Going full pelt

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 03 March, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 03 March, 2004, 12:00am

SHOW OF SKIN: Animal rights activists will be up in arms come autumn. Fur of all shapes, sizes, colours and origins was one of the strongest statements at the Milan collections, which ended on Monday.

And it isn't only specialists such as Fendi and Marni - which showed blanket-like, woven shawls and shrunken mink boleros, respectively - that are going all out. Prada, Pucci, Miu Miu, Moschino and Anna Molinari tossed fur trim at all manner of evening and outerwear, from heavy woollen coats to tiered chiffon dresses. Fox stoles, tinted in shades from deep aubergine to bubblegum pink, were ubiquitous, as were fur accessories.

Tom Ford, in his swansong collection for Gucci, was the least apologetic in his use of both, combining 40s-inspired stoles - heads and tails included - with his signature funnel-neck and caban jackets (these will be detachable when they hit the shops), as well as full-bodied minks spreadeagled across 105mm stilettos. The designer's favourite bag of the season? A dragon-buckled, mink clutch with tiny tail that will be a sure hit among the proudly un-PC set.

Eastern block: There was a mass exodus during the Milan collections, with designers as diverse as Miuccia Prada, Roberto Cavalli and Molinari for Blumarine interpreting middle European and Russian influences in their own signatures.

For Prada, which showed one of the best received and refined collections of the season, the look was luxurious and no-nonsense at the same time. Knee-length winter coats, in cold war wools, were embellished with fur collars and crystal beading, all worn with mannish Cossack hats.

At the other end of the spectrum, Cavalli - no stranger to tsar-like excesses - showed flirty peasant blouses and Hussar jackets with pendant bags that looked as if they once belonged in an Orthodox church.

Molinari showed 1970s-inflected peasant blouses and skirts with frogged jackets and vests, as did Pucci, where designer Christian Lacroix dulled his palette with not-so-drab loden and grey.

Another nod to the trend: an abundance of brocade, one of next autumn's key fabrics, as seen at Prada, Miu Miu, Emporio Armani and Marni.

Bella donna: For a city that doesn't mix signals when it comes to sex appeal, there was a surprising return to lady-like silhouettes. Neat, fitted jackets were everywhere, as were knee-length, fluted skirts - often with lace insets - at Dolce & Gabbana, Gianfranco Ferre and Moschino Cheap and Chic. Jil Sander, in her second collection since returning to the house she founded, showed one of the chicest versions, pairing a fluted skirt with a simple white blouse and black patent leather belt. Traditional tweed coats are also making a comeback, worn with feminine dresses at Alberta Ferretti and Louisa Beccaria, or given an early 1960s twist at Miu Miu. Also looking back were Moschino and Versace, which gave the classic Chanel suit a modern twist.

Autumn colours: Classic tones - full-bodied burgundies, muted earths, loden green, ochre and deep blue - figured strongly on runways such as Gucci, Ferretti and Prada, reaching an apex at Burberry, where Christopher Bailey combined them in a rich assortment of satin shirt dresses, ruffled capes, knit caps and PVC raincoats.

Metallics are also an important story, appearing at Jil Sander, Burberry and Dolce & Gabbana, where gold threads were woven into tweed coats.

Alternately, combine the two with flashes of iridescence, as seen in Miu Miu's mix of copper and shimmering purple hues.

Big nights: While many designers skipped the Oscars this year because of a show schedule that coincided with the awards ceremony, they clearly had the red carpet in mind when coming up with some of next season's most striking evening looks. Full-blown glamour has always been one of Milan's fortes, and its key proponents - Donatella Versace, Cavalli, Domenico Dolce, Stefano Gabbana and Tom Ford - did not disappoint. From punk princesses, as seen in Versace's slashed and studded chiffon confections, to Cavalli rare birds in barely there feather gowns or diamante-encrusted, keyhole numbers in red silk jersey, there are a number of options for next year's nominees. Old-school starlets should opt for a finale look from Dolce & Gabbana's collection, which harks back to Hollywood's golden - and silver lame - age, or one of Ford's full-length siren gowns with acid green paillettes and tassels.