Oh, Italy. The land of luxury behemoths. Young fashion people scoff at Milan, but Milan is planting itself once more at the forefront of conceptual fashion. Versace and Prada will always be doing their thing. Damir Doma decided to leave the herd of Paris and create his architectural garments in Italy. Arthur Arbesser is injecting youth and idea-driven fashion into the city revitalizing Iceberg and launching his own brand. And, less we forget, Alessandro Michele is the hottest designer in fashion at Gucci. It feels like people are ready for Italian fashion again, and they certainly want Gucci to be relevant again. We’ve had so many years of “cool” and “arty” brands out of Paris and London that maybe the coolest thing to do right now is to pay heed to the luxury giants of Italy. It’s hip to be square, motherfuckers. – Adam Lehrer
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And just like that, people give a shit about Gucci again. Italy has a new king, and his name is Alessandro Michele. It was only nine months ago that this guy was on the tip of no editor’s tongue and then three months and a women’s and a men’s collection later his influence has been felt radically at the house of Gucci and has reverberated throughout the fashion kingdom. The gender bending, fey dudes, and tomboy girls has been going on in fashion for a long time, but now as the standard at a house like Gucci it can be said to be the norm. Michele’s FW 2015 collection had a lot going on. It was as if Michele had bottled all these ideas up for years and was just waiting to be able to unleash them upon the world. The SS 2016 collection felt more singular. These clothes felt influenced by the ‘70s but at the same time they were insanely beautiful. There were fucking 66 looks in this collection and every piece has a different print! That is unbelievable in and of its self. I also like that Michele, while he does “bend” gender norms, still seems aware that a man’s body looks best in man’s clothes and ditto a women. The women’s looks were dresses and the men’s clothes were suits. I’m not going to say much about Michele other than that it speaks to the speed of the fashion system that a man can go from an accessories designer at a fading luxury house to one of the most important designers in the world at a hot luxury house in two seasons. Tom Ford’s takeover of Gucci was legendary. Michele’s will be radical.
Fuck it, I’m going for it: VERSACE VERSACE VERSACE VERSACE! Versace is eternal. Even at its most irrelevant, Versace reigns supreme. Case in point: the Versace SS 2016 show saw Donatella reaching out to the women of the world. The message was clear: be yourself and conquer, ladies!
I think people have this bias against Italian brands that they are stuffy, overly traditional, and classist. In some cases, this might be true. But Donatella Versace is a woman of the world. The soundtrack, entitled “Transition” by Violet and friends, called on for women to stop listening to the shit people say about them. Women can really run the world, and Donatella wants to help you.
Versace is also intimately connected to American hip-hop culture, dating back to Biggie Smalls up to today with Nicki Minaj and the previously quoted Migos. Donatella embraces this connection, and her runway was the most multi-cultural of Milan Fashion Week. There is something so beautifully unpretentious about Donatella Versace, whether it’s the unabashed sexiness of her shows, her embracing of celebrity culture, or her support of younger designers like JW Anderson and Anthony Vacarello. That lack of class warfare has allowed Versace to remain relevant in the modern fashion sphere.
Speaking of the unabashed sexiness of her clothes, it has to be said: the girls in the Versace SS 2016 show looked HOT. Sorry to let my more base boring straight male instincts take over, but it has to be said. All the garments, smashingly luxurious, were slitted everywhere: legs, torsos, hips, necklines, and breasts are all well displayed. Street influences met couture and it all looked great. May Donatella reign.
On the menswear end of things, I love Bottega Veneta. Its suede Chelsea boots are literally my favorites boots in the world (made popular by Kanye’s grungy dressed down wearing of the $1200 statement boots, I’m rather poor so I have wear the Top Man suedette versions). Creative director Tomas Maier has been a little more on the nose when it comes to womenswear, however. Bottega Veneta’s whole thing, super luxurious versions of everyday staple pieces, doesn’t always translate to great womenswear shows. The SS 2016 show felt particularly realized then. Maier was inspired by the open country, and presented some dazzling outerwear pieces. The tracksuits with cropped pants didn’t look anything close to sporty, but certainly could be worn for sport. It was almost a rebellious look. Coming back to the city though, a beautiful pantsuit emblazoned with a camo print was eye grabbing and kept to the theme despite it certainly not being outerwear. Maier is really coming owning his role at Bottega Veneta.
Of all the Italian brands, Marni perhaps feels the most like one of the Paris-based brands in its embracing of contemporary art and harsher aesthetics. Despite that though, the collections offer tons of colors and print. Marni can be abstract and accessible in equal measures. The Sonic Youth of fashion labels? Sure, why not.
Consuelo Castiglioni’s SS 2016 saw an apron-like shape emerge in various forms on the runway: in tunics, in dresses, and wool structures. This collection had mystery to it. With all the shapes and layers draped upon the women, I couldn’t help but wonder what was underneath. It’s like when I was in middle school and girls started looking so painfully beautiful but also so utterly alien. I didn’t know what I wanted, but I knew that I wanted it.
The color palette of Marni SS 2016 is all over the place but cohesive. Hunter greens meld into browns and bright reds meld into blues. Marni still feels smaller than it should be, but maybe that is why it works. It’s a big Italian brand that holds its aura of the austere.
Damir Doma, in his second Italian outing since moving his brand from Paris to Milan, was smart to leave the City of Lights. In Paris, he is just one of dozens of young designers taking on brutal, conceptual, abstract, and “arty” fashion. In Milan, however, he is practically the only one. He stands out in Italy.
Doma works closely with his manufacturers, and perhaps that is why he decided to move to Italy. In any case, his unique relationship to fabric stands out in the SS 2016 collection. In strictly monochromatic colors, Doma plays around with the proportions of pantsuits, cloaks, dresses and jackets. I particularly enjoyed the elegant dresses that were then slashed to shreds at the bottom. It reminded me of old Rei Kawakubo. Also, in the vein of Rick Owens, there was a kind of sexy unsexiness to this collection, with wide and loose garments falling upon the models in such a way that only hinted at eroticism.
If there has been a moment of, “This designer has arrived!” this season, ala with Alessandro Michele at Gucci last season, it has been Arthur Arbesser. Arbesser released his debut collection as creative director for knit brand Iceberg as well as his first line for his namesake brand. Both collections were different and great in their own ways.
Arbesser brought bohemian sensibilities to Iceberg, with pin stripe satin bomber jackets worn over cropped pants. The clothes were very casual but cool and effortless. No one has thought of Iceberg for some time, but with Arbesser designing the ready-to-wear and Olivier Zahm heading the campaigns, it could be the new heritage thing. Wait to see what Arbesser does with the knits for a winter collection.
Balthus inspired everything. Arthur Arbesser paid attention to that notion with his SS 2016 collection under his namesake brand, installing a giant Balthus cat in the middle of his floor. The girls walking in the show looked painfully young; both in their facial features and in their little school girl mini skirts and also the Nikes and pajamas. I so often hate this sort of pubescent fashion that I am even more impressed with Arbesser that I like this. He’s searching for a romance in youth and I have to say he’s found it. And those blue leather pieces, hot damn.
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Prada didn’t leave any angle un-textured or un-embellished; metaphysical in the truest sense of the word. The collection created layers of content that could make you hiccup. The SS 2016 collection is seemingly a working girl on acid. The elongated silhouettes allow dimensions to be layered with additional accessories and patterns. Muted metallic and electric lace bibs offer the idea that we are just visiting this planet. The tailored samurai skirt with matching blazer eludes a strict rhetoric lifestyle. The wispy hair and drop waist dresses spark ‘40 and ‘50s-era inspirations; like Tim Burton doing Casablanca. Color accents were strategically placed with socks, gloves and earrings proving leverage to draw the eye out to see it as a whole identity.
Fendi SS 2016 opened with a fiery red to ambre shade of dusty salmon and cool white. All of the trimmings manifest a vision of a Swiss girl with a militant edge. The braiding of leather and fabric accent the large well pockets in the dresses giving a sense of utility. The garments also relish a fashion functionality with the “skort” like design and culotte wide legged pants. Belief in this theory allows you two ideas within one singular collection. Flowing printed prairie dresses and billowing sleeves give the feminine tone to the masculine tailored structures. If all is fair in love and war then what are we fighting for.
Will you drink the Kool-Aid of the country cult leader draped in silks and sanctity? The Jil Sander SS 2016 collection offered tweed hats acting as a protection barrier to shield unwanted followers in your direction. The ominous sounds and designs paint a very surreal vision of religion. It has a fine tuned reference point that can almost be read as boring, but with ample contingency to the presentation. The repetition off the shoulder design highlighted a consistent design. The cable cord belts create a restrictive and controlled energy much like a cult counterpart. The layering aspect has been all over the runway but Rodolfo Paglialunga embodies a comfort and effortless perspective at Jil Sander. He recognizes the DNA Jil created to carry on the legacy of the brand, but has played down some of the brutality and harshness that Sander was beloved by many for using.
The opening sounds of dance punk band Le Tigre at the MSGM SS 2016 were electric. The models matched the intensity of the boisterous music by charging full speed down the runway. The energy created by the caustic music and fast-moving models was emblematic of the color palette of MSGM’s SS 2016 collection’s shocking ultraviolet hues. The layering in this collection offered a femininity to what was a slightly Tomboy-ish presentation. I was struck with a sense of nostalgia for my coveted JNCOs and chain wallet I would rock in the late ‘90s. The pastel ruffles paired with wide-legged short trousers exuded hues of that bygone era. The bondage of punk was presented in a very pop art manner with flowing chain dresses and chest pieces. This grunge girl is a skater who also happens to play with textural design. Using billowing fabrics at the hips, she communicates the source of her power.
Text by Autre Fashion Editor Adam Lehrer and contributor Julianna Vezzetti