The Best Of Milan Fashion Week

Milan Fashion Week kicked off with a terrific Gucci collection from Frida Giannini. Inspired by the Roaring Twenties and boasting black, white, and jade green drop-waist dresses, ankle-button trousers, deco-esque skyscraper prints (inspired by the Chrysler building) and instantly covetable, tough luxe accessories, this was the perfect way to commemorate the brand’s 90th anniversary.

Miuccia Prada riffed on the notion of sweetness in her Spring 2012 outing, but she did so by marrying the idea of femininity with a far more masculine obsession: 1950s muscle cars (the show was dubbed “Women and Car Engines”). These twin muses came together beautifully in soft shouldered coats fashioned from lacy upholstery fabric, car-print bandeau tops, modernized varsity jackets, and pleated skirts and shoes emblazoned with high-octane leather flames. Gentleman, start your engines!

At Fendi, Karl Lagerfeld eschewed the cocktail club in favor of 9-to-5 designs filtered through a decidedly quirky Italian lens: chic day dresses in borrowed-from-the-boys shirting fabric, striped skirt suits, a navy double-breasted cold shoulder jacket with roomy grey trousers, and skin-baring, mesh-panel cardigans that would definitely make the fellas at the office do a double-take. As would the undone bouffants, oversized rimless sunnies, and glittery gold eyeshadow that accompanied the looks. More adaptable to real life were the tricolor sandals and softly structured leather handbags.

With Scarlett Johansson sitting front and center, DOLCE&GABBANA channeled summer in small-town Italy circa 1950s in their feel-good collection, full of figure-flattering bustier dresses, granny panty swimsuits, and midriff-baring halter tops with matching circle skirts (many in retro flower and vegetable prints overlaid with lace appliqués). Completing the picture: plastic veggie jewelry, colorful straw bags, and wicker-soled platforms. For evening, it was all about the sexy Sicilian widow (think fitted black cocktail frocks and heavily beaded minis). And in case you missed the point, there was a festive carnival-light backdrop and Sophia Loren singing “Mambo Italiano” on the soundtrack.

Versace also went the nature route, but instead of the garden, Donatella took a dip in the deep blue sea with pretty dresses aswirl with starfish, studded neoprene shorts, and mermaid-print skirts in soft shades of white, blue, and mint green, the models perched atop sky-high Lucite platforms.

Jil Sander was a lovely lesson in restraint, as designer Raf Simons riffed on mid-century modernism and uniforms (specifically, those worn by resort spa technicians) by way of pristine white dresses reworked every which way, and paisley separates whose austere silhouettes were lent a playful edge thanks to their colorful fabrication. Standout looks included an open weave knee-length black sweater dress over a spare white mini and a short sleeve white pleated column dress that looked like the sexiest nurse’s uniform ever.

Seventies-era Brigitte Bardot was Peter Dundas’ inspiration at Emilio Pucci. This came to life by way of long skirts and midriff-baring tops in turn-up-the-volume red and sexy black lace (like the two-piece look Gwyneth Paltrow wore to the Emmys), along with lace-trimmed bike shorts, bra-baring blazers, and fluttery handkerchief hem frocks. And, this being Pucci, there was no shortage of the house’s signature swirly prints, updated for a new generation of fashion lovers.

Over at Marni, meanwhile, Consuelo Castiglioni reworked Sixties shapes using whimsical fabrics (cartoonishly colorful daisies, Pop Art circles, graphic awning stripes), as is her quirky-cool wont. The most winning looks here were the simplest, such as the yellow, pale blue and bright pink A-line dresses, a pair of jewel-toned fit-and-flare skirt/top ensembles, and a quartet of tribal-feeling shifts – all of which had sheer nude slips peeking out at the hem that elongated the body beautifully. Equally winning: the two-toned spectator bags and chunky-heeled pumps, worn here with nude socks.

Bottega Veneta’s Tomas Maier focused on high-tech-meets-handicraft with a dash of wanderlust, which could be seen in the many jewel-toned pleated dresses (pleats are shaping up to be a big spring trend), tonal PVC and leather dresses, artfully distressed denim, plaster- (yes, plaster) beaded sheaths and a gorgeous silk caftan blouse worn with painterly pastel pants, making it look as though the model had stopped off in Marrakech and Miami on her way to Milan.

Angela Missoni took mix-and-match to a whole new level with a spring collection based on the idea of a young girl coming home after a night out dancing, with a mash-up of uber-colorful, layered looks featuring dresses over pants under jackets and shawls, often in deliberately clashing prints. Ruffles, fringe, asymmetrical hems, zigzags, and animal prints pushed things even further into flamenco-disco-gypsy territory.

Giorgio Armani paid tribute to twin muses: moonlight reflected on water and the pearl – its iridescent hue and soft, light-reflecting properties – in his Spring 2012 outing. The result: a truly lyrical runway show in which lustrous silk skirts and one-shoulder blouses had a sensual shimmer, and slim, ankle-slit trousers gleamed softly like the ocean at midnight. Elegant skirt suits were perfect in their Asian-inspired restraint, and a series of strapless sheaths in icy shades of blue and lilac cascaded down the wearers’ bodies like water. It was, in a word, stunning.

Closing the Milan shows, Roberto Cavalli took his audience on a psychedelic, heavy metal trip as the week ended, complete with lavishly embellished gold tuxedo jackets, gold sequin fringed minis, black lace cocktail frocks with colorful printed pleats, and bold floral print suits that skewed more sexy than sweet. This being Cavalli, there were also plenty of animal print pieces and a slew of traffic-stopping gowns. Just the thing for red carpet regulars like Courtney Love, who sat in the front row swooning over Cavalli’s creations.

Lauren David Peden writes for Rue La La as a Contributing Editor.


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