There are two things that Italy continue to do better than any other country, particularly in terms of fashion. The first of these two things is tradition - evident in the classically-tailored pieces shown at the likes of Emporio Armani as well as in the rich heritage of Italian houses such as Fendi and Prada. The second is luxury; only not in the way that we know it. Many Brits associate luxury with high-end basics such as a cashmere sweater or an expensive suit, but the Italian brand of luxury is a much flashier incarnation. It is emblemised by ornate colour palettes, oversized logos and heavy embellishment and best represented by the decadent looks of Dolce & Gabbana. Sometimes fashion is best when it toes the line of bad taste - fashion personalities Anna Dello Russo and Donatella Versace are renowned for their carefree approach to fashion and their penchant for excess. These two women embody the more-is-more approach to luxury adopted by the Italians, adding a touch of character to the industry with their infectious personalities and schizophrenic outfit choices, reminding us that fashion and fun are a marriage made in heaven.
|Backstage at D&G A/W 2014, by Lea Colombo|
It is unfortunate that for the majority of MFW this trademark personality seemed to be lost in a sea of neutral colour palettes, with many big designers either referencing a Seventies aesthetic (Missoni, Prada), or simply sticking to their house codes (Armani, Fendi). Perhaps it's just the case that Milan's Fashion Week seemed tame in comparison to the experimentaity of London's young creatives, or maybe it's just that the designers here were merely utilising the 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it' formula, but there seemed a reluctance to break free from comfort zones. Prada's A/W 2014 menswear show featured almost as many women as it did men - and it hardly seems harsh to say that the women looked better. Fendi showed us fur, Missoni showed us knitwear and Ports showed us tailoring - this isn't a criticism as such, it is just a vague disappointment when we consider the vast chasm of unexplored territory that remains in menswear. All negativity aside, there were some great moments to be found in amongst the shows, all of which are further underlined in this post.
If only for their 'jailhouse rock' set-up, DSquared2 provided one of the most interesting shows of the season with their urban take on prison uniforms. Quilted orange T-shirts were shown alongside rainbow-coloured Doc Martens and baggy denim, providing an alternative yet wearable take on modern streetwear. The 'Caten's Penitentiary' logo emblazoned on the back of bomber jackets acted as a stamp of personality, whereas double-denim was interrupted in the form of a jacket/suit hybrid and suit trousers were re-engineered with a drop crotch and a cropped hem. The show came to a climax with a series of padded textural fabrics in jewel tones (just one of many plays on a traditional silhouette) and culminated with a male model that managed to make his makeshift straitjacket look like the season's hottest piece. Overall, the duo succeeded in marrying formality with youth sensibility, resulting in a collection that was undeniably cool - the backdrop and in its inmates were a bonus, but it was the clothing that spoke loudest.
By combining clean lines with an air of utiliitarianism, the Iceberg A/W 2014 collection gave a fresh perspective on outerwear. Coats came complete with flaps at the neck and added pockets, as well as hardware detailing in the form of slick silver zips which criss-crossed over otherwise traditional pieces. The collection was also a textural feast, featuring plush furs with over-long silk shirts and soft mohair, resulting in a cool juxtaposition between masculine and feminine. Burgundy check trousers were teamed with matching shirts which crept out from underneath heavy knitwear and cropped bombers, whilst knitted snoods in a variety of colours and patterns provided the perfect finishing touch to the majority of looks. Geometric lines distorted luxury basics and a blown-up tartan print was the best of the collection, recurring in outerwear, trousers and even knitwear. It represented the overall theme of the show - it was traditional luxury, distorted and re-interpreted with a youthful eye,
DOLCE & GABBANA
Throughout their illustrious careers, many have labelled Dolce & Gabbana a 'one-trick pony', and it is true that they have a distinctive aesthetic. The heart of Italian history beats strong within the garments of every D&G collection, referenced relentlessly in the religious iconography and decadent attitude which underpins their work. However, to write them off is to underestimate the breadth of their vision; a breadth which is particularly visible in their A/W 2014 collection. Spanning a colossal 75 looks, the duo showed everything from silk boxer shorts to pinstripe velvet suits, all of which were offset by an enviable range of footwear. Medieval crowns were perched atop the models as they showed Baroque at its best - from the oversized sweatshirts with their ornate patterns and wide fur-trimmed sleeves to dinner jackets embroidered with gold leaf, at least the aesthetic was consistent. Models later became knights in woolen armour as metallic grey snoods were made to represent medieval chain mail. Knitwear was made from the same glistening material and embellished with rows of heavy studs - studs which also permeated luxurious furs and thick sheepskin coats. A darker aesthetic reigned supreme, resulting in a notable absence of colour. Instead, rich hues such as burgundy, gold and charcoal tied together a collection which proved that, sometimes, more is more.
Never knowingly subtle, it came down to political provocateur Vivienne Westwood to introduce social commentary to Milan Fashion Week. Fracking was the issue that had Westwood riled up, resulting in a futuristic/apocalyptic collection that referenced Star Trek as heavily as it did Woodstock. The standout looks of the show came courtesy of a layered silhouette which saw long hooded cloaks and anoraks teamed with luxe sportswear and high-top trainers. Shellsuits were sent straight to the future and re-imagined in a crackled metallic bronze, whereas grey sweatpants were emblazoned with oversized geometric prints - a chic way to stay comfortable. Despite everything, it was the designer's signature aesthetic that still prevailed, with the wide-cut trousers and oversized checks underpinning the collection and keeping it distinctly Westwood. The message may have occasionally been lost (apart from a one-armed coat whose empty sleeve looked particularly brutal), but the designer showed that she still has more imagination than the majority of her contemporaries.
Unsurprisingly, the most-talked-about show of the week came courtesy of Italian powerhouse Donatella. In a climate where homosexuality is once again repressed in Putin's Russia, Versace's homoerotic Western collection was a symbolic 'fuck you' dressed up in a gold codpiece. Backless chaps revealed bandana-print pants which left little to the imagination, a classic example of Donatella's sexed-up aesthetic. She also referenced Gianni's aesthetic by reviving the classic Versace silk shirt, layering the house staple under sharply-tailored jackets emblazoned with studded horseshoes and cacti. The designer's penchant for luxury was also referenced in a heavy gold padlock necklace, as well as in the knee-length fur and cashmere coats which were surprisingly restrained. The collection occasionally veered into bad taste but its easy to forgive in the context of the overall looks which celebrated the best of Versace. There were examples of classic luxury, examples of blatant exhibitionism and a camp sense of humour which underpinned the entire spectacle, chaps and all. It's clear that the house aesthetic won't be changing any time soon, but it is still an aesthetic that is needed to remind us all of the frivolity and unapologetic nature that made us fall in love with Italian fashion in the first place.