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The mood in Milan is swinging back towards tailored clothes – and that is good news for Italy. It is as though the #MeToo movement that went viral in Autumn 2017 has now worked its way into fashion – literally and figuratively.

At the tail end of a sweaty summer, young women are still wearing the short and sexy clothes that have been an Italian trademark for decades. But on stage there is a determined swing towards what was once termed “decency”., the lead outfit is shorts – not the buttock-high variety, but rather tailored trousers sliced off at the knees. Too severe for Spring/Summer 2020? Soft colours give them a more gentle appeal.

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Jil Sander

The new life of Jil Sander is stepping out at a fast pace. But the skill of Lucie and Luke Meier, the husband-and-wife Creative Director team, now in their fourth season at the brand, is for a pace of change that never seems overwhelming; nor as if the aesthetic of the founding German designer were deliberately rejected.

The models had a graceful stance as they walked in lean outfits around the courtyard of the Palazzo Brera, with all its noble statues. A nod to the past? No! Rather the opposite, as piles of salt shaped into artistic objects upgraded the effect for now – and just so with the clothes.

“We wanted a very strong white mass in the middle; the undulations geometric and just right against some of the shapes we have, and the triangular pyramidal pile has got a nice form,” Luke explained.

The same might be said about the streamlined but ultra-soft tailoring that was mostly worked down to the ankles, whether as a coat and trousers, a slithering dress, or a dark blazer over a patterned lower half. Luke explained the couple’s coloured pieces.

“We were also fascinated with the Vienna Secession and then also in Sixties psychedelia, because we appreciate this kind of intelligent, well informed, beautiful rebelliousness that we feel should be a little bit more prevalent in the world at this moment,” the Luke said, while Lucie pointed to the subtle print effects that gave depth to the apparent simplicity of the undulating dresses.

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“This is like a marble print from the Secession movement; they had a lot of this marble paper,” Luke explained. For the psychedelia, we have these colourful prints, but then the colours go from white to black, but through sandy and peachy colours, all these off-whites and creams.”

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What could be glimpsed backstage, but not as the models circled the runway, were further details of pattern and fabric, including raffia, which Luke described as “an embroidery caught and then released, making a really beautiful fluttering sound”. Lucie then pointed out the embroidered birds that appeared in another form last season.

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So although the show looked in the spirit of plain and simple, it was actually quite complex. And in an era when women are turning towards hidden beauty, this duo is taking a smart step forward in that direction.

Max Mara

A female fashion army walked out to start the Max Mara show. Not so much “Ladies first” as “Get out of the way – I’m the leader now!” house has always been based on tailoring – with a penchant for coats drawn with a set square, not a compass – and this season re-embraced those values in a modern way. By using soft colours as an escape from over-masculinity, the collection presented pieces to be useful in your closet. But they would also bring lightness and joy, with shades that morphed from grey to lilac and beige to burnt orange.

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It is intriguing how shorts have marched their way into female fashion, turning them into a 21st-century version of the short, tailored skirt. And doubly smart of Max Mara, in the entire collection of sleek tailoring, to fly a flag for female power – but to soften its visual impact with colour.

Emporio Armani

Change was in the air at Emporio Armani, and not because the designer had transformed his theatre show-space, for decades surrounded with tiers of seats, into an open-plan area.“Air” was the single word Giorgio Armani used to describe the clean lines and soft colours that came together in his masterful way. What that meant was “business as usual” tailoring, but in the colours of a misty dawn: pale pink among cloud grey; tinges of ice blue moving as in a spring sky towards turquoise; mauve moving to a deep blue; and turquoise fading to leaf green.

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That lightness of being that goes with the daily dawn was expressed in easy clothes given an ethereal lightness: jackets, easy skirts and slithering trousers were all light as air – and often shiny.

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This Emporio show did not represent a new era, but it was a masterly exercise in Armani’s ineffable skill at changing his look while remaining true to his style.

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