After the extravaganzas of fresh talent, big-brand magnificence, and superb street looks that characterised the recent New York and London Fashion weeks, Milan had big boots to fill. Happily, Milan is famed both for its luxury footwear industry and for the many leading Italian fashion houses that the city plays host to – so it was no problem for Milan to wade its stylish way into the fashion week fray for AW18. We’ve already witnessed a host of memorable catwalk looks, with several of the biggest names in global fashion proving the talent of their designers and the versatility of their brand DNA, and we’re barely half way through the week! Here’s some of the best and maddest moments so far.
Dragons storm the catwalk at Gucci – but don’t lose your head…
Alessandro Michelle – Gucci’s miracle-working mastermind – not only turned heads with the shockingly realistic pet dragons at the brand’s most recent collection but actually severed them. The CYBORG show, set in a surgical operating theatre and was as captivating as it was decapitating: models could be seen with third eyes in their hands, or carrying eerie replicas of their own heads made by a special-effects company based at the Cinecittà film studio in Rome. This bold move – a philosophical comment on our modern tendency to construct our own identities through reference to luxury brands, perhaps – is also a reminder of the importance of accessories for nu-Gucci. Alessandro Michelle’s quirky and covetable accessories – from fur-trimmed loafers to bee-encrusted bags, to ribbed beanies with Michele’s already signature green and red stripe going through – are big part of why Gucci topped BoF’s Lyst Index of 2017’s hottest brands (tellingly, Gucci sandals and the GG logo belt were in the top 3 hottest products). Unsurprisingly the no. 2 brand on the list was Balenciaga, another brand that knows how to harness the power of logo-ed accessories to generate hype around the brand; the Spanish design house’s IKEA-esque ‘Arena Extra Large Shopper Tote Bag’ was without doubt the biggest fashion story of 2017. The importance of branded accessories is reflected in the fact that fashion’s dapper dinosaur Karl Lagerfeld has started introducing the double ‘FF’ glyph onto Fendi’s handbags and dresses.
The Power of the Past
Moschino’s Jeremy Scott sent aliens and Jackie-O lookalikes (or both at the same time) down the runway for AW18. The collection was infused with the former First Lady’s brand of 1960s chic, whilst also channeling Franco Moschino’s original vision from the 1980s. The Swinging Sixties seem to be making a comeback at the moment, with an exhibition on Sixties Style scheduled for Spring at Proud Central Gallery. But as well as celebrating this stylish decade, Scott’s theme of alienation felt very contemporary. Vogue’s Suzie Menkes commented: “Behind the pastiche, Jeremy was referencing Area 51, and the idea that aliens are among us, eerily perfect.” Is he positing a similarity between the UFO paranoia of the 1950s and our own treatment of ‘alien’ refugees in Europe? Or is he celebrating the multiplicity of identities that fashion allows us to play with? Given Scott’s wariness of the overtly political, we’d say the latter. There was a nod to 1980s style at Alberta Feretti, where goth cowgirls in big-shouldered, wide-legged tailored jumpsuits and structured trenches with leather underlayers took to the catwalk. BoF described the collection as “all about balance, substance and strength, not about catwalk excess.” There was a similar (albeit slightly more high glamour) 1980s vibe at Marc Jacobs’s show in New York.
Miuccia Prada also continues to mine her illustrious back-catalogue as she did for her acclaimed menswear show in January. Miuccia is not known for lingering on the past, and though this collection was replete with references to former successes, it also felt fresh and of-the-moment, pointing a clear way forward for this great Italian house. The collection explored the idea of dualities: there was almost excessively frumpy, secretary-esque clothing in nylon blacks, greys, and beiges – but underneath staid check trench coats, sheer tulle underlayers pointed the way to looks that were as risque as others were reserved. The collection soon exploded into neon colours, daring cuts, and accessories of all kinds (bucket hats were liberally applied to models’ heads, and opera gloves made frequent appearances). There were prints, patterns, and textures galore. The dichotomy of restrained simplicity vs. emancipated excess felt like a comment on the standards of dress women are expected to adhere to. “I imagined that a woman could go out looking super sexy in the street at night without being bothered. It’s about the freedom of women to go out in the night,” said Ms. Prada of her clothes. Clearly, the Prada girl has no time to comply with other people’s expectations – this is the kind of self-assured sartorial confidence we can really get on board with.
Fendi’s FF logo proliferated the AW18 show – and the rigid pattern it formed was the perfect accompaniment for the Prince-of-Wales check that also featured heavily in the collection. Check – which is set to be a big trend for 2018 – was also in evidence abundantly at No. 21’s presentation. But check was not the only pattern: there was leopard print at Max Mara, and stripes were the defining motif of the Arthur Arbesser collection. Of course, Gucci’s Alessandro Michele is the undisputed master of maximising prints and patterns, putting together Frankenstein ensembles made from a multitude of prints that contrast, clash, or coordinate in every way imaginable. It seems now that more and more designers are following his example: we saw patchwork dresses at Simone Rocha’s show in London, and at Milan everyone from Moncler to Moschino has been experimenting with the power of mixing patterns.
The Fight Against Fur Continues.
At London Fashion Week, we saw anti-fur protests outside a number of shows, including – bizarrely – Mary Katrantzou’s faux-fur presentation. Indeed, the protests were rendered somewhat redundant by the fact that most designers on the Big 4 schedule (New York, London, Milan and Paris) have now opted to replace real fur with its faux alternative (including heritage brands such as Burberry, whose AW18 show was closed by Cara Delevigne in a faux fur cape). The anti-fur trend seems to have been confirmed by fashion’s grand dame (and Japan Vogue’s legendary editor-at-large), Anna Dell Russo, who is auctioning 30 of her most iconic looks at Christie’s during Milan Fashion Week to raise money for student scholarships. After an intervention from animal rights charity PETA, she has decided to make the auction fur-free, and to donate all of her animal skins to charity, saying “The fashion community is distancing itself from fur and I am too.”
One consistent theme that has been evident throughout the Milan Shows (so far) has been an overriding sense of optimism. Over the past few seasons, there has been a lot of backwards looking (see Versace’s AW17 celebration of the late Gianni Versace’s work, or Prada’s rehashing of their ’90s classics) and questioning of identity (see Burberry’s LGBT rainbow check, or Moschino and Gucci’s playful questioning of the human form itself). It feels now as if the industry is ready to move forward in a more open-minded manner, and in a more open playing field, with more inclusivity for ethnic and gender minorities. Milan Fashion Week’s top designers have used this season’s shows to challenge notions of orthodoxy in dressing, and this challenge felt particularly urgent at Prada and Gucci. As Alessandro Michelle told the press in an unprecedented post-show conference: “We can decide to become who we are.”
Article Written By: Desmond Huthwaite
Featured Image: Gucci – AW18 – Vogue