Act N°1 hosts a grand ball in Milan, Sunnei stages a strobe-lit experience
While Tod's, Missoni, Prada and Versace conducted High Mass with their usual traditional runway shows at Milan Fashion Week on Friday, a number of young brands, including Act N°1 and Sunnei, stood out for their original presentations, offering live performances and exciting experiments.
Act N°1 dazzled with a sumptuous Spring/Summer 2022 collection which transported the runway's guests to a grand aristocratic 19th-century ball. Luca Lin and Galib Gassanoff, the young designers who launched the brand in 2016 and who have been showing in Milan for seven seasons, unveiled an inventive hybrid wardrobe, mixing historical references and modern codes with the goal of tearing apart the corseted garments of the past and explosively freeing the female body.
The show opened with a string quintet taking their places in the dark and spacious venue, packed with spectators. Then the first model set the tone, stepping out in an elegant black suit, a cloud of tulle draped over her shoulder like a fur stole.
As though attending a gala event, models with floor-length braids took turns on the runway in sumptuous looks, where the tulle that has become the brand's signature was transformed into trains, long capes, turquoise maxi-tutus, voluminous petticoats that seemed to peek out from under every garment, and spectacularly regal ball gowns.
Every look had been reinterpreted in a bold, contemporary version. So the dress and crinoline was reimagined as a trench, while the denim jacket was elevated with pleats and puffy sleeves, and stretched into a maxi-coat thanks to removable stretches of fabric. The blouse featured in one trouser set in sky blue duchesse satin was transformed into a mini cape.
One chic taffeta dress opened at the top to reveal the front of the model's bra, while a cream-colored satin sheath rolled down to give a glimpse of a black bustier. Elsewhere it was strappy panties that could be seen sticking out of the top of a pair of low-waisted trousers.
Finally, there were the sublime bodices, dresses and maxi-coats in painted silk with which Act N°1 has made its name. These delicate garments glided down the runway with soft sensuality, displaying their landscapes, flowers and foliage, which looked to have been painted in watercolors. The show concluded with three grandiose period dresses, which were then split open to free the models beneath, the last of whom danced across the runway en pointe for the grand finale.
Over at Sunnei, the decor was radically different. The "extreme" experience promised by the brand in its invitation began behind the little door of a large hangar. The audience was plunged into complete darkness and directed towards a faint light in the distance. Here they received a little white fabric bag, as an authoritative voice forbade them from opening it. "Hey you, stop! Don't open the bag," it warned, before menacingly adding "I can see you."
The brand's guests were then sent off down a long, dark corridor, where they had to find their number, written in white on a white floor. It was standing in this exact spot that they would be able to watch the show, having finally been allowed to open the mysterious little bag and put on the sunglasses it contained, which somewhat resembled swimming goggles, but which were, in fact, exactly the same model of glasses that would be worn by the show's models.
Due to the all-enveloping darkness, some guests inadvertently found their way to some rows of seats that had been set up backstage and ended up missing the whole show. Meanwhile, in the adjacent tunnel – an installation designed by Milanese architecture firm 2050+ – a blinding white light suddenly illuminated the runway, where the models were intermittently spotlighted by syncopated strobe effects.
As though by magic, the avatars created by design duo Loris Messina and Simone Rizzo for the last two seasons' virtual shows came to life before the audience's eyes, wearing real clothes that were both sharply cut and brightly colored. Different chromatic combinations were mixed and matched in a kaleidoscopic jumble which saw, for example, red slippers paired with a sage green outfit.
Elsewhere, the designers alternated thick two-tone stripes, which clashed in contrasting horizontal and vertical orientations, with monochrome pieces, such as a turquoise shirt with cut-outs or an oversized poppy-colored suit. They also had fun brushing a hasty lick of paint over some pieces, as in a periwinkle blue coat that revealed its original whiteness in spots that the painter's hand looked to have rushed over – under the collar and near the seams.
The silhouettes were relaxed, playing with volumes achieved with loose interchangeable tops and long pants that were either baggy or flared. Among all of this, the emphasis was on the brand's new bags with beaded fringes, as well as the other accessories, including the sunglasses that were distributed to the audience at the start of the show and which will no doubt be all the rage next summer.
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