28 September 2010

Milan Fashion Week Gets Fruity

Guardian UK
The Milan catwalks have lost patience with minimalism. Stand by for neon brights, monkey prints – and an assortment of fruit

When fashion turns its spotlight on one particular look, an opposing one inevitably gets left in the dark. Most will know the feeling: if skirts are your thing and yet the shops are filled with rails of trousers, often there is little else to do but wait for fashion to swing back towards your comfort zone again. For the past couple of seasons, Milan fashion week has suffered a similar fate. Minimalism has been the defining catwalk trend over recent months, but this pared-back look sits unhappily in a city where sex appeal and snakeskin are routinely considered the two pillars of chic. As a result Milanese style had been floundering, the city's influence shaky.

This season Milan clearly decided that sitting it out was not an option. It had lost patience with minimalism: it was time for something else. Two of the city's most lauded designers, Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons of Jil Sander, both admitted as much. Backstage at her show Prada explained that she wanted to do something "between minimalism and baroque" and Simons took this a step further saying that he wanted to go "maximal". It may not be an actual word but it was most definitely a look.

It would be a little too neat to say that Milan fashion week killed off minimalism completely. It wasn't as if rows of boring camel coats were being lined up and shot; there was no burning pile of tailored navy trousers. But there was an undercurrent of change as bold colour, exaggerated shapes and bananas (more on those later) became the most memorable symbols of Milan.

The Jil Sander show was the best of the week. It featured the most shockingly bright selection of neon brights: orange, pink, emerald, magenta and Yves Klein blues. It would have been a simple development from modern minimalism had it not been for the extraordinary shapes that recalled 1960s couture dresses. Long silk voluminous skirts were paired with simple white T-shirts, as were elephantine emerald green trousers. A navy parka was worn over a giant teardrop-shaped strapless evening dress, and an intense floral print covered a couture-inspired dress. The audience undoubtedly left as "maximal" converts.

The headline take-home trend was bold colour. At MaxMara, autumn's camel coats were swapped for block colour in sporty shapes – leotards with contrasting block-coloured sleeves were worn with mid thigh tailored shorts. Skinny belts provided an underline of bright. Meanwhile Marni – home of the wonky bold print – went super-bright. Designer Consuelo Castiglioni took colour down a sporty route, using cycling tops, retro swimming caps and Victorian bathing suits. A Mondrian-inspired wetsuit worked on the catwalk but probably won't generate so many hits if something similar finds its way onto the asos website next summer.

At Versus – the younger line from Versace, designed by British star Christopher Kane, block colour was joined by spriggy Liberty-style floral prints and bright tartan. Admittedly this sounds like a hideous cocktail of ideas but Glaswegian Kane made it look upbeat and modern. Meanwhile his boss and mentor Donatella also pushed bold colour in her collection, but being a Versace she simultaneously managed to take the trend firmly into Milanese territory. Dresses in turquoise and tomato red were cut skin tight and featured slithers of PVC panelling which drew attention to either the midriff or the shoulders. The focus on the bare shoulder is a smart move – it is widely regarded an area of the body that defies ageing and so will appeal to an older customer who can realistically afford the designs. Many of the dresses fell below the knee, a style seen in both New York and London, and which can now justifiably tout itself as being "the new length".

There was a lot of talk about fruit in Milan. It was largely Prada's fault for wearing a pair of plasticky banana earrings as she took her bow. Later in the week Anna dello Russo, the editor at large of Vogue Japan and arguably fashion's most street-blogged figurehead, was seen wearing a giant watermelon hat to one show and a cherry hat to the next. Surely a micro trend in the making?

The Prada collection featured bananas and monkeys printed onto boxy shirts, and tight cotton skirts that ended with a tango-style giant frill. Bold (or "brave colour" as the designer herself described it backstage) and giant stripes featured heavily in the show. Snooker-table green skirt-suits and orange, pink and black structured sundresses were worn with striped raffia tango shoes and chunky brothel creepers.

Although Prada pitched her show as falling between the two markers of minimalism and baroque it is likely that the pieces at the more fancy end of the scale – the curlicue sunglasses and the stripes and monkey prints – will prove to be the most influential. Milanese bold colour will be marching fashion away from sleek camel and navy in the months to come. It's a safe bet that Topshop is already knocking out thousands of pairs of brilliant trashy earrings, and if Milan can't kill off minimalism for good then a banana earring surely can.

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