The Brazilian designer made her debut at Milan Fashion Week this weekend, turning out a boundary-pushing collection in a city that largely ignores anyone bigger than sample size
Karoline Vitto has been carving out a name for herself on the London scene for a while now, first by her own hand as she graduated from the revered Royal College of Art in 2019, and more recently, with the help of Lulu Kennedy and Raphaelle Moore, who recognised the Brazilian designer’s talent and vital mission and quickly enrolled her in their Fashion East incubator programme back in 2022.
Across the course of the last two seasons, starting during the SS23 LFW shows, Vitto has developed the aesthetic she first honed at the RCA, which celebrates and accentuates the bumps and bulges women are conditioned to hate through sculptural metal inserts that turn the folds into sensual, fleshy vignettes. While doing so, she’s also turned the established catwalk ideal on its head, by casting a troupe of models no smaller than a UK size ten, and ranging up to a UK 26 at each of her Fashion East shows.
By all accounts, with two Fashion East outings under her belt, Vitto should have been showing her third and final collection with the initiative in London last week, but stylist and Perfect mag founder Katie Grand had other ideas. Like Kennedy, Grand – who has long featured larger models like Ashley Graham and Paloma Elsesser in the pages of Perfect and earlier publication Love – saw something special in what Vitto is doing, and put her in front of Dolce & Gabbana as the next candidate for the Italian house’s own talent incubator. Seemingly they liked what they saw, because today, on the last day of Milan Fashion Week, when the sun shone for the first time in a week, Vitto made her MFW debut with the support of the house.
With access to the brand’s vast archives, plus the support of a full team of skilled workers in the Dolce atelier, Vitto was able to scale her collection up from the usual ten or so looks at Fashion East, to over 30. Led by new-gen supermodel Ashley Graham, out came a cast made up entirely of curve girls in Vitto’s signature barely-there slips, slinky cutaway pencil skirts, skimpy swimwear, and low-rise trousers, with lots of looks finished with metal laddering that snaked from hip to knee, curved metal sculptures that framed folds and creases on the more decorative end of the scale, and helped support larger busts and bodie at the more practical end.
Wiggle skirts, like the one worn by Graham, came matched with extreme slashed vests, and sat low enough on the back as to offer a flash of butt cheek, and denim played its part too: dark indigo styles sat high on the waist and widened into a thick turn-up at the hem, while the material was elsewhere transformed into a boxy bomber matched with a black diaphanous floor-length skirt. Taking inspiration from D&G’s 1992 collection, Vitto also peppered the offering with leopard print, with a sexy satin printed bra paired with a bias-cut silk skirt, and a structured corset tucked into a casual pair of ankle-grazing jeans.
“[Karoline’s clothes] make me feel sexy, confident, seen, and safe” - Ceval
Post-show, the excitement, particularly among the women attending, was palpable, with models and editors alike joining in a cacophony of whoops and cheers as Karoline and her cast made their way backstage. In an industry in which a huge swathe of the biggest houses are controlled by men, and male designers project their fantasies onto women, sometimes to their detriment, this was a show by a woman, for women, celebrating the things that women everywhere – large, small, and everything between – have been forced to hate, hide, and want to change.
Speaking to a few of the models backstage, it was clear this was an emotional moment for many of them, too. One, Sofia, visibly teared up as she explained what it meant to her to be cast in Vitto’s Milan debut, calling it “the best birthday present ever”, after she celebrated the occasion the day before. Rising star Ceval also had a poignant response to the question “How do Karoline’s clothes make you feel?” “They make me feel sexy, confident, seen, and safe,” she responded.
To see Vitto debut a collection like the one she just sent down the runway was a monumental moment for the industry, and particularly Milan, which trails miserably behind the rest of fashion’s big four in terms of body representation. In just a handful of years, at the very beginning of her career, she has made more of an impact on fashion than many could hope to in an entire lifetime