Luxurious Milan

Part 2

The Giorgio Armani Collection - titled Rhapsody in Blue, was a languid exploration of smoky reliefs and pencil-sharp silhouettes played out on a dark mirrored runway.
With the occasional exception of a padded velvet overcoat over a hammered silk shirt (in blue), or a chevron-etched suede bomber (in blue) or a large-hooded piumino over a pant of puckered crushed velvet (blue too), the menswear here—via a section of luxury utility wear accented by leather-framed safety goggles—mostly stayed true to the key architecture that Armani both revolutionized and revived: suiting. It went from an opening section of Vitruvian-precise double-breasted into a loose trouser flirtation with single-breasted jackets into a blue-busting section of black tuxedos.
The more exuberant ornamentation came in the womenswear. Atop pants cut slim or with jodhpur eruptions at the quad, Armani served a pre-millennial nightclub’s worth of smoky whorl and twist.

“I will never forget her. Her huge curious and velvety eyes.” Amedeo Modigliani—yes, that Modigliani—was the scion of a Tuscan family that became wealthy through mining and that brought the young artist-to-be to Sardinia, where they operated their business. While he was there, he painted a portrait of Medea Taci, a local hotel owner’s daughter, for whom it is believed he developed a youthful crush.

This fantastic Antonio Marras collection was built around an imagined letter—imagined by Patrizia, Antonio’s wife—sent from Modigliani later in life to an old friend who had shared that time in Sardinia. The idea was that it mixed memories of the Sardinian coal miners and their partners taking their passeggiata with a sense of nostalgic longing for Taci (who in real life died early).

A quick Google search shows that Modigliani’s juvenile portrait of Taci—while excellently executed—was conventional in style and nothing like the proto-modernist technique through which the artist found controversy and fame. Marras re-created Taci in that style on an illustration on knee-high socks and reflected the look of Taci herself in the short bangs worn by the female models.All this background was the creative context for a collection that beautifully showcased the virtuosity of Marras’s jackdaw maximalism.

Tonight Miuccia Prada continued her exploration of Mary Shelley’s canonical invention from her men’s collection of five weeks ago  - the story of Frankenstein; this time giving him a bride (literally, on a sheath dress worn by a bleached-browed Cara Delevingne) and positioning him at the center of a larger sociocultural critique of our times, which she feels are defined by “romance and fear.”

First, one must note that it was a fearless decision on Prada’s part to show a women’s collection that did not come as a total surprise to its audience. There are many in fashion for whom the Prada show is like Christmas is to children who haven’t yet learned they can influence Santa: surprises abound! Why does the set have spiky foam floors? Why does the hair resemble Wednesday Addams’s? And who ever thought to record a violin cover of “Bad Romance”? Some people love Prada because they want to be gobsmacked, dazzled, schooled, and basically aesthetically woken up in the slumber that is Fashion Month. But those folks forget one thing: Miuccia is a serious person and one who is right now very concerned about European conflicts, wars, and the threat of war more generally. That is all she wanted to talk about postshow. And those sorts of thoughts and the creative impulses they give rise to don’t change in five weeks just because the industry prefers novelty. It’s simply not that moment.

And so, instead, we had a Prada collection that continued to posit romance in all its aesthetic gestures (lace, flowers, hearts, fairy-tale capes, and glittery red shoes) as a way to both soften and deepen the tropes of utilitarianism (uniforms, puffers, cargo details, pole climber boots, backpacks). The most successful looks had the subtlest integration of wide-eyed loveliness and lumbering dread: an off-the-shoulder party dress of rough, dry wool with a curvaceous skirt made shapelier with a massive patch pocket; a slouchy black trouser suit cinched at the waist with a vaguely mannish clasp; a compound military jacket with a nifty blue shirt and a black lace pencil skirt. For the Prada-philes among you, please note that the bags were largely framed purses, the shoes were mostly either massive and mannish or a sturdy pump in matte black or all-out sparkle, and the trendy buys probably involve 3-D flowers or pastel Muppet fur (cute in small doses).
And Prada-philes will love this collection because it was, at its core, very, very Prada.

Daniel Lee’s runway debut was a long time coming; the 32-year-old Céline alum was appointed Bottega Veneta’s new creative director last June. In the interim, Lee presented a Pre-Fall collection in the company’s Milan headquarters that indicated he was well acquainted with the Bottega DNA—it’s a leather specialist with a proprietary intrecciato weave—and that he’s not afraid to blow it up. Literally. Along with a distinctive square-toe pump and boot, the maxi intreccio totes were the pre-collection’s big takeaway: distinctive and identifiable without resorting to logo branding. The house motto of old was “when your own initials are enough.”

At today’s show, held in a clear tent with the sun blazing, the benches were decorated with leather cushions in that maxi intreccio pattern. They’re a useful signifier for Lee’s approach to his first big gig: He respects the house’s heritage, but he’s got an independent streak. The designer wasn’t doing interviews today, but at the Pre-Fall appointment, he said, “I like real clothes. I think there’s a need for a return to elegance and sophistication.” This collection was far bolder than that statement suggests. For the Philophiles wondering, it wasn’t a straight-up Céline redux either.

The show started with a black leather tank dress cut with a simplicity that belied the experimentation that would come later. Lee worked leather in all sorts of ways: quilting it into a slim puffer coat with a chain belt, laser-cutting it into small squares linked loosely together on skirts and more tightly on outerwear and bonding it (apparently) with neoprene to create the look of motocross gear.

A lot of what was on the runway was directional enough to challenge the eye, or at least to challenge what we expect from Bottega Veneta. This was an ambitious debut, full of risks. We don’t get a lot of those these days.

Dolce & Gabbana show opened with a black-and-white video of the designers and their studio assistants sketching, draping, and fitting models in looks from the collection that would walk the runway minutes later. Fatto a manowas stitched across the bodice of one of the dresses: “Made by hand.” In a year in which the designers have struggled to find the right tone, the video portrayed a team of dedicated makers working hard and enjoying what they do.

Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana named the collection Eleganza and enlisted a master of ceremonies to narrate the 127-look march past. It was divided into a dozen or so sections, each one representative of one of the signatures the designers have developed over the past 36 years: men’s tailoring, leopard print, brocade, sequins, women’s tailoring in menswear fabrics, et cetera. In recent years, their practice has been to put a seasonal gloss on those trademarks. Italy’s world-famous cuisine one season, its tourist destinations another, or the opera. This season the device was that MC. Haute couture shows of old were accompanied by stately voiced descriptions; this was a tongue-in-cheek take on a method of presentation that had mostly passed out of fashion by the time Dolce and Gabbana started working. It was definitely never this camp: “Enough of the atelier,” the MC declared. “Run to the boutique!” Though it was designed with the same intention as the opening video—to underscore the duo’s seriousness and sincerity—it lacked some of the wit necessary to keep it engaging. In 2019, not all women dream of being princesses or whisked away for a 365-hour shopping spree by a man. Some would like to be whisked away by another woman, and some are happy to pay for their purchases themselves.

That said, for the Dolce & Gabbana client, this was a winning show—a full day-to-night wardrobe of time-tested looks, minus the athleisure, streetwear, and influencer front row that they had lately taken on board in a bid at currency. In a preview, the designers said that the young celebrities they’ve been dressing, the men especially, have been turned on by sartorialism—some of these guys had never worn a suit before their first Dolce & Gabbana fitting. They’re advocating for a similar “return to classicality” on the women’s side.

Here are nine words no one ever thought they’d hear Donatella Versace utter: “A little bit of imperfection is the new perfection.” Speaking at a press conference before the Versace presentation, Donatella said she’d been thinking about how we live today on our screens—Instagram in particular—and how we’re all obsessed with perfection. She’s troubled by it, and that led her to grunge, the 1990s music genre associated with thrashing guitars and shredded flannel shirts.

Gianni Versace never really addressed grunge the way American designers like Perry Ellis, Marc Jacobs or Anna Sui did in the 1990s. But Donatella has always been in love with music, so this wasn’t as unlikely a fit as it sounds.

DV grunge, to be sure, is a long way off from Seattle grunge. These moth holes weren’t made by moths, let’s just say. Also, Donatella loaded her looks with such familiar Versace staples as oversize safety pins and bondage harnesses. And let’s be real, these were not thrift store clothes, which is what Kurt Cobain, whose signature keening mixed with techno on the soundtrack, was wearing when he and Nirvana recorded Nevermind. These were luxury clothes, with luxury prices, but certain outfits believably channeled the grunge spirit, among them the V-print minidress over a ribbed-knit sweater and lace tights; the kinder-whore combo of a bondage harness and schoolgirl tweeds; and the black slip worn with a white tee printed with a 1995 Richard Avedon shot of a glamorous Donatella, who was the face of the Versace fragrance Blonde. The T-shirts were a collaboration with the Richard Avedon Foundation.

All photos and re-edited writeups originally appeared on Vogue Runway . If you want the full Milan RTW Fall 2019 reportage, head on over there now!