Milan’s Reinvention

The governing theme of the Spring/Summer 2016 collections at Milan Fashion Week might best be described as a study in restraint. The notion of paring things down a notch or two isn’t an idea typically associated with the Italian style mecca, and surprisingly so, Versace, one Italy’s flashiest flagship brands, led its mother country’s new authoritative message into a new era.

At Prada, Mrs. P showed ’60s style suits that were at once boxy and military sharp in contrasting menswear fabrics, perhaps a subtle salute to her socially and politically rebellious youth. However, this being Prada, the sack suits were enlivened with beatnik prints in strips of honey, marigold, and chocolate, punctuated with primary colored jolts of red and blue geometric shapes. The pom pom-cum-disco ball style earrings, and new kitten heeled shoes with metallic balls at their toes (a mod nod to ’60s design icon Pierre Cardin), not to mention an updated version of last season’s must-have bag-in-bag combo are surefire street style bait.

For his part, Ferragamo creative director Massimiliano Giornetti offered gallerist-chic separates cut in a trapeze style. These were artfully executed with ties that were left undone and swung with every model’s slight sashay. Next came full skirts and ruffles galore, a take on Roman Holiday dressing, but in Giornetti’s skilled hands, the looks never veered into over-the-top territory. Off-the-shoulder day-to-evening looks, meanwhile, mingled with ruched and gathered slim skirts and blouson tops, but it was a group of color-blocked frocks in a swing of pleats that stole the show.

After a season of moonlighting as a Givenchy muse/campaign star, Donatella Versace offered one of the week’s most promising collections. Versace dialed back the va-va-voom for something that was decidedly more accessible. Sure there were a few embroidered slips and mini dresses, worn with sky-towering platform sandals (and socks!), but in place of the usual up-to-there slits and overall ritz, Versace showed a collection that was almost combatant in its restraint. It also helped that the show was held in an expansive industrial hanger, featured a diverse cast of models, and Violet and Friends’s uplifting “Transition” track played on loop. Olive drab standard issue sack dresses were anything but standard, and generously cut pantsuits were either cinched at the waist with oversized belts or worn with a single bandeau top in majestic purple or traffic cone orange, signaling a new era of what it means to be sexy.

In sharp contrast, Jeremy Scott, a designer who has never shied away from the ostentatious, showed his most austere collection for Moschino to date. Silhouettes were simpler than in previous seasons, and finishings seemed more crisp. Traffic signage suits aside, highlights included a freshly Windex-ed latex Barbie-style gown in ice blue worn by Hanne Gaby (perhaps cleaned by Bella Hadid who sported actual living gloves with her look while carrying an oversized bottle of the blue cleaning liquid down the runway), and a group of sequined columns with Pop Art infused slogans emblazoned across their fronts—bonus points for the spot-on recreation of any NYC construction zone.

Dolce and Gabbana, meanwhile, continued its ode to Italian familial archetypes. There was the doting grandmother, the conservative mother, the sexy daughter, the adorable granddaughter, and so on, with a decidedly web 2.0 twist. Models posed for selfies mid-runway and the images were immediately transferred to a jumbotron and Dolce and Gabbana branded social platforms. How’s that for Italian innovation?

Gucci’s Alessandro Michele has become something of a fashion darling since debuting his first menswear collection earlier this year. Continuing his obsession with former Gucci creative director Tom Ford’s sex-infused collections, and his reverence for early Yves Saint Laurent, Michele showed a treasure trove of wonders: lamé bell-bottomed suits, unlined lace tea dresses, and a host of heady frocks sure to make any fashion love swoon. The real standouts here were the parade of shoes, from vertiginous triple-stacked platforms, to those lush, gotta-have-’em-now flats with horse bits, and the sequined tromp l’oeil dickies of ruffles and pleats fashioned on everything from flimsy blouses to full skirts. Whimsy would be an understatement.