Pure escapist fun was the unifying theme for this season’s Milan Fashion Week. Safari chic, tropical prints and loose-fitting clothing (perfect for holidaying in Lake Como) provided a stark contrast to the structure and minimalism of New York. Short suits were the uniform for this season; Bermuda shorts for lounging, but add a blazer? It’s the new executive chic. This season, we were given ready-to-wear collections that were actually ready to wear.
Though it presented in Milan, clearly, the German brand’s heart is still deeply in New York. This season presented an extremely wearable and clean collection driven by urban chic and the power of simplicity. Known for its suiting and minimalism, Boss delivered monochrome outfits as though curated by Pantone, with material mastery to accentuate and sashay away. Offering myriad options for men and women, the colour palette was derived from the morning walks that chief brand officer Ingo Wilts took around the Hudson Yards shopping complex opposite the river while he lived in New York. It was a transition from white to lemon chiffon, then to camels and beiges, from coral red to grey, from blue to black, and all the way back to neutrals. The wealth of blues culminated in tonal theurgy, forming the archetype for the coming spring season. Clean-cut and unfussy overcoats in patents, leathers and heavyweight cottons made us envious for the effortless cool that only Boss seems able to convey.
Fendi opened a new chapter this season: its first collection without the tutelage of Karl Lagerfeld. This new day dawned with a relaxed ’70s vacation vibe, with runway-exclusive short-shorts and miniskirts accompanying a munificence of outerwear – think quilting and suede and everything in-between. Fendi took a more summery approach, in a drastic contrast to the prim and properness of its last season. Psychedelic retro floral prints in pastels were the ultimate move for a Roman holiday. Ribbons of brown leather and yellow fur interweaved for the next rejuvenation of the basket bag: a tote with all the excitement of a picnic in Capri. Sequined houndstooth in the house colours featured on an almost satirically small cross-body bag (Jacquemus has some real competition), while gingham on gingham with a latticed neckline and matching inner-ensemble was the ultimate power move. A dress with fur panelling was outrageous and audacious, paired with socks and sandals; our vacationing heroine redefined what cool for the summer really means. The gauzy buoyancy that swayed past, the sheer oversized crochet and the patchwork jackets were all saturated in the inimitable branding that is Fendi.
Giorgio Armani revealed his pragmatist nature this season, saying, “I’ve always maintained the idea that fashion belongs to the people… intended for an audience buying, going around, living life.” Using the classical nymph Echo as his muse, who became “immaterial” and only left her voice behind, such delicate tones paralleled in the airy-and-fairy floating ruffled sequined gowns. Greige and navies with peekaboo pinks and blues demonstrated the control of the collection. In an adroit flirtation between the gentle and the athletic, we moved from a demure palette for formalwear to idiosyncratic eveningwear. Taking a trousers-first approach, the parachute pants swelled past, matched with overlay bustiers, ruffled boas and oversized bows. Smokey greys, organza and hushed tones were among the highlights. The second collection shown in the Palazzo Orsini was hallmarked by the “II” on the oversized hoop earrings. Sugary tones have been present everywhere from Max Mara to Fendi, but the exquisiteness was only one that could be channelled by the Armani show.
Alessandro Michele is the archetype of a provocateur – and this Gucci show may have been his most memorable yet. Guests were welcomed into a red-lit room, which flashed white to signal the beginning of the show before showing a sense of restraint (in a literal sense) from the designer who brought Gucci back from the clutches of hibernation just four years ago. A maximalist, Michele was truly free this season; nothing was held back or budgeted. An explosion of logos, prints and glitter has us addicted to universal vintage and a ruckus of colours, all underpinned by gender fluidity. The Willy Wonka-esque sunglasses were the staple we didn’t know we needed; when partnered with the chain, this really is a must-have. Let’s just say we had a lot of accessory envy – did you see those latex gloves? Yes, please. Double-breasted suits embroidered with the double-G insignia and embellished with gold exuded luxury and authority. An entirely blush-toned sheer organza ensemble brought a new meaning to “pretty as a peach” – skirting the lines of the perverse, the model was styled with contrasting blacks, including the likes of a small paddle. Slip dresses have been a fashion favourite as of late, but we can’t just have a simple slip dress from the likes of Gucci: cue lace panels, mermaid scaling and bonsai motifs. No drama was spared, but who needs minimalism when you can have Michele?
Minimalism and sharp tailoring are the quintessence of Jil Sander, but while it stands tall against the cold, it can often be a little sterile or nondescript in the summer months. Enter the natural raffia, a welcome surprise. What transpired was an exploration of opposites with pairs of prints – such as Pisces and Virgo on silky dresses. The raffia mermaid hem dress appeared to pay homage to the fish horoscope in its own way. Alternating between form and flow, we were brought a divine collection of flowing dresses, single-fastening overcoats and lattice work. Alternating between the boundaries of hard and soft, the edifice of the Jil Sander legacy is on that is hard to shake, but a marble-print draped jersey dress contrasted with the structure of the jacket atop it. The Viennese Secession movement at the turn of the 20th century and the psychedelia of the 1960s both gave inspiration for the brand’s boldest and most playful print to date: a swirling marble design blending both sources into one. It was a muted palette overall; however, the brand did step out of its comfort zone with the addition of polychromatic rippling. While retaining the identity of Jil Sander, Lucie and Luke Meier are reshaping the brand and bringing their own colour.
TV series Killing Eve is having quite the fashion moment of late, from putting Molly Goddard’s name on the map to Max Mara creating an army of runway-ready Villanelles. With series creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge repurposing the script for the next James Bond film so it “will treat women properly”, it’s no wonder that creative director Ian Griffiths would seek answers in what it means to be a strong female. With a utilitarian theme throughout, the narrative that was communicated was classically driven Savile Row-style suiting – sharp and dapper, but not for the male lead. Bermuda shorts moulded and drove the new Milan spring/summer 2020 suit. The Max Mara coats we long for every season were remixed and rendered in Uranian blue and the trench coats were shortened. The show closed with a rainbow of pastel bias-cut silk dresses, but don’t be mistaken – Griffiths’s heroine may arrive in shades of sugar almond pink, baby blue and seafoam, but she isn’t your sweetheart.
The real finesse of Prada lies in its details. The venue itself was a marvel, with columns of gold, hand-tiled sherbet tones and unusual geometry. Garish colour is often portrayed as lowbrow or gaudy, but Prada rewrites that narrative. Striking a balance between the quirky and the sweet, this collection was sophisticated and innovative. Focusing more on the person wearing the clothes “rather than about the fashion”, Prada is showing a shift in vision. Opting to curate looks with the models in mind, this show was anything but ordinary; distilling credits from past decades, we were brought chemises from the 1920s for the modern woman, ’50s cuts and ’70s suiting. But a Prada show wouldn’t be complete without intarsia knits and “ugly prints”, disrupting the market since way back when. The languid dresses were an appreciated complement to the Italian house’s suiting with which we’re so familiar. For the more esoteric and eclectic, the brand enchanted us with the ultimate showing: elegant, plentiful, irreverent and unapologetically Prada. The medley of textures and contexts took us everywhere – to the beach with the straw and flowing beach dresses, or to the office with the fitted pencil skirts (for those more adventurous, choose the ones embellished with paillettes). Catering to the contemporary woman, Prada chose the person over the clothes, and in doing so created a timeless collection that says it all.
Creative designer and designer Paul Andrew hoped to conjure up the tranquillity and idyll of the Italian summer. We weren’t quite sure if this was SS20 ready-to-wear or resort, with knits of every creed – striped, solids, hooded and dresses – but they were nonetheless the strengths of the show. The burnt sienna and dark blue reproduced the sunsets on the Amalfi Coast, filling us with feelings of warmth and relaxation. Reviving the swimwear collection that had been in hiding for around a decade, Andrew pulled all the stops to recreate the Roman holiday. The fond memories went as far as putting his own spin on the beloved Vara pump. Gone is the gold hardware and the grosgrain on the bow, inspired by Richard Serra’s sculptures; we have been graced with a pointed toe and a flatter round heel – and for those who value practicality, some come with a stretchy back. Leather is in the DNA of Ferragamo, and although it was wafer-thin and somewhat flowy here, there was arguably too much of it to convince us of the breeziness of the Italian summer. The minimalism and simplicity of the black and khaki jumpsuits, on the other hand, reassured us. One thing’s for certain: Ferragamo’s SS20 collection is made for the jetsetter.
Much like its New York Fashion Week counterpart, the Sportmax SS20 show in Milan continued with “a wave of freedom and optimistic light”. An experimentation with airiness created a collection of flowing kaftans, bias-cut dresses, and draped and fluid forms that drifted past. A flurry of navy, turtledove grey, caramel, white and Palladian blue reflected the seaside that fashion director Grazia Malagoli aspired to emulate. Her seaside wasn’t as obvious as mariner stripes; rather, the concept and shape of sails and their mechanisms provided the starting point. Summer breezes were mimicked in the easy-breeziness of the chiffon summer dresses – delicate and sweet, with all the promises that warmer days bring. As much as the seaside played a point of inspiration, so did the fishermen who work there; the leather peacoat and harnesses were harsher interpretations. The executive nonchalance of the short suit – the uniform of SS20 Milan – added a dose of utilitarian flair. Leaving us yearning for the seaside, Sportmax has us salty that we have to wait out the winter for those warmer days to return.
Yes: Versace plunged into its past and recreated that 2000 Grammy Awards J.Lo dress. Technology drives us and Donatella Versace is no stranger to that fact; after all, her brand (and the Jennifer Lopez dress) was one of the driving forces behind the creation of Google Images. Jungle prints made with Google’s Tilt Brush technology were projected onto the walls of the replica Pantheon – “Okay, Google, now show me the real jungle dress.” The missing link was obvious; it was Jenny from the block. Indeed, we’ve been feeling nostalgic this season: Dior brought back its Saddle bag and Fendi its Baguette, so it’s only appropriate that Versace gave us the tropics. Last season, we saw the brand make an attempt at grunge, but this season it came back with what it knows best: strong tailoring. Shoulder pads as sharp as ever, black mini-dresses and trim coats with dramatic sleeves, all accented with the gold buttons – they asserted that Versace is still effortlessly fierce. Did someone order a tropical punch? Marbled tie-dye was spilt on hoodies, Prince of Wales checked suits and jackets, in a rather refreshing take on the print. Sliced and diced, a spliced translucent black blouse over a plunge jungle-print dress really defined Donatella’s “from millennials to moms” appeal, with a slight nod to the ’70s. A plunge floral-appliquéd red sequin mini-dress swished its way down the runway, in an embodiment of the phrase “dance the night away”. Blurring the lines between theatre and fashion, will Versace be able to outdo itself next season.