MILAN – To show or not to show: Each Milan fashion house had to make a difficult decision how to reach the fashion public this season under the safety constraints imposed by the coronavirus.
Italy's fashion capital — one of the top four runway cities in the world — has worked hard to maintain a near-real fashion week, with 23 live shows, coming after New York, which was mostly virtual, and London, where designers mostly met with small groups of editors. Paris will be the next city to test the waters with live shows.
“We need to start from the position that this cannot be compared with the past. We are starting from now, doing the best with the situation that exists today,’’ the president of Italy’s fashion council, Carlo Capasa, said Saturday. ‘’It is important to give a voice to the brands. Above all, to do it in safety.’’
Highlights from Saturday’s shows of mostly womenswear previews for the next warm weather season.
ARMANI EXPLORES PAST AND PRESENT
Giorgio Armani was the first Milan designer to show his collection behind closed doors, taking the command decision last February after Italy’s first local transmitted case of coronavirus was detected while Milan Fashion Week was under way. The 86-year-old designer was not about to take chances and open the doors to guests with the pandemic still active seven months later.
“I don’t know when we will recover the formula’’ of live runway shows, Armani told journalists during a presentation. While he said there is no substituting the energy of a runway show, he himself doesn’t mind the respite. ‘’Honestly, if I were 30 years young, I would miss it. Being that many years older, I am fine the way it is,’’ he said.
In its place, he created a virtual event featuring a 20-minute film that served as a retrospective of his 45-year career that was broadcast not only on the internet but on private Italian television as an introduction to the 13-minute runway show. The combined women’s and men’s collection featured 60 looks for her and 39 for him.
Armani said he worried that the film was ‘’a little exhibitionist. ... But ordinary people hardly ever get to see what goes on behind this sort of work. So I took advantage of the chance to let them see.''
The film put the spotlight on Armani's philosophy that it is the person, not the clothes, that should be remembered, and celebrated the Armani innovation of softer jackets described as a ‘’second skin.'' The Armani woman “is utterly herself without apology,’’ Cate Blanchett told an interviewer.
The new collection, inspired by Armani’s own heritage, featured anything but lockdown looks. The women’s clothes were rich and detailed: silken trousers, patchwork jackets, sequin and beaded evening dresses, finished with big jewelry and pretty clutches all for a night out. Men wore slate-gray business suits with dark ties, or more casual three-piece suits — with the vest serving as the top.
The videotaped runway show ended with a close-up of a model looking steadily into the camera, instead of the usual view of Armani taking a bow from the stage door. ‘’I thought it was enough,’’ the designer said. The garment included a beaded detail of a cat -- an homage to Armani’s own feline, Angel, who died this summer.
TV viewers were then treated to a broadcast of “American Gigolo,” the 1980 film starring Richard Gere in an exclusive Armani wardrobe.
FERRAGAMO EXPLORES REAL VS. SURREAL
The Salvatore Ferragamo fashion crowd gathering under moonlit sky in a rotunda was greeted with the soundtrack of clashing birds, then spooked by a Technicolor suspense film of well-heeled urban dwellers clicking up and down Milan’s marble passageways and hidden stairwells.
Creative director Paul Andrew said he spent the lockdown re-watching classic Hitchcock suspense films, the experience blurring the lines between the real and the surreal and inspiring his latest collection.
Oscar-nominated director Luca Guadagnino shot the short film that was shown ahead of the live runway show, treating viewers to a Hitchcock-inspired vertiginous view of an empty Milan suspiciously inhabited entirely by beautiful young people smartly dressed in Ferragamo.
‘’The collection echoes that gorgeous hyper-real level of color saturation that is so evident in the beautiful technical masterpiece that is ‘Vertigo,'’’ Andrew said in notes. The palette was a rainbow of faintly bright yellow, sky blue, lime green, mauve and pigeon gray.
Women wore smart skirt suits befitting Hitchcock leading lady Tippi Hedren, a fisherman’s knit mini-dress straight out of Bodega Bay and feather-tasseled trousers worn like a trophy after winning a tussle with the birds. Andrew’s footwear innovations for the season include square-toed sling-backs and the F-wedge shoe that puts the heel elegantly at the instep.
Men wore perforated leather jackets with loose trousers, suits with 1940s boxy jackets and bright trenches. A soft bootie was the shoe of the season.
DROMe SEEKS THE ESSENTIAL
The creative director of the Tuscan brand DROMe, Mariana Rosati, said, like many, that she had grown more introspective during Italy’s long and severe coronavirus lockdown. “It made me look at the essentialness of things,'' Rosati said before her live show
The collection projects a strong feminine presence, evident in cropped tops baring midriffs, mini-skirts and high slit dresses.
The brand, which has found favor with singers Cardi B and Ariana Grande, is built around a leather heritage, and the collection featured soft dresses with unexpected twists, quilted leather tops or cropped jackets paired with leg-baring minis. They were accompanied by parallel garments in ribbed knitwear, perfect for working from home or just hunkering down. Rosati mixed and matched the knits and leather, using to particular effect leather bras to give an edge over a knit dress, or a knit bra to soften up a leather look.
‘’In this moment, I felt the need to remove what was not essential, to put value on the person,’’ she said.