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.