t’s rock ’n’ roll renaissance, 1980s renaissance, street-style renaissance, bourgeois renaissance, chinoiserie renaissance,” Gucci’s Alessandro Michele said of his Autumn/ Winter ’16 collection to The New York Times backstage at the brand’s show in Milan. He might very well have added Italian renaissance.
Only a few years ago, Parisian style was held up as the ultimate fashion look. Books were written on the minimal way Frenchwomen groom their hair, how they keep the same high-quality blazer for decades and would rather die than fall victim to trends. It was a minimalist doctrine that fit with the financially uncertain times, as well as the stripped-back fashion aesthetic popularised by Phoebe Philo at Céline. Still, it was only a matter of time before designers grew tired of restrained, tonal elegance.
Enter the Italians and their pitch-perfect brand of maximalism. A little over a year ago, JJ Martin, an American living in Milan who is an unashamed cheerleader for her adopted city via her website La DoubleJ, told me, “Italians don’t know how to market themselves.” Well, it would appear they’ve fixed that problem. Thanks to Maria Grazia Chiuri (now at Dior) and Pierpaolo Piccioli at Valentino, and Alessandro Michele’s new vision for Gucci, an optimistic, individualistic and, yes, decorative celebration of femininity has cast its spell over the rest of the fashion world, including Chanel, which showed its Metiers d’Art collection in Rome, as well as the producers of Zoolander 2, who chose to film there. And as evidenced by Gucci’s 2015 final quarter sales bump of 5 percent, consumers are as enthusiastic for dramatic cape dresses, pink ruffled tops, slightly bonkers turbans, brocade loafers, and bold stripes as they are for Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novel series.
If this sounds like the type of fashionvictimy look Parisians despise (according to all those style books, anyway), it truly isn’t. One only need turn to a new crop of Italian street-style stars who are championing Italy’s next generation of establishment designers including Marco de Vincenzo, handbag maker Paula Cademartori, Aquazurra’s Edgardo Osorio, Massimo Giorgetti for MSGM and Emilio Pucci, and Stella Jean, as well as the country’s venerated brands such as Fendi and Prada. Think stylist and Attico co-designer Gilda Ambrosio’s neo-pre-Raphaelite look, made up of lush velvets, graphic fringe coats (Marco de Vincenzo) and tie-front robes (Sportmax), or model Candela Novembre’s subversive take on the Milanese sciura look via textured furs, pencil skirts, and cropped sweaters, as well as richly coloured pussybow blouses and embellished top-handled bags. And their posse of friends is no less stylish, from LuisaViaRoma’s Diletta Bonaiuti, who likes to fuse sportswear and elegant tailoring with distressed denim and so-bad-it’s-good fire-engine-red leather, to the Tordini sisters, deft hands at elevating understated outfits with unexpected prints and textures.
It’s less about mixing statement pieces with basics and more about a balance of colour and texture that tells the eye exactly where and when to rest. Now, that’s something to aspire to.
Eleonora Carisi worked denim-on-denim layering at Milan Fashion Week
Fendi Autumn/ Winter ’16
Prada Autumn/ Winter ’16