From London, we move to Milan for the third installation in the Big Four Fashion Week Capitals. Milan holds historical grounding in being a producer of very traditional, very Italian modes of dress: think classic Italian leather goods, outerwear and dresses. What was interesting in this year’s Milan Fashion Week was that most of the shows demonstrated an effort to step away from this notion of classical tradition. I must say, these designers truly stepped out with their best feet forward and presented shows that gave the urban chic of New York and the uncanny rebellion of London a run for their money.
A hot ticket show of Milan was Gucci by Alessandro Michele. Michele was appointed the creative director of Gucci in January 2015. This appointment of such a creative genius is one of the best decisions that the Gucci Group has ever made in choosing a talent to lead the brand’s image into the future. Michele set the scene of the catwalk as a ’70s nightclub with a pink carpet for the models to strut down. The show was a visual feast of very individualized looks—not a single model wore a similar silhouette, color or image as another. The collection was made cohesive with floral motifs in the form of prints as well as embroidery on jackets, skirts and cardigans. The fabric choices were also worth noting. There was a balance of tulle ruffles, sequined dresses and pants, even knitwear. The show was truly an eclectic mix of high and low fashion styles.
Michele has truly impacted Gucci by completely breaking away from the sleek and commanding sex appeal embodied by the brand’s previous creative directors, like Frida Gianini and Tom Ford. He has paved his own way through adopting a sense of style for Gucci that is inspired by the way that today’s most fashion-forward individuals in the street dress. That is, he always mixes pieces of interest (think statement pieces of bold colors, silhouettes and accessories) with understated clothing options of comfort (such as over-sized jackets, cardigans, baseball tees and crewneck sweaters). With Michele continuing on the path that he is in his very own way paving, Gucci’s future is looking more brilliant than the impeccable sequined dresses that he created for this season’s runway.
Another brand that is pushing its DNA and taking inspiration from the now is Versace. Versace has always been a pinnacle of sex appeal, dressing women in provocative designs since 1978. You can imagine that it was to my surprise that this season’s collection took inspiration from the athleisure trend that has penetrated its way to the masses through the rise of fitness brands like Lulu Lemon all the way to the likes of Vassar students that wear Tevas with Adidas sweatpants, thrifted crop-tops and faux velvet choker. I know you know the archetype I am referring to.
Take that image of collegiate athleisure and imbue the sensual cuts and classic Versace tailoring and you have an image of this season’s collection. The show features jumpsuits, tracksuits, leggings, sweaters and windbreakers. Even the platform heels looked like a direct quotation from the straps of Tevas. Many of the dresses also featured parachute-like fabrics that resembled the wet drapery on the sculpted toga of a classical Greek statue. Donatella Versace and company truly achieved a balance of today’s contemporary modes of dress and style without compromising the brand’s sex appeal.
Finally, a show that delivered the same approach of being inspired by the present was Prada’s collection. Miuccia Prada, the brand’s founder and head designer stated, “Instead of exploring the history of women, which I have for a while, I decided to take care of now, the present, and trying to find elegance.” The designer could not have said it any better. The show was unlike any other Prada show for it truly featured designs and ways of constructing clothing for the female body that is nothing directly inspired by other trends. Of course there were dresses, jackets, skirts, etc., but Prada interpreted these very basic clothing items in a way that is, for lack of better terms, modern. I was highly impressed by the use of skirts because Prada designed them in a way that was not of any classical sense of femininity, but rather the skirts were more streamlined and just pieces of well-cut fabric wrapped around the waist—nothing fussy, suggestively sexual nor revealing. Another point of visual interest was the use of ostrich and marabou trimmings that were employed to accent stoles, envelope bags, necklines, pants cuffs and sandals. The models themselves looked sleek and polished, hair parted at the left and slicked down to the right, adorning radiant faces sans makeup, or at least the illusion of this.
In all, Milan Fashion Week demonstrated an interesting approach by the brands’ designers and creative directors as they pushed the limits of their respective houses’ signatures by truly situating themselves in and connecting with the now. This is not to say that all of the fashion houses of Milan adopted this approach. For example, Max Mara, Bottega Veneta and Jil Sander really went back to basics and let the clothes and the ateliers speak for themselves by sticking to traditional ways of constructing clothes, in line with the many years of designs that these brands have put out before. However, I choose to highlight and applaud the brands that have proven that instead of being institutions that try to change or control the way people dress, a brand is able to look to the trends in the world around them and be inspired by the visual feasts that the masses put on every day.