Mila SchÖN - Fashion Designer Encyclopedia

Yugoslavian designer working in Italy

Born: Maria Carmen Nutrizio Schön in Trau, Dalmatia, Yugoslavia, 1919; raised in Trieste and Milan, Italy. Career: Opened atelier, Milan, 1958; first showed own custom designs, 1965; first boutique

Mila Schön, spring/summer 1967: silk damask suit (left) and striped linen suit (right). © AP/Wide World Photos.
Mila Schön, spring/summer 1967: silk damask suit (left) and striped linen suit (right).
© AP/Wide World Photos.
for womenswear opened via Montenapoleone, Milan, 1966; launched Linea Uomo line of menswear, alongside opening of new boutique, Mila Schön Uomo, at via Montenapoleone, 1972; Mila Schön 2, second company, set up in 1973 to produce and distribute Alta Moda Pronta, Miss Schön, and Mila Schön Uomo lines; launched perfume, Mila Schön, 1978; established Mila Schön Japan; took over running of company in Como, Italy, for the manufacture and distribution of textiles for all Mila Schön lines, 1983; Aqua Schön swimwear collection introduced, 1984; opened first U.S. shop, Beverly Hills, 1986; Schön retired; company bought by Japanese firm Itochu Fashion Systems and distributor Coronet; Andrea Pinto appointed director and new design team hired, 1994; Schön returned to help design, 1996; opened second shop in Russia, 1998; acquired by Mariella Burani Fashion Group SpA, 1999; Pinto departed, 2000; launched menswear line, 2001; also produces shoes, stockings, furnishings, eyewear. Address: Via Montenapoleone, Milan.




Lambert, Eleanor, World of Fashion: People, Places, Resources, New York, 1976.

Alfonsi, Maria Vittoria, Leaders in Fashion: i grandi personaggi della moda, Bologna, 1983.

Soli, Pia, Il genio antipatico (exhibition catalogue), Venice, 1984.

Stegemeyer, Anne, Who's Who in Fashion, Third Edition, New York, 1996.

Vergani, Orio, Birignao: piccolo lessico del palcoscenico, Udine, 1997.


Pertile, Marina, "Roma: la primavera di Mila Schön," in Vogue (Milan), March 1985.

"Rigorosamente femminile: grande moda a Roma: Mila Schön," in Vogue (Milan), September 1986.

"Mila Schön, lo chic," in Donna (Milan), July/August 1987.

Forden, Sara Gay, "Pinto Brings in Mila Schön in Attempt to Save House," in WWD, 29 June 1995.

"Mila Schön," in WWD, 24 February 1998.

Wilson, Eric, "Andrea Pinto Gives Up Directorship," in WWD, 21 June 2000.

Singer, Natasha, "Luxury Boutiques Start Pouring into Russia," in WWD, 28 November 2000.

"Far and Away—Fun and Games at Moschino to Dainty, Ruffled Romance at Mila Schön," in WWD, 3 October 2001.


Mila Schön's interest in high fashion began when she became a personal client of Balenciaga. Her family were wealthy Yugoslav aristocrats who had fled to Italy to escape the communist regime. Living the life of a wealthy Italian demanded an elegant wardrobe and Schön's natural grace and good taste made her an excellent couture client. She must have studied the business thoroughly during her fittings because, when the family fortunes were lost, she turned to the fashion industry in order to make a living.

Business began in 1959 when Schön was 35, with a small atelier in Milan, where Parisian models were basically adapted and copied, combining Balenciaga's austerity of cut with Dior's versatility, plus a hint of Schiaparelli's wit. By the mid-1960s Schön was showing more original work at trade fairs in Florence and Rome, establishing a reputation as a perfectionist who worked within the constraints of a classic design structure. Her tailoring was particularly distinctive, executed with faultless attention to detail and cut in her favourite double-faced wools. The resultant clothes were highly sophisticated and sold at the top end of ready-to-wear or in the Mila Schön boutiques in Rome, Florence, and Milan. Small wonder clients included wealthy socialites like Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, her sister Lee Radziwill Ross, and Babe Paley.

Schön described her company slogan as "Not how much, but how." This was reflective of her attitude towards high quality and taste. The company decided to translate the DOC (controlled origin denomination), a quality mark used in the wine business, for use on their clothes, denoting the company's attitude towards perfection. Schön was also very selective when it came to choosing clients in order to retain quality. She traded on what she described as a "medium circulation basis," so that when any side of her business was seen to make a marked profit, therefore operating beyond its limits, she started a new company to accommodate it.

There have been several diffusion lines and licensees since the company's inception. In line with the Schön business philosophy, these products have been marketed and sold through separately formed companies. Mila Schön Due is a less expensive ready-to-wear line; Mila Schön Uomo is the men's range. There is also a swimwear range, Aqua Schön, and a sunglasses range, Schön Ottica. Ties,

Mila Schön, autumn/winter 2001-02 ready-to-wear collection. © AFP/CORBIS.
Mila Schön, autumn/winter 2001-02 ready-to-wear collection.
scarves, fabrics, handbags, belts, and the perfume Mila Schön, were also produced.

By the mid-1990s Mila Schön, the designer, had retired, and her firm had been acquired by the Japanese trading company, Itocha, and the Coronet distribution firm. In 1994 the new owners hired Andrea Pinto, son of Pinto clan owning Krizia, to return the house to a higher profile, since it had lost much of its cache and was no longer profitable. Anna Domenici, also of Krizia, was brought over to help as a design consultant, and Pinto approached Schön herself to come back in 1996. The move was inspired, and so were the resulting collections. When the firm was acquired by Mariella Burani Fashion Group SpA in 1999, the Schön name was once again at the forefront of fashion, with new boutiques opening worldwide, including two in Russia, another in Prague, and plans for a third Russian store.

In 2001 Mila Schön was alive and well. In its coverage of the Milan fashion shows, Women's Wear Daily (3 October 2001) enthused over the firm's ability to add a hint of feminity to its traditionally tough-as-nails chic, "The hard edges of sculptured shapes were softened with cutout lace motifs and discreet ruffling. From day into evening, the delicate detailing appeared on almost everything, and, when it wasn't on the clothes, it found its way onto the accessories, from belts to boots."

Some 45 years after its founding, Mila Schön remains one of the most respected and established names in Italian fashion, representing design standards that are classic, flattering, and sometimes highly imaginative. Though Schön herself is no longer a fixture, her design sensibility ranked her among the finest Italian design houses in clientéle and prestige.

—Kevin Almond;

updated by Nelly Rhodes

User Contributions:


Comment about this article, ask questions, or add new information about this topic: