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LA Fashion Week 2022: MM Milano mimics metamorphosis with moth-inspired designs

When designing her debut collection for LA Fashion Week, Chona Bacaoco said she drew inspiration from the intricate yet often overlooked patterns of the moth. These designs were translated into bold colors and seen on the runway as headpieces and appliqué. (Sakshi Joglekar/Assistant Photo editor)

By Zinnia Finn

April 4, 2022 1:52 a.m.

This post was updated April 4 at 1:53 p.m.

MM Milano is moving moths from the lamplight to the spotlight.

After showing collections in Paris and Milan, the brand made its LA Fashion Week debut on Friday as part of the event’s contemporary runway. Characterized by vibrant colors and decorative headpieces, the designs employed upcycled plastics and painted fabrics to imitate the form and coloring of moths. Founder and chief designer Chona Bacaoco said the collection was inspired by the intricate patterns of these creatures, whose symmetry and beauty have been long overshadowed by butterflies.

“Moths, they need to have their own identity,” Bacaoco said. “They look like butterflies, so people see the moth and (think) it’s a butterfly, … (but) it’s time for the world to know that moths are existing.”

Alluding to her insect muse, the show began with animated moths fanning across a digital backing as the first design – a vibrant pink dress with cap sleeves imitating moth wings – was showcased on the runway. The outfit was complete with a matching moth headdress, tilted to one side and composed of string lights, moth cutouts and multicolored tendrils that acted as antennalike protrusions. Behind the model, a screen projected kaleidoscopic moth patterns, which continued for the duration of the show, occasionally interjected with bold text proclaiming design inspiration or moth facts.

Sporting the same vibrant clothing as their adult counterparts MM Milano was the only Friday show in which kids walked, and Bacaoco said this was to promote the brand’s message of inclusivity. (Sakshi Joglekar/Assistant Photo editor)

[Related: LA Fashion Week 2022]

The first model was soon followed by another pair of fuchsia dresses. However, this time, the ruffled, moth-adorned ensembles were donned by two children. This was the start of a theme for MM Milano’s runway – as the only Friday show to employ young models, it passed similar silhouettes and colors between ages in a style that alluded to metamorphosis. Bacaoco said this format acted as a nod to both the moth’s life and concrete examples of diversity on the runway.

“We include every age, every color, every size,” Bacaoco said. We (just) had an 83-year-old grandfather walk in New York Fashion Week. For every age, it’s like the transformation of the moth’s life – the trouble, the pain, the complex personality.”

Adhering to these themes of change, the pink dresses were followed by bright orange garments, which provided a transition to the collection’s first taste of neon green. Trailed by two models in angular and tight-fitting magenta dresses, the third and center model was dressed in a ballgown whose skirt was crafted from chiffonlike material and scattered with stitched-in sequins. The bodice of the dress was fitted and studded with a denser sequin array before giving way to an illusion of sleeves created by a wide and ruffled strip of fabric wrapping the model’s shoulders.

Though her hair was adorned with moth cutouts, similar to her counterparts, the center model also had an upright set of gold branches sprouting from her head, elongated to mimic antennae. It was one of the more elaborate headdresses of the night, and hairdresser Bambi McClone said techniques such as creating an anchor for the piece with wires and braids were used to hold the branches up. Although these core methods of styling do remain the same for each look, she said the results can vary drastically to fully fit each designer’s vision.

“You really have to understand their whole vibe and what mood they want it to be,” McClone said. “Whether it’s fun and playful and colorful, or if it’s serious and dark.”

Bacaoco said she chose vibrant colors for her collection in opposition to current trends of neutrals and pastels. The dresses, which ranged from figure-hugging to flowy, were inspired by metamorphosis and the different stages of the moth’s life. (Sakshi Joglekar/Assistant Photo editor)

This understanding of the atmosphere of each show is not just exclusive to hairdressers – it is felt by models as well. Mary Smith, who walked for MM Milano this year, said she fell in love with the show’s artistic production, organization and positive energy.

In addition to inclusion showcased by the models, a strong message of MM Milano’s brand is sustainability – which is also a key component for all of LA Fashion Week’s Fall Winter 2022 shows. Bacaoco said some of the dresses on the runway were salvaged from pieces that were 10 or 15 years old, and the headdresses were all crafted from recycled materials such as bottle caps and coffee containers. The less glamorous but equally rewarding side of fashion design, she said, was when she was digging through the rubbish to find these components.

Despite the physical product of a runway show, Bacaoco said her core mission with this collection, and all collections, is to penetrate the superficial aspects of the fashion industry. She said her drive to design comes from a knack for storytelling, and she would much rather focus on an end goal of inspiring others through her designs as opposed to turning a profit.

“We are here not just for the brand to get known or appreciated. We are here to tell our story,” Bacaoco said.

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Zinnia Finn | Daily Bruin senior staff
Finn is a senior staff writer for Arts & Entertainment and PRIME. She was previously the Lifestyle editor from 2021-2022, an Arts reporter from 2020-2021 and a member of PRIME’s first intern class from 2019-2020. She is a fourth-year neuroscience and public health student from San Francisco, California.
Finn is a senior staff writer for Arts & Entertainment and PRIME. She was previously the Lifestyle editor from 2021-2022, an Arts reporter from 2020-2021 and a member of PRIME’s first intern class from 2019-2020. She is a fourth-year neuroscience and public health student from San Francisco, California.
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