text by Adam Lehrer
Since Alessandro Michele debuted at Gucci and drastically altered the landscape of the Milan’s fashion industry, my intros to Milan roundups harped upon the notion that Milan is shedding its traditionalist skin. But since I’m writing this during the middle of Paris Fashion Week, it feels quite evident that almost all of the fashion cities are still paling in comparison to the Paris schedule. But Milan is at its most exciting when its most important brands continue to re-invent the wheel: Gucci, Versace, Prada, Marni, Bottega Veneta. Milan lives and dies by those brands, and when those brands aren’t innovating then Milan is stagnating. Fortunately, the Milan schedule for the Spring-Summer 2017 collections saw those brands all either doing what they do best and/or progressing the brand further. While Michele at Gucci has so firmly established an aesthetic universe at Gucci that his collections will fascinate even if they don’t drastically change season to season, Donatella at Versace moved her brand into a new and fascinating direction after some relatively somnambulant seasons. Italian fashion is Italian fashion; they take it very seriously over there. There is also some exciting youth in Milan at the moment: Arthur Arbesser of Iceberg and his own label, Lucio Vanotti, and even off-schedule brands like Darkdron are all proving Milan can still be a fertile ground for radical fashion design.
Bottega Veneta Spring-Summer 2017
Everyone knows Tomas Maier is a good designer, but not often enough do we talk about how revolutionary his 15 year tenure at Bottega Veneta has been: turning athleisure into high fashion, popularizing the suede chelsea boot, and not to mention the countless fabric creations should solidify his status as one of fashion’s most enduring innovators. The Bottega Veneta Spring-Summer 2017 collection celebrated Maier’s 15th year at the house and the brand’s 50th anniversary and you bet your ass it reminded the fashion pack of Maier’s influence. Minimalism, that most over-used of aesthetic terms, applies to Maier’s work. His strength is making what he calls “nothing clothes” and making them special through his use of occasionally outrageous expensive materials: ostrich, crocodile, the finest cashmere the world has ever known, etc.. Despite Maier’s distaste for fashion marketing, the show featured one instagrammable moment when Lauren Hutton came down the runway with Gigi Hadid welding the same woven clutch bag she used in the 1980 film American Gigolo. That filmic moment has been noted as a milestone event for the house and they are recreating the bag for the anniversary.
Gucci Spring-Summer 2017
You could make cases for either Alessandro Michele and Demna Gvasalia being the most influential men in fashion. However different their styles may be, they do share similarities. They have both created aesthetic universes that are so rich that you don’t need to wear their clothes to buy into their looks. Perhaps that is the key to their success? When the majority of the fashion audience is mostly broke, it is exceedingly modern to present a way to dress and not simply products that must be bought into.
Not that Michele doesn’t have products, of course. His Spring-Summer 2017 collection saw his vintage leaning tastes take on Renaissance garb: lack patent 5-inch wedge and a black velvet upper embroidered with gold snake (worn by hookers in Venice, according to Michele), sparkled fairy dresses, purposefully aged dresses ruffled and exaggerated. It’s all just so much to look at. No designer on Earth presents a vision as stunning as Michele is right now. Not Rei. Not Demna. Not even Raf. Michele overwhelms you into submission.
Versace Spring-Summer 2017
Donatella diversified the Versace oeuvre by applying the magnetic and alluring appeal of Versace eveningwear to a host of streetwear-inspired athletic looks. A woman’s strength doesn’t solely lie in glamour, the SS ’17 Versace collection suggests. That strength can come from athleticism; a sense of ease with one’s self and one’s body. There were flowing nylon parkas, leggings paired with tight t-shirts, and platform Teva’s. Not that the evening wear wasn’t there. There were still beautiful tight dresses in black and others in blocks of primary colors. The diversity in garment was further reflected in the diversity of casting. Models of different body types, ages, and colors were all represented here. From super models of now (Gigi), yesteryear (Naomi), and relative unknowns, Donatella saw the power in all her women. We saw it too.
Jil Sander Spring-Summer 2017
After Raf left the label in 2012 and Ms. Sander herself returned for one solitary season, Fausto Puglisi was always going to have an uphill battle bringing the Jil Sander label back to relevance. While the brand remains largely irrelevant, Fausto has had a strong few collections with the label. The Spring-Summer 2017 collection felt very Jil Sander: minimal in color and pattern but abstract in shape. A lot of looks here felt perfect for the gallery girls that went crazy for the label back in the day: big black smocks, leather tunics, and sharp dresses. One must address the shoulder padding here, clearly ripped off from the mind of Demna Gvasalia. Appropriation isn’t welcome when it’s that obvious.
Marni Spring-Summer 2017
Vogue’s Sarah Mower cites Marni’s Consuelo Castiglioni as being behind only Rei Kawakubo and Miuccia Prada as fashion’s leader of abstract female fashion design. Certainly, all three women approach fashion as a form of individual expression and not merely as a means of attracting the opposite sex. But Castiglioni still stands in her own category. Prada designs with a kind of wild and unhinged glamour, and Kawakubo’s designs have grown so abstract and bizarre that they are approaching the realm of visual art (her various off-shoot CDG brands often feel like commercial supporters of her conceptual art practice). But Castiglioni’s abstraction is both more subtle than Prada’s and far more practical than Kawakubo’s. And for the Spring-Summer 2017 Milan collections, her Marni vision burner brighter than Prada’s.
Castiglioni uses asymmetry and architecture to transform the practical into the divine. All the dresses were beautifully abstracted welding sleeves and abstracted pleats. The use of pleats, which many critics have cited as an Issey Miyake rip-off used by much brands throughout this season, were used here as odd accessories to cover up one’s arm and shoulder. Loose-fitting tops came with gigantic cargo sleeves just in front of the wearer’s belly. Then there were the massive pocket-books fixed to models’ waists that didn’t look beautiful but certainly were eye-grabbing. Castiglioni has so well defined her customer basis that she can make these grand gestures feel seamless and well-placed.