20 June 2010

Milan: Fashion Week in the Futbol Hub

New Zealand Herald

Allow me to state the obvious. I'm more likely to get excited by a good fashion show than an All Blacks victory. More interested in a well-tailored suit than a perfectly executed field goal. More intrigued by the career of a model than that of our greatest sports-stars.

However today I chose the soccer over the sartorial. And witnessing that 1-1 draw in a bar filled with the most aggressive Italian supporters in Milan trumped any fashion show.

There's nothing like leaving your home country to multiply your patriotism rates to new heights. GO THE KIWIS!

Now, back to the matter at hand.

First up was Emporio Armani where inside, paparazzi were crowded down one end of the catwalk flashing furiously. Never one to miss a celebrity spotting, I ran over, camera at the ready, only to discover some Italian man I'd never seen before. Can't win them all.

I've often wondered how Giorgio Armani manages to keep his guests entertained for the duration of his shows whilst presenting 60-plus looks (the typical show has about 30).

Multiple models on the catwalk, that's how. Within 10 seconds of it starting, eight strapping lads were strutting it in full-leather outfits.

The Emporio man was on a techno Matrix trip this season, with leather pants, gothic sleeveless shirts, Neo-esque sunglasses and even a few onesy swimsuits.

Stalwart Armani fan Lady Gaga appeared in the finale - though not in the flesh - projected onto the back wall singing her latest smash hit Alejandro. The floodgates opened and out poured 20 models in the same leather army uniforms as her dancers in the video.

Over at Gianfranco Ferre, a lovely PR lady by the name of Valentina ushered me into the building with welcoming arms despite my lack of formal invitation.

A major difference between shows in our parts of the world and these markedly larger affairs is the designers' choice of venue. Many hold their shows in their own complexes, in special rooms designed for that purpose alone. It's easy to forget we're dealing with multi-national corporations here.

Gianfranco Ferre's is an enormous white marble space with geometric shapes inset in the floor. During the show Talking Heads' rock anthem Psycho Killer blared from the speakers, but the clothing was all Brideshead Revisited.

Foppish linen suits in creams, beige hopsack pants with oversized white crushed-linen shirts and floaty trench coats. The other influence appeared to be Southern gents - ticker stripes showed up on everything from linen suits to silk pyjamas and many outfits were worn with oversized felt hats. Perfect attire to spend a lazy day floating on down the river - Thames or Mississippi, you decide.

Speaking of large bodies of water, the sky outside Vivienne Westwood appeared to be dropping a few of them. The previous show had ended early and we had a lovely 25 minute wait in the chilly rain (Milan's summer is feeling oddly cooler than an Auckland winter).

We did have some fascinating visual entertainment, a number of camo-clad soldiers, semi-automatic rifles pointed firmly at the ground. Inside the venue, a stack of 80s television sets sat near the entrance, a solitary skateboarder tick-tacked his way along the catwalk and each seat came with a Swiss Army flask - to eliminate plastic wastage, according to the label.

There was no shortage of patterns, colours or textures in the collection - chalk stripes clashed with box checks, tartans with mud and paint splattered denim, knee high soccer socks with all manners of wigs.

Westwood's message was clear: get dressed in the dark, then, before you leave the house, throw on another loud garment (or ten).

That done, it was time to go watch some soccer. (I took the rest of the day off to celebrate the draw.)

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