Milan

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As you’d imag­ine, the top four fash­ion cities—New York, Milan, Paris and Lon­don—com­pete for the world’s at­ten­tion and vie for the top spot. To be hon­est, all have en­joyed their time in the spot­light and have at one time or an­other been con­sid­ered the premier town for what­ever ma­jor fash­ion move­ment is lead­ing the rest. Though Paris has the dou­ble dis­tinc­tion of wildly cre­ative and pro­gres­sive tal­ent on the one hand and a his­tory steeped in haute cou­ture and crafts­man­ship on the other, it is Milan that has been gen­er­at­ing the most buzz th­ese days, and the man be­hind it is Alessan­dro Michele, the cre­ative di­rec­tor for the last year at Gucci.

In a bold move by the well-known lux­ury brand, Michele was sin­gled out from the large pool of in-house de­sign­ers— he had been with the com­pany since 2002 work­ing un­der then cre­ative di­rec­tor Tom Ford and later un­der Ford’s suc­ces­sor Frida Gian­nini. It’s not of­ten that large houses such as Gucci look in­ward for tal­ent, pre­fer­ring in­stead to poach an al­ready es­tab­lished name. Per­haps the choice was in­spired by the suc­cess of Valentino’s cur­rent cre­ative di­rec­tors, Maria Grazia Chi­uri and Pier Paolo Pic­ci­oli, who were the brand’s ac­ces­sories de­sign­ers when they took the helm of ready-to-wear in 2008. Ei­ther way, Michele’s over-the-top vi­sion for the brand has got the fash­ion pack’s at­ten­tion.

Michele’s max­i­mal­ist ap­proach, though not for the faint of heart, is def­i­nitely strik­ing. Rich bro­cades, flo­rals, chintz, sparkly disco-era Lurex and bows aplenty, paired with all man­ner of ac­ces­sories—from knee socks and berets to large-frame nerd glasses and snake or­na­mented plat­form shoes— have been his call­ing card, a far cry from the tamer so­phis­ti­ca­tion of the last regime. It may seem like too much fash­ion noise for some, but when stripped down th­ese themes will trickle down to mass retailers as they al­ready have. For fall, Michele’s muse has added to his usual heady haute hip­pie mix with ref­er­ences to China in se­quined cheongsams and ex­otic East­ern prints, while also pair­ing ’80s-era puffed sleeves and 16th cen­tury bodices on dresses.

The richly lay­ered theme does not end at Gucci, as other prom­i­nent Ital­ian de­sign­ers seem to be chan­nel­ing the same spirit. Dolce & Gab­bana took a fairy tale ap­proach com­plete with Dis­ney princess puffed sleeves and gar­dens of flo­rals, whether printed or em­broi­dered. Mi­uc­cia Prada’s more-is­more ap­proach con­tin­ues on the over-em­bel­lished course that it’s been on as of late. Over­sized furs and boxy bro­cade coats topped flo­ral frocks whose sleeves were, you guessed it, puffed—this time in a peaked and pleated man­ner rem­i­nis­cent of the 1940s. Th­ese were paired with ar­gyle or har­le­quin tights, white sailor caps and small leather-bound books hanging from neck­laces or belts. All of th­ese col­lec­tions fea­tured capes, a strongly sup­ported sil­hou­ette for fall from ev­ery city, and of course miles of vel­vet, han­dled mostly here with ex­quis­ite em­broi­deries. All of this op­u­lence feels at home in Italy, whose first Re­nais­sance has given way to a fash­ion one.

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