Milan and The Age of Opulence
The rich interiors of noble palazzi and religious temples inspired designers from Alberta Ferretti to Fausto Puglisi this season; maximizing potential to create something as magnificent as Italy’s monuments.
The Bottega Veneta Fall/Winter 2017 ready-to-wear show in Milan (by Guillaume Roujas for NOWFASHION)
Across the board, Italian designers are responding to the economic malaise with all the excess they can muster. It should come as no surprise that while other smaller global players in textiles, leather and industry components have withered into ubiquity, Italian mills and artisans have held strong and concentrated on their ultra high-end products. This phenomenon was evident on the catwalks here this week, where lush velvets and fine silks dominated the runway.
Milan’s ready-to-wear shows kicked off with the Alberta Ferretti Fall/Winter collection that was largely inspired by an antique Venetian theme. Gowns draped in hooded capes brought us back to the days of the Doges of Venice. This theme was supported with wide gondolier stripes, carnival feathers and golden noble crests emblazoned on coats and sweaters.
In the same vein, Fausto Puglisi brought the plush tapestries and furnishings of Vatican City to the runway with looks that were fashioned with the same sort of soprarizzo velvet found on the carriages of royalty in the 16th and 17th Centuries.
Prada presented the artisanal side of the fashion industry in every way it could. From intricate knitwear that called to mind the snow bunny looks of Lapland and Alaska, to satin shoes and wool coats. Woven with intricate embroidery, these pieces could only have be crafted by the hands of true artisans.
Bottega Veneta also stepped it up a notch with a string of ensembles fit for a modern diva in a Cecil De Mille film. The waist-hugging suits with feathered shoulders, the woven leather gloves and the lamé and metallic evening gowns that shimmered as they sauntered down the dimly-lit runway. It all conjured the spirit of Norma Desmond, a fictional character famous for her last line: “I am ready for my close up now, Mr. De Mille.”
The Emilio Pucci Fall/Winter 2017 ready-to-wear show in Milan (by Gio Staiano for NOWFASHION)
Massimo Giorgetti of Emilio Pucci captured the attention of the crowd with his Fall/Winter “Swingin’ ‘60s resurrected” wardrobe, featuring an array of unsettling colors: from grass green to spilled-chocolate milk brown. Underneath the pre-school cafeteria palette, there was a collection filled with silky fringed ensembles and exaggerated lampshade hats fit for the most daring fashionistas.
Downtown, Giorgia Tordini and Gilda Ambrosio of Attico showcased their latest collection in a small but bustling apartment space filled with plush divans and top buyers and journalists sipping on swanky cocktails. Attico broke out last year, appearing in Vogue and on major e-tailer sites like Moda Operandi. Famous for their luxurious robes, the duo unveiled metallic disco evening dresses, animal print shoes and accessories, as well as more casual evening ensembles with chinoiserie prints. “It’s more like a parallel world I would love to create,” said Tordini. “I would love to give women the chance to be part of this world and to dress this way,” added Ambrosio. “And of course it’s something we feel very close to.”
A brand that offers no apologies for its penchant for excess is Rene Caovilla. The shoe label’s penthouse showroom space was filled with enough crystals and velvet to cover Cinderella’s carriage. “I think that the most beautiful way to show opulence is mixing materials,” said Rene Caovilla CEO Edoardo Caovilla, who pointed to his favorite pair of the season, a pair of purple boots lined at the sole with tiny Swarovski crystals. “The name of this part of the collection is called ‘A Touch of Caovilla’ with the touch of Swarovski crystals, it is one of my favourites. That is really signature to this culture and all these different elements are a reference to Venetian style.”
Could this sumptuous new trend be the (very) Italian way brands in Milan have chosen to communicate optimism in turbulent times? Where New York was diffident, London was bright, and it seems that Milan is on the precipice of a new artistic rennaisance. With two days of shows left to go the fashion set awaits the kings of maximalism, Dolce and Gabbana. It will be interesting to see who else references this most opulent, and perhaps optimistic, of trends.