It is commonplace to say that Milan is commercial and not fashion forward, an obligatory stop for the fashion circus in between the expectations of newness in London, and the state of fashion in Paris. It remains that Milan fashion week has a problem. It is obvious that Italy’s history of fashion is weighing down on the city. Here’s the thing: Milan was known for beautiful clothes, family owned/traditional houses that made women from all over the world want to spend money to look Italian, to look good (even if in a classically over glamorous kind of way), to feel chic in Armani. The world has changed, and today one must acknowledge that fashion possesses little relevance without a deeper, if not political, or at least ideological meaning.
Gucci, once again, brought something worth mentioning to the week, as did Remo Ruffini with Moncler; both managed to give a glimpse of hope to the state of Italian fashion by provoking and inspiring; by making future and history collide, to meet in the middle and create something special and memorable. The fact that Mr Armani reacted to Gucci by subtly criticising its show in an interview, is confirmation that Alessandro Michele was right in his approach. The model heads or the baby dragons worn as accessories provoked a reaction from the establishment, and only strong reactions, good or bad, can push fashion forward. Michele’s provocations are sending a clear message: a fashion show is not meaningful if it doesn’t benefit a higher meaning with an intelligent approach.
Moncler and its Genius project (pun intended) was certainly original, but also futuristic, not because it stated 'The future is now' but because it dared to unite designers whose approach to fashion and style can be described as opposite in the same project, sending a message of unity in a world that at times still tends to favour competition over collaboration. It was also incredibly modern and creative in its business model, whereas collections will drop monthly at a pace decided by the brand rather than the system. Fashion has to move forward, not only with the clothes and the presentations, but it must find new creative ways to be offered, and sold.
However, if searching for newness and meaning is not genuine, and it is forced instead, the elaborate presentations and ideas are not original, but a tentative copy of the brand of the moment, it then shows and fails.
Another rare stand out was the work of Paul Andrew, who was recently appointed Creative Director of the women’s collections at Salvatore Ferragamo, and who was smart enough to work in tandem, and not in competition, with Guillaume Meilland, Ferragamo menswear designer, to produce a co-ed collection that worked. It has been called something akin to the Italian answer to Hermés; I would say it was the modern answer to the French classic. It was very luxurious, extremely beautiful, modern and perfectly fitting for a brand that has struggled, in the recent past, to stay relevant and appealing for a young audience, which eventually means every audience.
All that said, one cannot deny that, between the Versace and Prada shows, Italy is trying to give a platform to some young, relatively new designers who are finally changing the face of the week, and who are gathering interest from the press and, hopefully, the buyers. The best, in my opinion, was Erika Cavallini’s collection and show. She managed to bring relevance and modernity to a city that urgently needs it, with a diverse cast that looked honest and not forced, and a beautiful, simple yet elaborate collection where vintage feminine silk slip dresses were styled under boyish suits: they looked tremendously cool. Let’s hope that other Cavallini’s will emerge from Italy to bring us a breath of fresh (and renewed) air.