Sunday 20 August 2017

Cavalli leads the charge as change sweeps Milan

Skins, sequins, sheers and silks steal the show as Italian fashion goes back to its roots, writes Jessica Whyte

Roberto Cavalli
Roberto Cavalli
Emilio Pucci
Jil Sander
Bottega Veneta
Blumarine
Jil Sander
Emporio Armani
Gucci
DSquared2
Gucci
Missoni
Missoni
DSquared2
Alberta Ferretti
Emilio Pucci
Blugirl
Dolce & Gabbana
Prada
Roberto Cavalli
Prada
Prada
Blugirl

Jessica Whyte

Much to my surprise this season, I found the atmosphere at London Fashion Week was unpleasantly pretentious. There were far more coloured dots on the corners of show tickets, velvet ropes and PRs tapping pens on clipboards. So, it was with slight trepidation that I arrived in Milan last week.

Because if New York is trendy, London is hot (and seemingly bothered) and Paris is, well, Paris, then Milan is fashion. The stuff pumps through their veins (a silken hue of scarlet). Newborn babies are swaddled in Armani onesies, TV Moda is channel 6 and elderly women shuffle around the subway in Prada kitten heels and Saga furs.

What surprised me during my inaugural trip to Milan Fashion Week was its noticeably relaxed atmosphere. Shows generally started well after the scheduled time (at Prada, the first model exited a whopping 50 minutes late) and there were few or no celebrities being coochy-cooed by PRs.

Instead, Italian ladies gossiped chirpily in the front rows amidst the fashion press, while photographers wolf- whistled and bantered with the audience (a common tradition in this neck of the woods). Some shows even seemed a bit disorganised, with some locals finding their way into venues with a cheeky "scusi, scusi".

Over the past few years, however, fashion in Milan somehow lost its way. Perhaps it was a case of intimidation from the rise and rise of London and New York. The sexy siren silhouette that women pined for in the Nineties and Noughties from Italian houses such as Versace, Cavalli and Gucci made Milan fashion's hot to trot capital. It has taken time for many of these brands to realise that the party is well and truly over, resulting in many painful hangovers.

This season however in Milan, there was a definite sense of change in the air.

Kicking off the week's proceedings was Gucci, which celebrated 90 years in the business. After a tempestuous few seasons of trying to take over from the Nineties frenzy that was "Gucci: the Tom Ford years", Frida Giannini has finally cracked it.

Exotic teal shades were explored in a variety of fabrics from silk to python. There were also some stunning furs on show in an explosion of different colours from mustard to lilac and beyond. Eveningwear was also a real treat. Full-length, sheer gowns with large clusters of flowers gathered around the chest, neck and shoulders radiated, rather than oozed, sex appeal.

Gucci's focus on luxe fabrics (fur and leather), grandiose silhouettes of high collars and sweeping sleeves, as well as inventive texture combinations, were three of the main trends that carried through the week.

Prada kept it clean and elegant, with a collection that featured belted, double-breasted coats, knee-length dresses; some with exaggerated sleeves and others sporting geometric prints, not to mention a fleet of fur, from hats and stoles to long-haired coats.

Marni is headed for a very successful season in Brown Thomas, especially if the buyers have homed in on the prize offerings. The house's classic prints were showcased in an inviting colour palette of green, grey, peach, plum and purple. The emerald, cropped fur jackets were also a stand-out in a very sophisticated collection that will appeal to many.

Versace, known for its sex-rated appeal, surprised many with a regal collection of double-breasted military coats, high-collar, body-con cocktail dresses, crowned with evening dresses bursting with marabou feathers. The craftsmanship and attention to detail, not to mention the restraint that was shown in this collection, is testament to why this Northern Italian city is a fashion mecca to millions.

And it didn't stop there. Emporio Armani tantalised with an all-black collection of structured jackets paired with slouchy trousers, alongside frilled dresses with separated hexagonal puffed sleeves. Raf Simons for Jil Sander teased with velour cocoon jackets and cashmere knitwear and Pucci's Peter Dundas brought the house down with printed teal and brown dresses, featuring sheer, embroidered sleeves and pussy-bow collars -- yes, yes, yes!

Leading the way by a long shot, though, was Roberto Cavalli, who for quite some time I had given up on. Having seen countless renditions of the sexy Cavalli girl, it made me wonder whether Cavalli's own stamina had worn out. Last season, however, Cavalli decided to spice things up a bit with a dynamic spring-summer collection inspired not by sex, but by skins (namely snake and cow hide) and seams (fringing and feathering).

Was this to be a one-night stand? His performance for the coming autumn-winter season suggests otherwise. Models layered in skins, sequins, sheers and silks in colour palettes of burnt gold, gunmetal grey and inky black sent a collective shiver through the audience. This, combined with a dynamic play on texture, an alluring silhouette and a certain je ne sais quoi, has sparked within me a new-found love for Roberto Cavalli.

While it may still have some way to go, the coming autumn-winter season marks a new departure for Italian fashion, that has finally returned to its roots: fashion- with no strings attached.

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