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Dolce & Gabbana

Bold designs dominate autumn-winter collections at Milan Fashion Week

Opulence makes a triumphant return to Milan's autumn-winter catwalks,writes Jing Zhang and Francesca Fearon


Bold designs and artistic influences abound in Italian fashion, and this season is no exception. Here is a rundown of what the big labels offered during Milan Fashion Week.

Most are agreed that the hardcore minimalism in fashion spawned by economic austerity has largely passed. Sexy snakeskin (a major trend), leopard, and arty paint splatters make for a tougher, grown up Sportmax woman with a penchant for opulence and luxury. The shift obviously worked, since this is one of the most impressive, emotive collections the label has done for seasons. Thick belts and stiff peplum define this season's shape, and black-and-white contrast colour knee boots and sleeves make for a covetable graphic accent. Highlights include mohair coats and tops.

Supermodel Eva Herzigova returned to the catwalk at Pucci, slinking her way through the rooms of the Palazzo in a sheer black embroidered polo gown. "Savage chic" is the starting point for designer Peter Dundas. In an unexpected point of departure, Navajo motifs and Inuit tribal patterns adorn big jackets, thick knits, embroidered dresses and even trims on big fur coats. Metallic studs covering prints create an interesting overlay pattern on dresses.

Is anyone still in doubt of Alessandra Facchinetti's interpretation of the Tod's brand? Just after two seasons, the Italian designer has enhanced the identity of the brand and elevated the women's collection to new heights of elegance and artistic spirit. Taking inspiration from art, interiors and furniture designers, Facchinetti's graphic checks and patterns in black, white, and pale petrol blue are hypnotic and a little retro. Buttery, lightweight leathers were spliced and fitted together with great precision. Peplum belts and large visor hats made for striking accessories that you'll be seeing much of come autumn.

Huge screen doors pulled back to reveal an enchanted forest setting, as girls stepped out in short tunic dresses, and capes with wide sleeves and gem encrusted hoods. Mixing girly dresses with accessories like the embellished armoured hoods and similarly decorated gloves, this was a fairy tale wonderland bought to life. Billowing floral chiffon gowns, enormous fur hoods, embroidered key motifs and furry floral appliqués, made for an extremely playful, and literal, interpretation of the fairy tale theme. And who can ignore those colourful bejewelled accessories?

With big blonde hair, little skirts and big brassy buttons, Donatella Versace brought the glamorous swinging '60s to her Via Gesu catwalk. Bias cut dresses skimmed close to the body, and asymmetrical handkerchief hemlines made a big appearance. The tone was more subtle than the usual Versace fare, which can veer towards a highly sexed, amped-up, aggressive kind of beauty with all the bells and whistles. She used strong statement hues like teal, bold blues, reds as well as white and black, for outfits that were rather fluid, pairing them with lace-up knee boots and boxy, vintage-style bags.

Some really do like it hot. Roberto Cavalli certainly did this season, installing a huge ring of fire centre stage at his mainline show. Since he had packed hundreds of guests into the giant tent, health and safety did spring to mind more than once. Red flames tipped fur coats as well as the swinging fringed ends of long, sensual 1920s flapper-style dresses. There was the usual exotic snakeskin from the designer and plenty of chunky fur shrugs thrown over the shoulder for next autumn. Nothing sweet here despite some pure white outfits, it's feisty and ferocious for Cavalli girls come autumn.

The vivid swirling patterns projected onto a giant screen set the scene for Veronica Etro's collection. The rich textile heritage of her family's fashion house is a legacy she handles well, particularly with her Silk Road theme. Layering nomadic oriental carpet-patterned fabrics with tweeds, silk and Lurex was central, but she kept it on-trend with ponchos, shearling and a colour palette of greens, ginger, russet and navy. Tweedy blanket coats featured panels of oriental print and embroidery with a glimmer of metallic shine. Boho-style gilded printed kaftans were teamed with fox jackets edged with embroidery gave a '70s vintage feel.

With a retro palette of orange, ginger, mustard, turquoise and chocolate brown, Angela Missoni took us back to the '70s, a period when her parents' sensational knits were the peak of fashion. The family's signature zigzag pattern was amplified on a mohair and wool coat. She teams colourful patterns on blanket-style wrap skirts with skinny-rib polo shirts and a pair of gloves. Oversized coats, parkas and loose knitted layers tap into the key blanket-dressing trend for autumn.

Bottega Veneta
An understated elegance rules here, under the watchful eye of German designer Tomas Maier. This latest collection is no exception - a fluffy lambskin coat opened the show, then with demure crêpe dresses with flared skirts featuring graphic pleating and black and white optical prints. The stunning chiffon mini pleat dresses screamed sophistication - a powerful example of Maier's meticulous command of detail.

It was all purity and light for the label's first women's collection since the founder's third exit from the brand. Beautifully tailored suiting and coats explored some interesting, subtle shapes. Dresses were bias cut for fluidity and a little, irregular singular pleat or drape was employed cleverly here and there, adding dynamism. Spearmint, light rose and other chalky sorbet hues as well as textured greys and teal made for a lovely palette- resoundingly positive and fresh. A vinyl gloss on gentle abstract print dresses was a highlight as were the bright flatform shoes - especially those bright yellow lace-ups. A real return to the codes of the house here, but we are also looking forward to the design studio taking more risks.

To put it simply, this was a complicated collection. Consuela Castiglioni melded athleticism with tribalism and a hint of Japan at a house that originally crafted its name with fur. Confused? Somehow it made sense on the Marni catwalk. Castiglioni described her collection as "amplification, exaggeration, gentle distortion". Her starting point was the soft volumes for coats and jackets with shoulder-lines that tipped halfway down the upper arm and skirts with tiers of ruffles cut in felt or spongy neoprene fabrics, which created a sturdy structure for a sporty-meets-couture look. Colourful furs sprouting from collars added to the couture element.

Light and shadow in 50 shades of grey - the Italian fashion mogul employs soft flannels for the coming autumn. Classic Armani suiting is giving a relaxed twist with ankle skimming wide pants. Zesty lime green provides bold contrast to the greys and blacks, notably on a snakeskin jacket and embellished evening wear pieces and worn with low heels. A highlight was a shimmering green midriff-baring slip top paired with shimmering silver-grey wide leg pants.

Designer Massimiliano Giornetti has a clear vision of who the Salvatore Ferragamo woman is: feminine, chic, strong, but not vulgar. His latest collection was all those things, and it highlighted the skills in the Ferragamo atelier. A brushed plaid blanket coat and black blanket dresses, sharply outlined with black leather to emphasise their modern cut, were followed by coats and dresses with brushstroke patterns or leopard spots.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Dare to dream