingerie and watches, perfume, swimwear and eyewear.[1] In 1992, she designed the Italian national team at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.[3]

In 1993, the brand was taken over by Itochu, a Japanese conglomerate, which sold it to Burani.[1] In 2007, the brand was acquired by an Italian company, Brand Extension.[1] In 2005, Ronna was the Mila Schon ready-to-wear license holder in Japan with retail value of €30 million.[5]

Style and Influence[edit]

According to The Telegraph, Schön's work "combined Balenciaga's austerity of cut, Dior's versatility and a dash of Schiaparelli's wit."[4] Her clothing was often geometric and acoording to Frances D'emilio at The Boston Globe, "fashion-world examples of cubism."[6] Schön signatures included intricate beading and wool coats that eschewed traditional linings in favor of “double facing” (two layers of wool stitched together).[1]

Her designs borrowed from the modern art she collected - Victor Vasarely, Kenneth Noland, Alexander Calder, Lucio Fontana.[3]

Examples of Schön's work are held by museums such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art[7] and the Victoria and Albert Museum.[8] Shortly after Schön's death in 2008, Milan's Palazzo Reale exhibited a retrospective of her work.[6]

Famous Clients[edit]

Schön’s clients included Jacqueline Kennedy, Lee Radziwill, Marella Agnelli,[1] Farah Diba, Imelda Marcos,[3] and Brooke Astor.[9]

At Truman Capote's 1966 black-and-white ball, Marella Agnelli was voted the best-dressed guest in a kaftan embroidered by Schön's craftswomen. The third in the best-dressed guest contest was Lee Radziwill in a sequined Schön shift.[3]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Weber, Bruce (2008-09-05). "Mila Schön, 91, a Pioneer of High-End Ready-to-Wear, Is Dead". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-09-15. 
  2. ^ [1] Interview with Mila Schön: "Mila, al secolo Maria Carmen Nutrizio, nasce infatti nel 1919 a Traù, un anno dopo la caduta dell'impero austro-ungarico. Il padre è farmacista e proprietario terriero, la mamma una Luxardo del maraschino di Lussinpiccolo, il fratello Nino diventerà giornalista e sarà fondatore e per lunghi anni direttore del quotidiano milanese «La Notte». Dalla Dalmazia, che lascia a tre mesi con la famiglia, si trasferisce a Trieste, in una casa del centro storico, dove vive e studia fino a diciott'anni." (Mila is born as "Maria Carmen Nutrizio" in 1919 in Traù, a year after the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire...)
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Horwell, Veronica (2008-09-12). "Mila Schön". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2016-09-15. 
  4. ^ a b "Mila Schön". Retrieved 2016-09-15. 
  5. ^ Chevalier, Michel (2012). Luxury Brand Management. Singapore: John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 978-1-118-17176-9. 
  6. ^ a b "Mila Schoen, 91; Italian fashion designer was dubbed the 'signora of elegance' - The Boston Globe". Retrieved 2016-09-15. 
  7. ^ "Collection". The Metropolitan Museum of Art, i.e. The Met Museum. Retrieved 2016-09-15. 
  8. ^ "Evening dress and coat | Mila Schön | V&A Search the Collections". Retrieved 2016-09-15. 
  9. ^ Gordon, Meryl (2009-10-22). Mrs. Astor Regrets: The Hidden Betrayals of a Family Beyond Reproach. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN 0547348274. 

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