Milan: Hardworking fashion is back
Feb 25, 2019
In Milan the parting farewell generally addressed to a friend by the Milanese is "buon lavoro," literally "good work," which after a very busy week in the Italian fashion capital, summed up the mood and the style here.
“Milan is like a bubble in Italy. The country might be struggling, but there is a new energy in the city. Brands being revived, new buildings built and new ideas emerging,” argues Carlo Capasa, president of the Camera della Moda, Italian fashion’s governing body.
Party clothes were few and far between; cleaned-up chic dominated. The buzz word was 'sustainable,' from fashion to architecture – like the city’s new iconic structure, the remarkable Bosco Verticale, or vertical forest; two apartment buildings, one rising 120 meters covered with plants and flowers in an unique bio-diverse eco-paysage.
What was biggest accessory of the season? The man-bag for the working women, made as holster, waistcoat or leather scarf for busy global travellers. Nowhere better than in a great crisp expression of Italian sportswear at Sportmax.
The junior collection of Max Mara – probably the single most influential make of high fashion women’s coats anywhere – Sportsmax had a great show this season.
The collection also debuted a new sunglasses range – produced by Marcolin, which handles Tom Ford, Pucci and Zegna among others – many made in asymmetrical shapes. While the two key ideas in the ready-to-wear was the split suit – in a season where party clothes felt officially banned – with jackets cut like bombers and jerkins; and the skirt – made futuristic but askew.
Though the biggest surprise was probably massive leather belts, scarves and gilets – all cut with zips; new functional accouterments that added fashionable militaristic punch.
The invitation telegraphed the idea days before any model hit the catwalk at Jil Sander.
A high-class dishcloth made of linen jute - rugged practical material finished with a red stripe. Just like many of the clothes in this fall 2019 collection, presented inside a new show space – a former panettone factory in north Milan.
A classy show, where a cellist playing mordant chords before, during and after, hitting some deep, deep notes as the first model appeared. At times, the construction and cutting got a little bit too complicated but the design duo of Luke and Lucie Meier deserve to be applauded for their singular vision. Sleeveless Melton wool coats and dresses, cut V-shape with broad shoulders and slit at the sides; done in jet black or multiple versions of white, ecru, cream and stone. Many finished with beautiful drawings of wild birds. For that tedious question that so many editors have been asking for months – who shall win the Celine customer, formerly loyal to Phoebe Philo – the answer is probably at Jil Sander.
Veteran’s day at Salvatore Ferragamo, where a cast of experienced catwalkers marched in a show and soundtrack that referenced the '80s.
Backed up by Tears for Fears classic cut, "Everybody Wants to Rule the World," the collection highlighted the sheer productive power of Ferragamo, featuring some supremely well-made clothes.
Created in an austere palette – dark gray to forest green - the collection opened with fluidly cut to-the-knee skirts; chalk stripe or calf leather jumpsuits and nipped at the waist coats like the one worn by Maggie Rizer. She was one of a half dozen veterans that included Liya Kebede, Alek Wek and Kirsty Hume.
Flawlessly cut mid-calf skirts in tartan wool, and small bags in similar fabrics looked great, as did several logo boots. Acres of leather, notably multiple suede pants and cabans finished with contrasting leather stripes; and a humungous mahogany cocoon coat that, however, summed up one of the weaknesses of the collection – the silhouette could be a tad sleeker.
This co-ed collection marked the first by Paul Andrew since he was promoted to the position of overall brand creative director by the house this week. The gentlemanly American generously took his bow with Guillaume Meilland, who remains on as Ferragamo’s menswear designer, and joins Andrew as his studio director.
An old acquaintance, and expert luxury man, Giacomo Santucci appeared at Borsalino and suddenly the world’s most famous hat maker looks on the move again.
His first plan: focus on some high profile collaborations. And Santucci already has several great ideas in the pipeline. The brand hopes to collaborate with some of the top couture maisons including, for example, Christian Dior. For fashion-forward lovers, the 162-year-old hatter will work with Sacai, where designer Chitose Abe has made that Tokyo-based brand beloved by all who cherish the avant garde.
Last July, Swiss based investor group Haeres Equita acquired control of Borsalino as the only bidder in an auction of the hatter, famed for making Humphrey Bogart’s trilby in "Casablanca," and Harrison Ford’s hat in "Indiana Jones."
“Borsalino is a truly unique accessory. So this is about creating new multiple dialogues in an ever more complex market,” says Santucci, a former vice president of Gucci and MD of Dolce & Gabbana’s retail and licenses division.
Ever since Brunello Cucinelli appeared from Umbria to become the hottest new lifestyle and high-fashion explosion in Italy, people have been looking for new stars from that region.
The latest to cause a stir is Vivetta, a cleverly offbeat and eccentric purveyor of quirky retro-inspired fashion. Since Alessandro Michele made this the in-thing at Gucci, the market has been searching for a designer in a similar grove, and one answer has to be Vivetta Ponti – and her sugar-coated Surrealist chic. Ponti grew up in Assisi, where the city’s most famous ever inhabitant, St Francis, used to talk to birds, we should recall.
Blotchy abstract floral silk coats; pink silk shorts with enormous bows; Chanel style four-pocket jackets in wacky floral velours; giant boater hats with eye slits in their brims. Plus, an enormous coat made out of sherbet hued teddy bears; or a ballerina’s tutu finished with studded velvet breastplate and gold embroidery. In a show staged in Palazzo Clerici, the ideal location underneath Tiepolo’s justly famous ceiling fresco of the chariot race of the gods of Olympus. Funky operatic with commercial punch.
Few people work harder than busy DJs, and their boutique of choice is Antonioli in the Navigli canal district of Milan. Claudio Antonioli is now a key figure in Milanese mode, for besides his boutique, he jointly launched New Guards, which encompasses Off-White, County of Milan and Heron Preston, among others.
This season he held a fun fete for 032C, the Berlin magazine that has its own clothing line. From techie track suits in putty gray and Omen sweatshirts to some attractive new T-shirts featuring portraits of Walter Benjamin, the great German Jewish essayist and cultural critic. On the back of the black tees, we found the words of Bertolt Brecht: “In the Dark Times. Will there also be Singing? Yes, there will also be singing. About the dark times.”
Fashion as a useful reminder of the fragility of our democratic ideals and countries – lest we forget how good it is to live in a multi-party state where you can actually vote out your government.
Officina del Poggio
Finally, one brand working hard on sustainability is Officina del Poggio, designed by Allison Hoeltzel Savini, a Texan who lives in Tuscany, and supported by supermodel and eco-activist Arizona Muse.
They showed rectangular and oval handbags made of parts of animal skins that were previously thrown out, like ostrich legs; or totes in charming salmon skin. These all covered light but sturdy bags with interiors made of poplar, that most vigorous of trees.
“It’s about avoiding waste. Using what would previously been tossed out,” said Muse of the brand, whose latest collection is entitled Journey to the Serengeti.
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