Erudite Fashion Is Paramount in Milan

In Italy’s fashion capital, where design and fashion intermingle, it takes some intelligence to understand not only the artistic influences behind each collection, but also the art and craftsmanship that goes into making them.


The Giada Fall/Winter 2017 ready-to-wear show in Milan (by Guillaule Roujas for NOWFASHION)


People think Milan is purely commercial, and that isn’t true,” says Gabriele Colangelo, designer of his own eponymous brand, and creative director of the upscale Giada label. “A lot of thought goes into collections here," he adds. Colangelo’s Fall/Winter collection for Giada was held among the old manuscripts in a historic library at the Brera Art Academy.  Ever the master with details, Colangelo developed his own innovative pleating technique, enveloping different colors in each minuscule fold.  One dress took 26 hours to make as small strips of suede were sewed by hand into each crease.

Chinese label Ricostru also played with techniques and fabrics. The brand’s iridescent silk, eco-leather and techie transparent polyester materials all looked like plastic, demonstrating the high-end fabrics China's textile sector is capable of producing. “I collect a lot of artistic elements on my mood board. I like to start from a story,” designer Rico Manchit Au said backstage, noting that the label manufactures its own fabrics. 

Meanwhile at Milan's Trienniale museum, crumpled pieces of cotton were perched on blocks of clay and arranged in perfect order as if they were Greek columns. The exhibit was curated by artist and designer Zhuzhu of Phaedo Studios, who creates most of his projects out of his workshop that was built into a cave in the countryside outside of Shanghai. “I want to convey to people the idea of something pure,” Zhu said. "A different point of view on what China has to offer.”  

Textile makers and tanneries in Italy are also developing complex fabrics, synthetic blends, and a variety of weaving techniques behind the scenes. Italy's leather industry, for example, satisfies about 65 per cent of the fashion world’s finished leather needs. Italy is also a main producer of textile and yarn machinery and more often than not, designers here enjoy special relationships with fabric makers.  


The Fendi Fall/Winter 2017 ready-to-wear show in Milan (by Guillaume Roujas for NOWFASHION)


Showcasing technical skill and Italian heritage, Silvia Venturini Fendi and Karl Lagerfeld concentrated on layered pieces that were a direct reference to Roman architecture. Conservative plaid looks in Prince of Wales checks and herringbone dominated the runway, amped up with fire engine red boots throughout.  

At N. 21, Alessandro dell’Acqua’s muse was a millennial sort of Sylvia Plath who wears bobby socks under her satin sandals and layers delicate silk with her bulky vintage tweeds.  

Conservative elegance took center stage at Giorgio Armani, who opted for 1930’s casual chic. Knickerbockers buttoned at the ankles were paired with easy velvet loafers and casual blazers, topped off with art deco earrings.

Bottega Veneta also went with a 1930’s motif, Tomas Maier focused on feather shoulders, waist-hugging suits topped off woven leather gloves. Lamé and metallic evening gowns shimmered as they sauntered down the dimly-lit runway, conjuring the spirit of Hollywood’s early film stars.  

Rising star Arthur Arbesser forced us to reflect on the dire times of World War II.  Staging his show in a freezing cold bread-making facility that was used to service soldiers during war time.  An eerie series of ovens still stained from years of smoke and fire set a melancholy stage for upbeat fashions that featured modern bold check prints, foil fabrics, plastic and leather in a collection that was inspired by Wim Wenders’ “Wings of Desire”film.

A keen eye for art met a deep appreciation and understanding for high quality finishes and fabrics across a broad range of shows and presentations in Milan. Designers have now begun to recognise that they are catering to a growing number of women who are college-educated, digitally minded, politicians and start up CEOs, who aren't satisfied with labels or with trends, for that matter.  


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