By all measures, this was a hot Milan Fashion Week. Lively spring collections, supermodels galore and a grueling schedule plumped up by designers celebrating milestones had pretty much everyone talking about what was on the runways, even my amiable driver, Antonio, who gets me from show to show without losing my mind.
“I heard on the radio this morning that the ’80s are back,” he said on Saturday, as we headed to Salvatore Ferragamo.
“That seems like a pretty grand generalization,” I told him.
“And flowers,” he said.
“Groundbreaking,” I said, unable to resist a movie reference even though it went right out the window.
As good as the shows have been, with clear trends, inviting colors, and clothes that look purposeful, it has been a little difficult to get a read on the bigger picture. True, Donatella Versace had shown a straightforward and practical (practical for Versace, anyway) collection the night before, with nods to ’80s logos and bright flower prints that had been cut up in to strips and panels and reassembled into her signature sexy dresses. But it didn’t read like the ’80s were a predominant message. In her nearly neon dresses and fun wraparound styles, there was more of a beachy, relaxed vibe that took a breather from the duty of rewriting the codes of empowerment dressing, for a season at least. Versace’s new mission is the empowerment of supermodels, her latest recruit being Shalom Harlow, who closed the show, as marvelous as ever.
The extended heatwave of a hot Italian summer may have gotten to designers in more ways than one. Alberta Ferretti’s lineup was super relaxed with lace tops and sunset pastel tent dresses that looked especially light and welcoming.
Missoni’s 65th anniversary collection had a delightfully beachy Palm Beach palette, but crystal trims lent an unexpected note of formality to the house’s normally relaxed knitwear, and in fact, I could see some of those brightly colored mélange jackets and trousers working quite smartly into a working woman’s wardrobe.
MaxMara (more of a winter-weather friend, given its strength in outerwear), added some zingy frills to a trench and blasted a trio of pop yellow outfits into a collection otherwise consisting of dolled-up khakis and black. And it’s still hot here this week, with the temperature hovering around 84 degrees, turning many of the venues into ovens. This made it strange, at MaxMara anyway, to see so many influencers wearing their finest winter regalia — Bryanboy in a thick camel suit, Caroline Vreeland in a heavy coat and long gloves, some other lady, whose influence escapes me, wearing a brown fringed mohair wrap coat. I suppose we all have to sing for our suppers in one way or another.
Among the trends of Milan (red car coats are having a moment, for some reason, as are loose macramé overlays, like the ones at Ferragamo that resembled the beaded coverings taxi drivers sometimes use on their car seats), one of the most prevalent was the appearance of rubberized logos appearing on clip-on straps on handbags, and this speaks to the resurgence of Miuccia Prada as a tastemaker. Bringing back those sporty black nylon bags, along with twists on the Prada logo, was a smart decision — you see them everywhere on the streets of Milan (and now on other runways). Prada’s spring collection was the ultimate hit of the Milan shows, offering another throwback, here to the days when clothes were smart, whimsical, revealing in some cases, and (don’t hate me, Miuccia!) commercially appealing, what with those wickedly alluring printed skirts and embellished short dresses that Prada does so well back in the mix. Meanwhile, Mrs. Prada seemed to enjoy confounding the fashion press in pre- and post-show interviews by railing against “simplification,” and who can blame her? Sometimes, clothes are just clothes.
For Giorgio Armani, clothes are a reason for serious study — a study of the color blue in the case of his signature collection, which offered variations of navy, cobalt, electric, possibly Smurf and Pop Rocks, too, in a collection that hit all the blue notes in the world, and yet still managed to be rather cheerful in a glittering way. A couple of dresses had plastic shells wrapped around the bosoms, as if they were freshly wrapped for display. His Emporio Armani collection was shown earlier in the week at Linate Airport in a big celebration with a performance by Robbie Williams, and designs that veered more toward the softly elegant (and occasionally perversely sheer) style that made Armani a king.
Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana, who closed Milan Fashion Week on Sunday, were not about to be upstaged, not in the supermodel category or any other for that matter. Cardi B sat in the front row swathed in leopard prints (including her sunglasses). And the show models included Carla Bruni, Karen Elson, Eva Herzigovà, Isabella Rossellini and her family, Helena Christensen, Lady Kitty Spencer, and many more assorted influencers and their ilk. What’s more, there were some clever takes on the wicker trend (a dress woven as if from the caning of a café chair), and others made of tiers of tassels, plus a few of their signature surrealist touches, like a dress printed with chocolate popsicles, which, as hot as Milan has been, looked delicious.