Tuesday, 12 March 2013


It is hard to think of Italy without thinking of tradition, religion and (of course) extravagance, and Milan Fashion Week delivered in providing all three. Legendary Italian designers (think Gucci AND Ferragamo) presented collections that were chic, opulent and heavily inspired by the culture of the country. More upmarket than New York, less experimental than London and more classic than Paris, Italy is known for its fondness of excess, and the collections demonstrated this perfectly. I believe that the collections were extremely divisive - for example, some houses occasionally took excess too far by relentlessly clashing prints (Roberto Cavalli) whereas others used materials such as PVC in an unsuccessful attempt to create an experimental look (Versace). The true highlights came either when a brand stuck to a classic colour palette but experimented with cut and fabric (Prada) or followed a signature aesthetic but pushed it further than ever before to establish a strong brand identity (Dolce & Gabbana). So here are my highlights of Milan Fashion Week, a true testament to overstated glamour, relentless decadence and exquisite craftmanship. 

The one fabric that is undoubtedly having its moment this season is fur - so far this season several designers have turned to fur to add a touch of luxury to their collections, but Fendi made the brave decision to dedicate almost an entire show to the versatile fabric. Whether it was shaggy mohair dyed canary yellow, or a more traditional mink fur streaked with pink and purple, the collection incorporated both tradition and innovation. Although there were some chic, tailored looks, it was the more outlandish looks that truly provided the highlights of the show. For example, a ruffled black fur coat was decorated with racing stripes of hot pink, putting a playful twist on an otherwise traditional look. The hair and accessories added to this youthful spirit - models walked the runway with grey fox-fur mohawks, whereas wacky white sunglasses (oddly reminiscent of Willy Wonka) look set to become the must-have accessory of this season. Showing that the worlds of luxury and whimsy can co-exist, the collection was without doubt one of the most interesting of the season.

Towards the more refined end of the fashion spectrum was Tomas Maier's A/W collection for luxury Italian house Bottega Veneta. Choosing to stick to classic designs and add interest via sculptural silhouettes and left-field colour choices (Maier even succeeded in making mustard look sexy - not an easy task!), the collection stood out for its approach on turning old-fashioned clichés on their head. For example, wool was the predominant fabric choice of the collection, yet the fabric looked light and airy as opposed to stiff and restrictive. Cocoon coats were tightly belted to give an air of elegance and a feminine silhouette, whereas plunging necklines were used elsewhere in the collection as a nod to a more seductive aesthetic. There were also references to the Art Deco trend - a series of cream dresses were decorated so painstakingly with coloured embroidery that it gave the illusion of a painted work of art, whereas sheer detailling and intricate beading presented a modern take on the 1920s flapper dress. Overall, the collection a new take on the notion of femininity - by being sexy without being overtly obvious, Maier showed that high fashion doesn't always have to be about shock value. 

There is little to say about the Dolce & Gabbana collection that hasn't already been said. One of the few jaw-dropping moments of the entire season, the two designers managed to create a collection that married quantity and quality perfectly. There was progression in terms of design technique (the use of mosaic was particularly interesting), reference to the brand's history (vine-leaf motifs were frequently used whereas even the footwear was modelled on a traditional Sicilian garden) and finally a recognisable aesthetic. With a cast featuring some of fashion's most promising young talent (Karlie Kloss, Fei Fei Sun and Daphne Groeneveld were amongst the models chosen) and a series of consistently gorgeous jewelled scarlet dresses, the Italian duo truly raised the bar and created one of the highlights of the entire season.

Miuccia Prada has been having somewhat of a moment lately - after single-handedly spearheading the oriental trend with her futuristic take on the Far East for S/S, her Fall collection has once again been critically acclaimed by the fashion world, with many claiming that the collection showcased some of her greatest work. The wonderful thing about Prada is that it is a brand renowned for its versatility, and the A/W collection proved this. Whilst some looks were restrained, other looks were futuristic; where some looks were playful, others were more sombre. Amongst the highlights of the collection were a series of striped separates with a huge difference. First of all, although the colours were bright the fabric was tweed and the bright colours were specked with black and grey, whereas asymmetric hemlines, half-undone zips and off-the-shoulder tops all added an extra dimension to the overall aesthetic.

That was the wonderful thing about this collection - the looks were undeniably flawless, but there was always something a little "off" that gave the impression that an outfit had been casually thrown on. It was in these details that Miuccia managed to avoid the trap that many of her contemporaries fell into - by steering clear of looks that were overly polished, she managed to take fabrics such as tweed and make them appeal to a younger audience. Some looks were more outlandish - for example a series of block-coloured leather separates shouldn't work on paper, but when teamed with quirky brogues as opposed to heels they looked effortlessly cool as opposed to try-hard. One of the more offbeat highlights of the collection was a midi-length A-line skirt in bright red leather; it should never work on paper, especially when teamed with a powder blue gingham coat and orange heels, but once again it was all in the details. The flecks of red in the blue coat helped the skirt to pop, the heel of the shoe elongated the leg and helped to avoid the unflattering silhouette that midi-skirts can often cause and the choice of a plain black top prevented the outfit from steering into parody.

Finally, towards the end of the collection the looks started to progress more definitively towards the future. Taking what she began last season and exploring it further, there were subtle nods to the futuristic trend throughout the collection - from metallic gold and silver belts to the models' slicked-back hair, the references became more obvious towards the end of collection with metallic gold dresses and high-sheen alligator-print coats. Of course it's not the only trend that Prada has established this season - once again there were nods to the 1920s with beaded chiffon dresses and sequinned floral appliqué, whereas the cute gingham dresses gave a subtle nod to the western trend that looks set to take over. The fact that the scope of one collection can be so wide proves that Miuccia is one of the few innovators left in fashion, and is still able to create impressive collections that continue to subtly develop Prada's signature aesthetic.

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