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.

16 September 2010

Long as a California Summer

NY Times

Hot pants are not likely to be chased into the woodwork, fans and onlookers will be happy to hear, but they will have to yield next summer to the long, plain skirt.

Designers, thinking of the 1990s or maybe the mythical California girl, have suddenly given longer hemlines a vote of approval. On Wednesday, Michael Kors opened his cheerful show with an ankle-grazing skirt in linen gauze and a matching pullover. For Narciso Rodriguez, an architect of ’90s, post-Calvin Klein minimalism, the look was more specific to New York, and to a happy period in his own life.

He said after his excellent show on Tuesday night at Lincoln Center that he had been thinking of his friend, the late Carolyn Bessette, and how she and other women they knew used to throw a coat over a long dress and go out for the night. That was certainly the sense imparted by a powdery pink silk slip dress worn with an ashy gray linen canvas coat.

All of the hemlines in Mr. Rodriguez’s collection were mid-calf, and the lines were loose, essentially based on a T-shirt or slip. His other smart gesture was to show a relaxed pair of boy trousers in dry-looking black wool with a series of different tank tops or pullovers composed of layers of black chiffon and pale silk, creating a smoked effect or a shimmer of beading.

The idea isn’t all that original, and not so different from a socialite chucking an old coat over her evening dress, but the look feels right again. A new fashion almost always comes about as a reaction to something else — long skirts after a summer or two of minis and short shorts — and Mr. Rodriguez’s blush-to-pink dresses may have stood out because they were said with a whisper.

With Cat Stevens on the soundtrack at Mr. Kors’s show, you just sort of hummed along until you fell into a hopeless groove. Wunderbar! The collection was a fine granola mix of tank tops, pj’s, roomy trench coats, long grass-colored knits and crinkled hemp linen, including a tunic worn with a pair of platform sandals and thick woolly socks.

Again, hardly a new look to someone who lives in Los Angeles or Austin, but Mr. Kors made the story seem fresh, spiking the sun-faded neutrals with iris and daffodil and reaffirming the looser, longer proportions for next summer.

Ralph Rucci skipped a runway show this season and instead presented his clothes himself in his SoHo showroom. To call the collection a refinement of his style — splicing, say, horsehair into arcs of wool or creating sound-wave patterns in the sheer midriff of a black dress — would be to minimize his efforts. He used more cotton than he is known for; the most striking example was a perfect little shift of brown suede with square panels of black cotton and a suede cord belt. Lanky it was, and he should think about expressing that attitude in other styles.

Other standout looks included a creamy matte jersey day dress with cartridge pleating, a flirty cocktail dress in coral silk taffeta with a beaded top done in an open basket weave, and a sliver of a long black silk gown meant to be worn with a popover top embroidered with glassy-white bugle beads.

Sophie Theallet is the most recent winner of the Council of Fashion Designers of America/Vogue Fund award for emerging talent, and you could see in her collection on Tuesday night at Lincoln Center that she put her prize money to good use — in the materials and construction of her clothes.

Always indifferent to the loop of trends and recycled ideas, Ms. Theallet expanded her number of silhouettes. For a sleeveless dress that was draped easily at one side, she used a cotton print of birds, their wings forming a kind of abstract lattice. Another cotton print, in deep red and blue, suggested a woodcut. And she had several day dresses with full sleeves that narrowed to just above the elbow, a line that looked fresh.

The size and dark atmosphere of her space, with the models pausing on a raised platform, did not work in her favor, and the clothes deserved to be viewed in a context that suited their detail and real sense of mystery. Among the exquisite looks, and new from Ms. Theallet, was a long evening dress in snake-green silk charmeuse with one shoulder tossed with black lace.