Of all of the fashion houses that show in Milan, Anna Molinari’s, which includes Blumarine, Blugirl and her eponymous line, might be the most Milanese. Her popular work has all of the luxe qualities Italian women’s wear is stereotypically known for. There’s the rich fabrics, the shiny Swarovski crystals, the mink collars, the sky high slits, the plunging necklines, the thigh-grazing hemlines — you get the idea.

Over the past three decades, since she launched Blumarine in 1977, she has developed a reputation for churning out perennially glamorous gowns, which have made her an institution of sorts in Italy. In many ways, Molinari’s work is an extension of herself. She grew up in the scenic vacation resort town, Capri. She loves glamour, favours Impressionist paintings and smells of expensive perfume. She stays at the Four Seasons hotel and listens to Anastacia. And when she talks about her work she uses dramatic, romantic terms such as “passion” and “desire.” It’s a very ’80s brand of fabulousness, which isn’t such a bad thing considering the fashion world’s obsession with that era.

“I always design for myself,” admits Molinari, who is commonly known as “The Rose Queen” in her home city.

“My constant purpose is to offer the right harmony in proportions, colours and accessories. I’m designing for the woman who has to combine family and job, love and duties,” she explains.

While certain aspects of Molinari’s work seem to come from another time, other qualities are strikingly modern. For example, her autumn/winter ’09 show featured one of the most ethnically diverse model casts of Milan’s season. That’s saying a lot for a city that has received much criticism in the past for its longstanding racial homogeneity in fashion. Molinari says she appreciates the melting pot aspects of cities like New York.

“A woman who lives in New York is more cosmopolitan than a Milanese one. Every day, she experiences people from different cultures, living harmoniously together and she naturally absorbs these diverse influences,” she says. (Yes, even her view of race relations is somewhat romanticized.)

For her spring 2010 collection she’ll draw on her lifelong obsession with travel.

“It will be about nature and far-off destinations. Travel is a big source of inspiration for me,” she says.

“I try to capture all of the cultural and artistic aspects of my travels and mix them up through my own sensibility,” she says.

Her fascination with the visual arts stems from her art history studies in college. Meanwhile, she developed an eye for fabric very early on as a child, watching her parents work in their successful clothing factory.

“The fashion world, with its colours, details and embroideries, was a part of my everyday life. I began experimenting with it when I was very young,” she recalls.

Her spring collection will also play with texture.

“I’ll be using light fabrics and bright colours. It has an energetic and exotic vibe to it. But it will also be casual and chic,” she says.

Not that she will be abandoning her trademark sartorial drama. “Italian women love frills and embroideries. They approach fashion with a passion for elegance and wisely expressed femininity,” she says. With that in mind, consider her work an evolution of a constant theme.
“I don’t feel the need to keep up with what’s new,” she elaborates.

“But it’s always a challenge for me to satisfy my customers and attract new ones.”