Barbara Milani has followed in the footsteps of her parents, who made clothes for specialised shops as well as supplying a number of Italian fashion houses.

After working for many years with important fashion designers, she opened her own atelier in the centre of Milan, behind piazza Sant'Ambrogio. In the best Milanese tradition, Milani’s boutique offers simple, minimally elegant clothes for daytime and evening wear, as well as wedding dresses. In particular, customers can have the clothing on display adapted to their taste in the tailoring shop next to the showroom, where all of the items in the collection are made.

What type of training did you receive?

I studied economics at the Bocconi University and then I got my degree in art history. My parents had a small clothing business, and they sold these clothes to various boutiques. They also supplied a number of Italian fashion houses. It was only natural for me to approach this world. First I worked in the sales and production departments of famous fashion designers such as Moschino and Gianfranco Ferré. Eventually, I took over my parents’ business, transforming it into a dressmaker’s atelier where we make ready-to-wear clothes as well as custom-made ones.

I would be happy to pass this craft on to young people, but there are very few who are interested in learning.

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Fashion will live forever and this crisis will end one day. But, unfortunately, craftsmanship of excellence will be relegated more and more to a niche.

Do you train young apprentices in your workshop?

I would be happy to pass this craft on to young people, but there are very few who are interested in learning. When my dressmakers retire, it’s hard to find people to replace them. There are no more skilled dressmakers and new ones are not trained anyone, since mass production mentality reigns undisputed. It takes time and patience to learn, and in this day it is very risky to invest in training.

How do you promote your atelier?

A small business like ours cannot afford the exorbitant costs of traditional advertising channels, so we promote our atelier by using it as a location for cultural events: we host painters’ exhibitions, we present the works of other artisans and the production of small wineries. In this way we make our atelier known to a wider audience and through alternative channels.

What specific problems does your field face?

The artistic crafts are not adequately protected in Italy, because the approach is totally wrong: only factories that have an industrial output are supported. In numerical terms, a big company is obviously more profitable. Moreover, very little is done in terms of promoting and protecting the artistic crafts: the institutions should sustain craftsmanship, because Italy’s economy is based on small businesses, on their creativity and know-how. It’s the small artisanal businesses that make the difference.

What does the future have in store for your profession?

Fashion will live forever and this crisis will end one day. But, unfortunately, craftsmanship of excellence will be relegated more and more to a niche.