In Color and Shape: Who Dares Wins
FASHION WEEK SPRING 2011 in MILAN — Papal purple, fizzy orange, grass green — designers have shown their true colors in an energized and optimistic Milan season.
And it is a case of he who dares wins. The brave-heart spirit at Jil Sander summed up the weekend shows: colorful, bold and original. Yet the drift of snow-white lace dresses that Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana sent out on Sunday also had a strong impact.
“Last night, I was scared,” the Sander designer, Raf Simons, said after he received an ovation for teaming white T-shirts with big, bright long skirts — a dressy look that he modernized with graphic lines and architectural shapes.
Other big gestures included primary-color peplums at the hips, wide pants and slim, calf-length dresses with vertical or horizontal stripes. Even bags were original: a handful of striped nylon shopping totes.
The focus of the show was a delicate balance between sportswear — in the form of big, light parkas or simple T-shirts — and sweeping salon skirts. There were hints of YSL in the vivid colors and haute shapes, but this was a show that projected fashion into this new decade.
“I thought about maximalism — its forms and shapes, with codes that could be brought to Jil Sander in a couture language,” said Mr. Simons, who added women to his menswear repertoire only five years ago.
The show was also exceptional for its sparing use of pattern, which came through as a dress with a full-on rose print and a quieter version where the florals seemed to bleed through from the underside of the fabric.
The lasting impression was of color and form in sweeping gestures that elevated fashion yet still managed to make it seem powerfully real.
In the Dolce &Gabbana collection, the design duo refreshed their hot-blooded aesthetic and sent out a collection that was a sweet homage both to natural beauty and to the heritage of human handwork, especially in the Mediterranean south.
“We started with a wedding trousseau — imagining that a young girl takes all the lace, the silk — and makes it up a different way,” Mr. Gabbana said to explain the graceful blouses, the perky shorts and the slim elongated dresses in white cotton.
It could have been a remix of the familiar Dolce & Gabbana visible bra and underwear story. But the future bride had not left much lingerie for her bottom drawer, as she envisaged appliqués of lace flowers, even on platform shoes, crochet bags and broderie anglaise rompers. There also were a few black Merry Widow dresses, and leopard-with-lace prints that looked like a fading trend.
The only real challenge to pure white were leafy flowers worked in with the lace in a charming way that made florals seem like a new fashion growth.
In a season of dazzling color, this Dolce & Gabbana show was like a palate cleanser — and it was also an example of the new sophistication that the designers are bringing to their once-steamy clothes.
Consuelo Castiglioni said of her goal in an exceptionally strong Marni collection: “To push sportswear as far as I could — in color, fabrics and embellishment.”
Like other shows in this powerful Milan season, color popped out in primary shades like blue and red, that then segued into turquoise and orange. But these colors were often only one element in extreme sportswear. From the safety helmets, through tunic tops to biker pants, the looks were treated in intriguing ways from hyper modern fabrics to traditional crunchy lace. So the tunics could be either leather with bold perforations, or in white guipure lace with flowers appliqued on the front.
The result was the meld of couture and sport that is emerging as a current look. Ms. Castiglioni was on trend with peplums and digital stripes. But these ideas were part of a singular vision: quirky, imaginative and still grounded in nature, from its ethnic glass bauble necklaces to its solid geometric sandals. The florals were less orginal but explosive in their strong colors. This show was yet another fine example of an Italian designer’s raising the game.
Missoni ’s wild ride through hip hop in the 1990s, by way of Africa to New York, ought to have been a brilliant moment for a house built on its heritage of color and pattern. But instead, Japanese hats, giant renditions of the house’s zigzag patterns and random lettering on vast garments just looked weird.
“Shaking all over” announced a square-cut tribal garment, while letters in the favored orange, green and blue colors might spell out “money” on an apron dress. Other messages on the shapeless geometric garments proclaimed “renegade” and “sushi.”
“A lot of black culture, but less ethnic — more metropolitan,” said Margharita Missoni, who is now an accessories designer and inspiration for her mother, Angela.
Last season, the duo came up with a riff on blankets that had an emotional tug. This time, the square shapes, even when hems were shorter, rarely even shadowed the body line. Layered in bright colors, these to-the-ankle creations looked as though some off-his-head rapper had grabbed a carpet and used it for break dancing on the streets.
“It’s time to have fun with fashion,” said Angela Missoni, who sent the models out for the finale whirling their arms like a wind farm project. Fun? Maybe. But this show needed a lot more irony — not to mention comprehensible garments — to make it work.
The easy, streetwise clothes, standing away from the body in an A-line shape, challenged the lady-like elegance at Bottega Veneta
. So did flat sandals and the sporty vibe that inserted mesh at the midriff of a black linen jersey dress and gave a perforated surface to a tactile leather bag. To signal that the designer Tomas Maier was moving down from uptown, an urban cacophony of screeching tires was on the soundtrack.
“Daytime, on-the-go — and no clothes for the red carpet,” Mr. Maier said backstage to explain suits where a formal jacket partnered low-crotch shorts and a soft jump suit dissolved into wide jodhpur pants.
There were also feminine dresses with tufts of feathers fluttering on the surface and papery fabrics ballooning as blouses above shorts. The plume decoration and the final silk dresses glanced back at more recent Bottega collections. But it looked like Mr. Maier had made an intellectual decision to break with his elegant aesthetic, and it was good to see a change of pace.
The looseness and ease of the A-line shapes and wash-and-wear damp hair created an easy daytime look. Although the collection could have used shots of the bright colors that have appeared on other runways, Mr. Maier stays with his own vision and women will embrace his clothes for that consistency.
Imagine Emilio Pucci
, the Florentine aristocrat who rose to fashion fame with the jet set, junking haute society for a hot summer on a Greek island. That was the proposal of the designer Peter Dundas, whose vision of Pucci is of sun-kissed models displaying their tans in hippie-de-luxe Aegean blue dresses, slit from the long hemline, the better to show a bronzed leg and high lace-up boots.
More lacing, of the YSL safari jacket kind, opened up dress fronts and sent out a perfume of the sybaritic 1970s.
But this young woman had not been idle on the beach: She showed off her crochet work, like an itsy-bitsy swimsuit that would barely have covered the petite Kylie Minogue, sitting front row.
The presence of the music star, in close proximity to the blogger Bryan Boy, said everything about the show of colorful, sexy, no-brainer clothes aimed full frontal at the paparazzi. “I wanted authenticity, irreverence and insouciance,” said Mr. Dundas, whose vacation home in the Cyclades, so far from his native Norway, inspired the Pucci show.
Buried among the sexpot clothes, like jewels in the sand, were a trio of elegant Pucci classics in bias-cut silk jersey, one with a Greek plaque at the breastbone.
“He makes elegant clothes for me, like the pink dress I wore to Victoria’s wedding,” Crown Princess Mette-Marit of Norway said, referring to the Swedish royal wedding this year.
It is hard to decide whether it is cheap or smart to give a down-and-dirty rock vibe to Emilio Pucci’s sunny, aristocratic vision. But as fashion continues to morph into show business, prepare to see the froth of Greek island waters breaking over the red carpet.
Special Report By Suzy Menkes