Milan Fashion Week: the top trends for autumn-winter
Many designers invoked the colours and splendour of the Renaissance, but some took a more purist line - including Donatella Versace
Strong themes emerged for autumn-winter at Milan Fashion Week, which closed on a positive note - leaving the city to finish primping itself in readiness for the opening of the World Expo in May. The famous shopping precinct Galleria Vittorio Emanuele off the Piazza Duomo has been given a facelift courtesy of Prada, which is opening a new arts foundation in the south of the city in a couple of months.
Italy is in need of a morale booster given its economic woes and the impact of an overwhelming influx of refugees arriving by boat from North Africa. Fashion is one of the biggest contributors to the economy, and the government is investing more than €40 million (HK$350 million) to prop up business and the coveted "Made in Italy" label.
Knockout collections from Prada, Versace, Moschino, Dolce & Gabbana and Pucci brought big smiles from the large American retailers, imagining the amount of business they will clock up with the terrific clothes on these catwalks.
Alessandro Michele was making his debut for Gucci, having set the cat among the pigeons with his gender-bending menswear collection in January. Some of the floral trouser suits from that show were reprised on the catwalk along with his nerd-chic, over- the-knee pleated skirts, floppy bow blouses, bobble hats and furry shoes. It was a quirky, offbeat start for Michele, whose aesthetic is a long way from the urban chic of his predecessor Frida Giannini or the high- octane glamour of Tom Ford.
For va-va voom clothes, customers have been looking to Peter Dundas at Pucci for the past six years, but the catwalk bow with his team indicates, as rumoured, that this was his last collection and he may be moving to Roberto Cavalli, where he was chief designer between 2002 and 2005. His sights, nevertheless, were set on the stars, with zodiac signs embroidered in gold on sexy, midnight-blue velvet dresses or worked as motifs in print, or intarsia sweater dresses and furs.
With sequinned optical tunics and leggings and vibrant red tunics, he was not alone in bringing some sparkle to the collections - whether it was the glittery lurex yarns threading through knitwear and dresses at Bottega Veneta, Missoni, Etro and Gucci, the jewelled branding at Versace or the ghetto-fabulous bling at Moschino.
Jeremy Scott's skinny urban hipsters at Moschino wore gilded medallions, giant duvet coats and quilted minis - highlighting a new trend for quilted outerwear which will thrill puffa specialists Uniqlo. It is debatable whether Fendi's empire-waisted puffa dresses will make it to retail, or that MaxMara's more finely quilted pencil skirts can be worn by your average woman as opposed to size zero models, but there is no denying there was plenty of quilting on show.
Finely quilted coats at Max Mara, and jazzy, key-patterned black belted quilt coats at Versace look a safer bet.
A palate cleanser to the bling came from fashion purists such as Jil Sander (the second collection under Rodolfo Paglialunga), Fendi, Marni and Donatella Versace, who was showing more of those terrific cut-out dresses that she presented at haute couture, in bright primary colours. Karl Lagerfeld was inspired by geometric abstract artworks that lined the Fendi catwalk, showing lots of clean-cut leather skirts and coats teamed with his high-collared white shirts.
In contrast, Consuelo Castiglioni picked out long, sombre silhouettes for her raw-edged sleeveless coats and coat-dresses at Marni. Her textures were all grainy and dense wools and tweeds, with tussah silk brocades and flourishes of floral print to counterbalance the solemn theme. Paglialunga, meanwhile, cut the Jil Sander collection with precise geometric lines, long and lean and broken up with giant checks or bright bolts of colour.
Tomas Maier worked colourful grid and matrix patterns on coats and trousers at Bottega Veneta, at times mixed with a floppy bowed silk blouse and a lurex tank top. This coat-and-trouser combo was a key trend around the shows, worked in clean straight lines at Sander and Bottega Veneta or more decoratively in the geometric and colour-blocked patterns mixed with tapestry at Etro.
Etro, Alberta Ferretti, Uma Wang and Gucci were all drawn to Italy's rich cultural heritage for their collections, with Renaissance hues worked in lovely textures. The cash-strapped Italian government's call on the luxury industry to help restore its great cultural pillars has inspired the brands to look at the warm colour palette of the great masters of the Italian Renaissance. Uma Wang, who showed in the faded grandeur of the Scalone Arengario in the Piazza Duomo, was inspired by the setting to produce a warm palette worked in tapestry and organic textured voluminous dresses and coats.
The independent-minded Miuccia Prada produced a knockout collection this season, working acid greens with sugary pinks for her schoolboyish tweed trouser suits, neat '60s coats and sweet but stiffly shaped baby doll tops (in double jersey and jewelled) slipped over cropped trousers and worn with Mary Janes. It was closer to late Hitchcock than Renaissance, with long leather gloves, jewels and neat bags.
At Dolce & Gabbana's homage to motherhood, there were a lot of babies on the catwalk with their model mothers, wearing dresses encrusted with roses or enchanting numbers covered in naive children's paintings. Dolce & Gabbana's parade of divine embroidered dresses provided an uplifting close to the Milan collections.