Milan fashion week is a study in tradition. The rest of the world imports and exports designers readily: Canadians to London and New York, Belgians and Japanese to Paris, Americans every-which-where. Italians show Italy. Roberto Cavalli, Dolce & Gabbana, Salvatore Ferragamo, Giorgio Armani, Pucci, Gucci, Marni, Versace. Italy holds a beautiful tradition in dressing well—one that goes back long before the modern invention of “fashion” and the designer as brand—a tradition of craftsmanship, of finery, of “la bella figura.” The art of making an impression. Of the four major fashion weeks (New York-London-Milan-Paris), Milan stands most apart, less interest in global trends than in continuing its tradition of la bella figura. Here are some of our favorite forms from last weekend in Milan.
In a season where print is everywhere, our go-to Italian printmakers, Missoni, Marni, and Pucci are blocking color, whitewashing, and exploring texture instead. Pucci played asiatique, Missoni sparkled, and Marni minimalized. The layered Marni standard was redacted down to basic Consuelo Castiglioni proportions. It was unmistakably Marni but, as Consuelo said, “More clean, more fresh, more light.”
A homecoming: Jil Sander is back at Jil Sander. After eight years away from her namesake house—and eight years of Raf Simons’ much lauded success at that house—Jil is back. This doesn’t happen very often. We are used to new designer appointments at long standing houses. We know the questions to ask: How will they work within/how will they refresh the tradition? But a return… here it’s so natural we simply take in the clothes: suits with cropped shorts and long jackets or cropped jackets and long skirts, empire silhouetted shirt dresses and vests, a palette of wine and indigo, black and white. A welcome homecoming.
Versus versus Versace
Versace is the brand of sexy. It’s not so much sexual—not sensual like Yves Saint Laurent in black lace, or authentically kinky like Vivienne Westwood’s Seditionaries or McQueen—it’s sexy. Versace is about an image of sexiness as put on by a woman as once imagined by a man (Gianni) and as upholded by his sister (Donatella). Remember, Gianni found inspiration in streetwalkers, the flaunted sexiness of an invitation to buy.
Versace is always best when it’s playful, a little ironic in its sexy pose, when it’s mispronounced by Nomi Malone in Showgirls. That’s why Versus, the Versace diffusion line originally launched as a gift from Gianni to his baby sister and muse Donatella and recently resurrected by Donatella in collaboration with Christopher Kane, looks so much better this season than regular old Versace: it is playful. Literally, with design elements that look like game pieces. Versus was Donatella’s brand and that’s where she is thriving these days.
The Sportmax designers claimed no historical referents. That’s impossible—the houndstooth pattern which they brilliantly laser cut out of leather has a history; that emerald green has associations; that first look looks like Proenza Schouler last season. But we understand what they mean. This Sportmax collection, the particular construction of minimal but sturdy forms, is 2012 modern: a look that looks right and only like, somehow, the now.
Dolce & Gabbana
Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana looked to Dolce’s homeland of Sicily for inspiration this spring. Most of this seemed to come from the colorful and decorative Sicilian donkey carts or “Carrretto Siciliano,” in prints with wheel motifs and skirts of woven raffia. Dresses supposedly printed like vases boasted armored knights and black women’s faces with floral headdresses.