In spite of, or maybe because of, the unsettled political situation in Italy, the Milan fashion season was powerful. The overall impression was of all the established houses digging deep into their family histories, either polishing up or re-booting their brand for Spring/Summer 2020https://www.instagram.com/p/B2uvsrNH9xk/?utm_source=ig_embed&utm_campaign=dlfix
Milan is also notable for making a genuine and ongoing effort to reach for a greener world, with Giuseppe Sala, the Mayor of Milan, and Carlo Capasa, President of the Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana (the Italian Chamber of Fashion) working with Livia Firth, founder of Eco Age. (Capasa and Firth, above, organise the Green Carpet Fashion Awards, held every September during Milan Fashion Week.) Italy, with important mills and factories as well as a tradition of handwork skills, seems to be the first country to make a positive effort.
Ferragamo: Balancing Act
“I put a major focus on making sure that there was a balance between shoes and clothes,” said Paul Andrew, Creative Director of Ferragamo, known famously for its footwear, but less widely for what is worn above.
https://www.instagram.com/p/B2q4tftHz9l/?utm_source=ig_embed&utm_campaign=dlfix“Before I started, there were so many different messages with different designers working on different categories,” he continued. “I hope I have straightened that out.”
It was rather the opposite. Curly shapes had a fresh focus on the body, to fit with the designer’s message of “joyful living”.
This idea of the joys of summer started with a photo on his mother’s mantelpiece of him and his brother on a summer holiday in Italy in the 1980s. This inspired Andrew to “bring back that feeling of fun and sun-drenched innocence into a modern context”.
At a show, it is impossible to grasp what skills have created the ultra-light fabrics, but the sense of movement was overriding.
And one thing was clear: Andrew started his career with shoes and therefore understands how to continue the Salvatore Ferragamo heritage. Hence the iconic ‘Vara’ shoe, designed by Fiamma Ferragamo, one of Salvatore’s daughters, and reinvented now as the ‘Viva’, with a puffed-up leather version of the famous grosgrain bow.
Italy’s famous Fountain of Neptune as a print for the body seemed less at ease, but the designer is definitely absorbing the brand image and moving it forward joyfully.
Agnona: Poetry in Motion
“It was a love letter to Milanese style. I was remembering magazines from the Eighties were full of luxurious Italian day wear,” said designer Simon Holloway, whose Agnona show was a highlight of the Spring/Summer 2020 season.
“I tried to recreate what was reimagined in my head from that period. So there’s a lot of raw textural fabrics like cotton shantung, or a real silk dupion woven on an antique loom in the Agnona mill from the Sixties – there are only four left!”
As the models criss-crossed the rough concrete floor, the clothes – super-soft as they flowed over the body – were fashion poetry in motion.
It is rare to find a designer who can marry technical skills seamlessly with imagination. But that was the essence of the collection and its sensuous draping. The apparently effortless creations included watery flower patterns and greenish colours suggesting a summer garden, with a darker earthy brown for liquid leather trousers. The quiet colours were interjected only by a sky blue, inspired by the Memphis Group, the Eighties Italian design and architecture collective.
Agnona is part of the Zegna Group and Holloway has succeeded in building a convincing start to the modern woman’s version of the famous menswear brand. “I think the Italians are brilliant at marrying craftsmanship and innovation in fabric technology with this taste level, which is impeccable,” the designer said – something which I have always agreed with and am delighted to see back on the catwalk.
Gabriele Colangelo: Hide and Seek
With the surface of the clothes so soft and sleek, the colours so close to nature – from beige to just an occasional shade of blue and mauve – Gabriel Colangelo’s clothes seem, at first view, hyper-symbol. But behind the placid exterior is a strong, structural core.
“There is a lot of work, especially on the fabrication and the tailoring,” says the designer – one of the “slow-mos” whose work contrasts with Italy’s go-go, sexy and colourful creations.
“Most of the things are made by hand, like the lace leather. When you see it, you could never imagine the work behind it,” he continued.
That mix of technology with low-tech handwork seems unique to Italy. Here it was presented as a flow of soft clothes in what the designer called a “distorted” colour palette, which gave the same liquid, watery effect as the shadowy screen dividing the runway.
But the reality of this fine collection was revealed only backstage. An outfit that I had first perceived as a simple top and trousers had subtle, super-light layers of fabric or a cut on the bias. Colangelo’s collection really is a hidden gem.
Etro: Bohemian Feminist
As the models, all in pristine masculine shirts, walked the church cloisters at the Etro show, the message was as clear as Milan’s blue sky: “Women first!”
This parade was the climax to a more familiar approach from the brand, a Bohemian rhapsody of frilled dresses controlled with leather waistcoat and belt that opened the show, followed by torrents of light fabrics played off against curvy tailoring. Creative Director Veronica Etro, who designs the womenswear for her family’s house (her brother, Kean, designs for the men’s), seemed like she wanted to waver towards men’s looks – but not too much.
“We had fun a lot of fun,” she said, seeming determined to support the female side. “My starting point was a book for children, very popular in Italy, Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls,” Veronica explained. “It’s not about fairy tales or princesses. It’s about strong women and heroines of the past. I read about female pirates!”
So went the spirit of the show; never so very different, but by playing with a bolder, tougher female style, Veronica proved that she is on message for 2020.
Antonio Marras: Japanese Fairy Tales
Looking down from the upper seats of the theatre where Antonio Marras so often chooses to stage his shows, the symbolic – if unexpected – images of Italy and Japan were moving to behold. What had this poet of a designer dredged from his historic soul to make sense of this collection, that crossed two continents?
“The subject is a modest but sexy Italian and a beautiful Japanese princess escaping from an arranged marriage,” the designer explained of his invented romance. “It’s a love story with a red ribbon marking different cultures. And the clothes are a mix of Sardinian embroidery and vintage kimonos. It’s about the contrasts of culture shown in the clothes.”
The mix was of luscious colours and intricate handcraft with easy clothes, such as a coat in reflective, watery blue denim with a flower pattern in appliquéd lace. The jeans fabric was a reality check for a collection that was theatrical in its presentation, with the models circling in tiers from stage to stalls and beyond. Yet the clothes themselves were wearable. Remove a Japanese mask, as if for a classical musical drama, and there was a silken top and trousers with just a hint of Japonaiserie in the pattern.
Maras has the spirit of a poet. He just happens to express it through clothes.