Wham! Bam! Thank you, Mi­lan!


Grazia (UK) - - Contents - WORDS RE­BECCA LOW THORPE

Who reigned supreme in this stel­lar Mi­lan Fash­ion Week? The old guard or the new? For de­sign­ers – and su­per­mod­els – the fight was on

‘This is a cel­e­bra­tion of an icon! A ge­nius! My brother, Gianni, this is for you!’ boomed the voiceover at the epic Ver­sace show as the orig­i­nal ’90s su­per­mod­els – Naomi, Cindy, Clau­dia, Helena and Carla – were un­veiled as the sur­prise fi­nale in golden chain­mail, then stalked down the run­way arm-in-arm with the diminu­tive Donatella. The stand­ing ova­tion was as poignant as it was eu­phoric, pro­vid­ing a mo­ment of pure, un­fil­tered (as in: no time to mess with fil­ters) so­cial me­dia delir­ium. This was the trib­ute show to end all trib­ute shows! And it was a long time com­ing. It has been 20 years since Gianni Ver­sace was shot and killed on the steps of his Mi­ami man­sion, and the fash­ion world has been min­ing his ar­chive ever since. But this, fi­nally, was his younger fem­i­nist sis­ter Donatella’s time to re­claim every­thing that was fash­ion-fab­u­lous about Gianni, by div­ing into the back cat­a­logue and bring­ing this mu­se­um­wor­thy homage bang-up-to-date. (Per­haps FX’S

Amer­i­can Crime Story, based on the Ver­sace story, star­ring Pené­lope Cruz as Donatella and Edgar Ramírez as Gianni, due out early next year, forced her hand). From the ram­page of in-your-face prints ( leop­ard spots and Warhol’s Mar­i­lyns, to but­ter­flies and Baroque), along­side the pre­cise black tai­lored

jack­ets adorned with golden Me­dusa-head but­tons, it all looked so sur­pris­ingly right-for-now as it pranced out on the new wave of su­pers. Con­sider buy­ing a piece of it – no, re­ally, these are fu­ture heir­looms – be­cause, like an ex­hi­bi­tion, ev­ery gar­ment will be tagged with a la­bel not­ing the year and col­lec­tion in which the orig­i­nal was first con­ceived. Come to think of it, surely Ver­sace – past and present – should be the next big block­buster show at the Metropoli­tan Mu­seum of Art in New York? Bring it on.

The Ver­sace show set the tone for one of the most cel­e­bra­tory Mi­lan Fash­ion Weeks on record. Maybe be­cause other de­sign­ers knew what Donatella was up to, they also dug deep into their archives and stamped ev­ery gar­ment with self-ref­er­enc­ing mes­sages. Like Mis­soni, an­other great Ital­ian fam­ily busi­ness, cel­e­brat­ing its 20th year with an abun­dance of its inim­itable squig­gle-print knits. Or Dolce & Gab­bana, aka Ste­fano and Domenico, who took love as their catch-all theme with the Queen of Hearts and is­sued a 52-card-deck fi­nale of their black, corseted wig­gle dresses. And of course, Gior­gio Ar­mani, never one to step away from his mind-blow­ingly suc­cess­ful multi­bil­lion euro DNA, who an­chored his joy­fully coloured lady dresses with his her­itage inky black tai­lor­ing. When you look at an Ar­mani col­lec­tion com­ing down the run­way, you have to switch gear and imag­ine it on its real-life cus­tomers and de­cide whether you would look twice at the woman ( in a sparkly striped sweater, black tulip-hemmed skirt and el­e­gant heels) walk­ing into a cock­tail party – and the an­swer is, yes!

Now take the same visual test with to­day’s Gucci – the in­tensely ec­cen­tric cor­nu­copia mash-up of span­gly ’80s, Sav­ile Row tweeds, El­ton John’s on-stage Glam Rock en­sem­bles, be­jew­elled anoraks, logo’d sports­wear, etc, etc – and your gut re­ac­tion will most likely be some­thing along the lines of, ‘No­body in real life is ever go­ing to wear that!’!’ And you’d be wrong. Ev­ery other per­son at the show was wear­ing Gucci – be it a full-on cos­tume of python and studs, com­plete with Gucci logo ten­nis head­band on the young woman (a so­cial me­dia ‘in­flu­encer’) sit­ting next to me, or the sim­ple black gold-snaf­fle loafers on my own two feet. Gucci’s Alessan­dro Michele is to fash­ion now what Ar­mani was in the ’80s; the in­flu­en­tial vi­sion­ary be­hind one of the most com­mer­cially suc­cess­ful fash­ion busi­nesses in the world which, ac­cord­ing to the brand’s PR, now sells 50% of its mer­chan­dise to those born af­ter 1980, mak­ing it the ul­ti­mate fash­ion house for Mil­len­ni­als. And, just like Ar­mani’s for­mula for suc­cess, Michele’s out­fit pro­pos­als only change in­cre­men­tally ev­ery sea­son.

‘ To thine own self be true,’ as Shake­speare put it – which, when ap­plied to fash­ion, sim­ply means ‘show what you do best’ – and that sen­ti­ment be­came the arch­ing theme from de­sign­ers all week. At Fendi, it was Karl Lager­feld’s ode to the fab­u­lous cut-out shoul­der dress. At Max Mara, it was all about se­ri­ously de­sir­able min­i­mal­ist tai­lor­ing with a nod to the ’80s.

At Tod’s, the Ital­ian leather spe­cial­ist brand made us all want to grab Ken­dall Jen­ner’s choco­late suede jump­suit and gold loafers and head for cock­tails in Posi­tano. And at Moschino, Jeremy Scott made every­thing as glo­ri­ously bonkers as it should be, in­clud­ing Gigi dressed as a bou­quet of flow­ers.

But ‘do­ing what you do best’ was never so force­fully demon­strated than by Mi­uc­cia Prada, whose job it is to sar­to­ri­ally stamp her feet for wom­ankind. ‘ We should start be­ing com­bat­ive. There’s so much against us, still,’ she told jour­nal­ists in the usual scrum back­stage. The walls and even the ceil­ing at Prada HQ, the hangar-sized show venue, had been painted with the work of seven of the most feted fe­male car­toon­ists, in­clud­ing a bub­ble-gum chew­ing Manga girl, an Afro-haired ac­tivist (‘Sis­ter: You are wel­come in this house,’ read the speech bub­ble) and Trina Rob­bins’ first Won­der Woman. And their fem­i­nist mes­sage was writ loud all over feisty fit ’n’ flare dresses, scout mas­ter shorts, starched shirts and swing coats pinned with protest badges. But while it was easy to imag­ine those car­toon-em­bla­zoned clothes go­ing down a storm with the street-style soror­ity, af­ter close inspection at the Prada re-see (when fash­ion teams go back to see all the de­tail they missed on the run­way) it was grat­i­fy­ing to note the wider sis­ter­hood so beau­ti­fully catered for too, with cot­ton-drill coats and jack­ets. Can’t af­ford the big-ticket items? No mat­ter – sud­denly noth­ing says use­ful­ness and de­sir­abil­ity like a sim­ple ’90s-style 

Prada black ny­lon bum­bag. (In store now! Hav­ing per­son­ally in­ves­ti­gated at the Prada shop in Mi­lan.)

Fi­nally, what of the new in Mi­lan? Un­like Lon­don, this fash­ion cap­i­tal is not known as a hot­bed breed­ing ground of break­out de­signer stars. But, to round out an al­ready blaz­ing week, we were treated to not one, but two com­plete house ren­o­va­tions, with new creative heads at Jil San­der and Cavalli. At the lat­ter, Brit Paul Sur­ridge, a menswear de­signer (a back­room tal­ent with a huge CV, in­clud­ing Calvin Klein and Burberry) stunned ev­ery­one by strip­ping back the more-is-more Cavalli aes­thetic. In its place, he pre­sented a to­tally bold facelift for the brand and a new era-defin­ing sex­i­ness, which took the form of sleek body-defin­ing, racer-back dresses, spar­ing flashes of graphic ze­bra print and flats – flats! Mr Cavalli – he of the vine­yards, yachts, Fer­raris, man­sions and the odd pet leop­ard or two – was in the au­di­ence, flanked by a cou­ple of youth­ful beau­ties, and what did he make of this restora­tion? As­ton­ish­ingly, he whooped and clapped, then grabbed Sur­ridge as he ran down the cat­walk and bowed at his feet.

Would Jil San­der, the fa­mous Ger­man fash­ion min­i­mal­ist, feel the same way about the new de­sign­ers at her name­sake brand, which she left in 2013? Hus­band and wife team Lucie and Luke Meier (for­merly of Dior and Supreme, re­spec­tively) served up their equally ex­cel­lent de­but, ram full of Jil-isms. That is to say, the kind of beau­ti­ful and ser­vice­able clothes that form the chicest of work­ing women’s wardrobes, such as a per­fectly quiet black trouser suit, navy coat or white smocked shirt­dress – in other words, right up the founder, Jil San­der’s, strasse. It was monas­tic in its sim­plic­ity and full of rig­or­ous tai­lor­ing, but the de­sign­ers had also cap­tured the soft­ness and seren­ity that had been miss­ing from the brand un­der its pre­vi­ous de­signer. Not only were fash­ion pro­fes­sion­als over­heard whispering that it could be the new al­ter­na­tive to their beloved Cé­line, this – and ev­ery other col­lec­tion seen on the run­ways – demon­strated how di­verse Ital­ian fash­ion has now be­come, not just in the cast­ing of its mod­els ( yes, Italy is fi­nally get­ting the ‘wo­ke­ness’ mes­sage), but also of the fash­ions you can now ex­pect to see from its de­sign­ers. Bravo Mi­lano!



Main golden photo: orig­i­nals Carla, Clau­dia, Naomi, Cindy and Helena with Donatella (cen­tre)

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