In Milan, A Winter Boxy and Bright

Published February 24, 2014

Fall/Winter conjures up images of fifty shades of gray, like Milan’s brutal concrete and marble and its winter sky.  This season, however, the Italian fashion capital is bursting with color on and off the runway, with barely a mild drizzle and the heavens brightened by sunshine and blue skies. However dark or exotic their inspirations, designers have given good palette, with simple blocking replaced by a generous play of soft textures in fearless combinations of the weird and wild.

Returning to the grid-metal and felt set that barely absorbed the spare shock of her men’s show, Miuccia Prada proclaimed “Act 2” for her womenswear. The orchestra pit filled with string musicians, soloist Barbara Sukowa replaced the menswear’s wind section. Sukowa was Rainer Werner Fassbinder‘s Lola in his 1981 film, and the saturated colors of his movies were felt as Mrs. Prada played with transparency and thick-pile texture—pitching animalistic tendencies against a polished, retro wardrobe filled with Constructivist-patterned separates in bold ‘70s mustard, punchy violet, and scarlet. From Power Ranger plastic boots through to intricate Metropolis wedges, her shoe offering was the talk of the frow (that’s Instagram-speak for “front row”), as were flat, boxy leather coats edged in primary-colored shearling, and wide slip dresses trimmed in wisps of goat-hair or gold leather.

After Jil Sander’s third departure from her namesake house, expectations for the Fall collection were for commercial filler; however, the design team pulled a sorbet-hued rabbit out of its hat—alive and kicking. The season’s coat study was of a high pointed lapel fluting up the neck, sometimes doubled, elsewhere sandwiched between a single button at the breast. An artful hip-cinch caused a soft, twisted back volume, a structure that returned in the intricate darted and draped shift dresses or pencil skirts tucked into matching knits. Grounded on thick-soled derbies in yellow python or navy leather, the foundation of Sander’s signature flannel wool came in gray mélange tinted through a candy pink or baby blue lens, while teal and mandarin tones enriched the palette for a wintry depth. Whilst the soundtrack could be read as elevator music, the clothes themselves remained calm, elegant, and interesting—with a duo of iridescent beaded frocks adding a glamorous edge for evening.  

At Marni, there was an insipid quality to the salmon-pink runway upon which Consuelo Castiglioni paraded her latest collection, a feeling that was broken near immediately as Anne Catherine Lacroix opened the show in a tiered skirt of asymmetric, neoprene ruffles—her hair matted into a bowl-like bird’s nest. Castiglioni’s collection was a triumphant exploration of her Marni codes, with callouts to sportswear and ethnic costume blending with abstract art prints, utility outerwear, and pure, feminine tailoring à la Milanese.  That first neoprene passage established a batwing sleeve and dropped shoulder that returned often—sometimes pure in poplin and felt or complex but comfortable in striped, pillowy nylon and silk zipped up the neck. A feathery finale exploded the austerity of a military green gilet dress paired with matching flares, with myriad plumes tracing down skirts and a coatdress, sometimes airbrushed to resemble raffia. Fur, too, was a dominant motif, with shaggy Mongolian stoles wrapped half around the shoulders, or the hood of a silver shearling falling open down the back. A pair of striped fox robes were the sort of off-kilter opulence that Marni does best.

The tumble (or is that Tumblr?) of excitement preceding Jeremy Scott’s first show for Moschino was barely quelled by Katy Perry’s un-fashionably late arrival, one which made her pal Rita Ora’s half-hour tardiness seem almost punctual. A clue to the show’s theatrics had been popped in our gift bags—it was an iPhone cover shaped like a serving of McDonald’s fries, and when Lily McMenamy pranced out in a red tweedy skirt suit trimmed in yellow plastic chain links, she signalled that the fast food fashion had begun. From the big “M” through SpongeBob Squarepants, Scott mined his own Americana and the Moschino heritage both with equal gusto. For one, he turned the house’s logo belt into halter bras and a body-con dress, later hiking up the waistband of skimpy briefs over a lowslung sequined trackpant,  and elsewhere chopping shiny, chocolate brown quilting into a bolero and micro-mini skirt. Some elements felt predictable—more like a Moschino take on Jeremy than the reverse—however, a joyous finale of snack and cereal-box printed gowns demonstrated Scott’s dramatic irreverence at its best. Froot Loops and Cheesy Bites not sold separately.