Milan has been synonymous with luxury business apparel for the longest, with silk cravatte and attaché cases stretching from one end of the Po valley to the other. But the city’s runways no longer seem that interested in keeping up the storyline and are leaning more heavily than ever into luxe sportswear. The Italian suit hasn’t died, and it never will, but its more relaxed cousin has shown up to the party and happens to have a juicier story. So what did #MFW come to serve for AW17?
When Prada’s show seating arrangements of OMA-designed latex-covered motel beds and ‘boiserie’ partitions were being revealed on Instagram, I wasn’t sure what to expect. The mint and yellow tiling and formica backdrops seemingly betrayed little but told us everything at the same time. A return to simplicity and essentiality was what Mamma Miuccia had in mind. Exquisite corduroy and leather dominated, the gouache paintings of ships in harbour every municipal hall reception area still has a yellowed outline of were transposed on covetably fluffy jumpers, pony hair belts, berets and touches of brown prevailed wherever possible. Terms Prada used to describe the collection ranged from 'femasculinity' to 'stay-at-home eccentric'. I hardly need to mention the womenswear mixed with menswear at this point, a great thing surely. Also, twigs for necklaces! All brilliantly styled by Olivier Rizzo. Prada clearly craves for a more analogue moment in time, the 70s as it seems, but thank heavens that computer thing did take off so I could write about it.
The Dirk Bikkembergs brand breathes anew, after the Antwerp Six original legend sold his namesake label in 2011. In June last year, British designer and Versace alum Lee Wood was appointed creative director and his debut collection has steered the brand firmly back to terra firma. The first thing that struck me is how this collection builds on the brand’s early Paris days, before sport couture became its chief identity. Gone are the glossy runways, the well-oiled lotharios of yore seem to have been relegated to their respective gym locker rooms and a toned-down, muted but well-cut sense of luxury has taken their place. The best thing is: since the show was styled by the great Tom Van Dorpe, we still get to claim a bit of Belgian dibs on this intriguing reboot.
The trail blazed by Walter Van Beirendonck's W< AW96 collection lays ahead of us once more! The mass appeal of Fendi and their steady surge in popularity (you can’t swing a cat in a highstreet without hitting a Bag Bug replica) seems to have colourfully trickled down into a rallying - albeit starkly expensive - message of trust, love and self-reflection (THINK emblazoned on an intarsia headband will do that) for AW17. Of course Silvia Venturini Fendi and her team gave us a panoply of furs as the brand’s furrier history dictates - from airplane neckbraces to mink bag straps - but the 80s ski resort luxury designs, John Booth rubber patches and Julian Ganio styling kept it from becoming a staid and old-world affair.
The slogan ‘J’adorerei Sunnei’ is the perfect introduction to this up-and-coming label. Designers Loris Messina and Simone Rizzo readily toy with proportion and print to represent a new sartorial presence in Italian fashion. Hitting all the right angles, but more fluidly so. Also one to keep an eye over your tinted lenses for.
If last season saw the Versace man strutting through the rain in the highest techno fabrics to reach his destination, he now has arrived (with a wet do) in a dark and gloomy Italo-Gotham to deliver some bad news. High-contrast tartans were pervasive throughout, a nod perhaps to Gianni’s AW91 couture plaid extravaganza, and archive prints were remixed in one feature blazer, featuring an Audrey Versace cameo (Donatella’s beloved Jack Russell). Waistlines severely cinched and black leather injected a sensual air that’s never far off with Versace, but completely different from, for example, the AW12 camo long-johns under a silk robe kind of sensuality. This time it felt more weighty, political and overcast. You can talk to me, Donatella! (If that D410 code actually isn't real, that is).
With more Pre-Fall women’s looks on display than menswear, Cédric Charlier spotted the pendulum of the zeitgeist and gave it a voracious swing. Not just in mixing the presentation of his different collections, but also by moving from his trusted Paris slot. Raf takes New York! Tim Coppens takes Firenze! Gosha takes Kaliningrad! It’s a ‘Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego’ moment in fashion and this young Belgian is riding the tide. His signature yellows burst forth whenever possible and pastel blues were alternated with shades of pink, tangerine and peach. Winter schminter.
The young label Palm Angels by Francesco Ragazzi perfectly encapsulated that Monday morning commute feeling. Don’t-talk-to-me apparel reached its peak in the Palm Angels universe, borrowing heavily from the nearest 90s kid’s archive. A bit of an anomaly in the Milan line-up, but interesting to see where they take it from here.
‘Always for Love’, that’s what Damir Doma is still doing it for. Focusing on volume, draping and the duality of colour and texture, this mixed-gender runway showed love for his craft and those wrapping themselves in the results.
Images: Vogue Runway