An insider's guide to Milan Fashion Week

Editor in Chief Alison Tay reveals every industry insider's home from home at Milan Fashion Week
An insider's guide to Milan Fashion Week
Piazza del Duomo as envisioned by Sara Shakeel

When it comes to fashion week, there’s only one factor more important than the shows you’re attending, and the designers you’re wearing, and that’s where you’re staying. It becomes your launchpad for what is essentially –  serious spoiler alert – an impossible obstacle course that sees you manically bouncing between historic locations across Milan as far apart as Fondazione Prada in the south to Via Bergognone on the other side of the city for the Armani shows, then back again for the resees (fashion speak for a close-up, static viewing of the collection a second time in the showroom minus the smoke and mirrors of the show spectacle).

After the party it's the...

So as well as your walk-in wardrobe for the week, and the address for a conveyor belt of outfits, invitations and Uber pick-ups, your base, not only has to serve as something of a sanctuary, but also has to be optimally located to ensure that all the above happens as effortlessly as possible.

Enter Hotel Straf, a Design Hotels member just off Piazza del Duomo. The self-proclaimed, “mesmerising monument to deconstructivist aesthetics” may have started life as a 19th century Milanese Palazzo, but Italian architect and designer Vincenzo de Cotiis has erased any suggestions of the past with a raw, eclectic mix of cement, bronze, burnished brash, and gunmetal-infused interiors for an urban industral edge.

Expect an eclectic mix of raw cement, split slate and gunmental aiming to achieve industrial zen

This mood carries through to the 64 guest rooms and suites replete with oxidised brass, split slate, scratched mirrors, burnished iron, and torn, aged gauze. Book an executive room or one of the two connecting suites on the top floor for a private terrace which looks out over the spires of the Duomo for a reminder that you’re still in Milan. Meanwhile, live DJs in the lobby get your evening off to an upbeat start, and for late-night after-show snacking, the hotel bar is local favourite and open until midnight.

Hotel Straf faces Rinascente, the department store that not only houses the likes of Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci, Emilio Pucci and Chloé for any fashion emergencies, but also boasts an Aldo Coppola hair salon to keep your blow-dry fresh for the front row, and also its own branch of Milanese homegrown hipster café God Save The Food, and – wait for it – a rooftop mozarella bar, Obicà, with heart-soaring views of the historical surroudings to complement its mouthwatering menu. Stick a fork in me, I’m done.

Executive rooms and suites have private terraces looking onto the spires of the Duomo

Not shopped out yet? You’re in luck. Hotel Straf is also in the shadow of the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Italy’s oldest shopping arcade dating back to the19th century and that has been lovingly retsored to its former glory under the patronage of Prada and Versace.

You emerge from the glass-roofed splendour of Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II onto Piazza della Scala, home to Milan’s fabled opera house, which last season turned into a lush, leafy garden to host the Green Carpet Fashion Awards in celebration of style and sustainability, with a glittering guest list including Cate Blanchett, Julianne Moore,  Cindy Crawford, Elle Macpherson and Colin Firth.

Straf Bar is open until midnight for post-show hangs

Keep walking and you’ll pass famed shopping street Via Montenapoleone, before finally reaching PAC – Padiglione d’Arte Contemporanea: a contemporary art pavillion-cum-exhibition space and show venue for Tod’s – found at Via Palestra, 14.

So with Milan Fashion Week all mapped out, your most diffcult task is working out which of the after-show parties to hit. Thank me later. 

Find Hotel Straf at Via San Raffaele, 3 Milan 20121, Italy. Call +39 02 80 50 81 or visit