It's Geeks vs. Headbangers at Milan Fashion Week SS16
Holly Fraser is the editor of Hunger Magazine, Rankin's biannual fashion and culture magazine. The views expressed are her own.
Milan Fashion Week began last Wednesday with an unexpected lashing of torrential rain and howling wind. Though the mood, if not the weather, brightened at the day's first offering: Gucci.
Like several other houses this season, Gucci is in a period of transition -- new creative director Alessandro Michele has replaced the brand's explicit sex appeal with a modern geek chic aesthetic. If the whisperings after the show are to be believed, the change is a welcome one; Michele is the new darling of Milan.
Later in the day we hit Alberta Ferretti for a dose of the designer's signature soft femininity. Inspired by the desert, models dressed as beautiful, earthy nomads walked down a sandy runway. A screen overhead projected a video of desert dunes, an amusing juxtaposition to the continuing storm outside.
It's no secret that fashion shows in Milan are notoriously late, and thankfully so, otherwise 6pm's No. 21 show, helmed by Alessandro Dell'Acqua, would have been an empty affair. To the soundtrack of George Michael's "Cowboys and Angels" and the stomping "Love is a Battlefield" by Pat Benatar, models -- including this season's new favorite Lineisy Montero and rising star Binx Walton -- displayed his romantic collection of frills, tailoring, socks and sandals.
Everyone seemed impressed, and while Dell'Acqua and his brand may not grab the headlines in the same way that Gucci or Prada do, he is most definitely finding his groove at No. 21 and is a designer to keep on your radar.
Day one's showstopper -- at least in terms of theatrics -- was Philipp Plein. Every season the German designer whose motto appears to be "more is more," shells out millions of dollars to transform his shows into larger than life events. Crowds gather to see just how far he will go. Clothes, which usually consist of punk elements -- think studs, glitz and glamour -- come second to the spectacle.
He's had a roller coaster, a swimming pool, and monster trucks used as part of his elaborate catwalks. This time was no less outrageous. Courtney Love floated down a conveyor belt singing "Celebrity Skin," surrounded by flying drones and then was flanked by headbanging robots playing drums and guitar. Models walking out were handed bags and sunglasses by a bevy of similar robots choosing their accessories.
Day Two: Seaside motifs and roadworks decorate Pucci and Moschino catwalks
Day two didn't hold any headbanging robots, but did start with blazing sunshine and a strong spring collection from Fendi. There's less fur this time from the house that recently showed an all-fur couture collection, replaced instead by leather and plenty of 3D embellishments.
The models made up an all-star cast for Karl Lagerfeld and Silvia Venturini Fendi -- Edie Campbell opened followed by Natalie Westling, Molly Bair and fashion icon Karen Elson, who closed the show.
A rush to the car, dodging street style snappers and another traffic jam and we arrived at Pucci, another brand this season undergoing a transformation. MSGM's Massimo Giorgetti has taken the reins and with him, brought a youthful side to the brand that was super sexy and print heavy under its last creative director Peter Dundas.
An orchestral version of The Strokes "Last Night" accompanied a show inspired by the seaside and old Pucci prints. There were seashell patterns and net pieces decorated with motifs of mermaids, as well as standout sequin split dresses and oversized goggles.
It's the evening's shows though, that the crowds have been waiting for: Prada and Moschino. Due to the death of her maternal aunt, Miuccia Prada isn't at the Prada show, but the collection does the talking for her. A gathering audience sip champagne mixed with cognac and "ooh" and "aah" over the intricate yellow corrugated perspex stalactites by AMO that hang from the ceiling. That's before being treated to a show that put suits front and center.
Classically chic skirt suits were paired with Christmas bauble-esque earrings, shirts printed with rockets and rabbits, Velcro and buckled metallic shoes, all imbued with that sense of "good girl gone bad" that only Miuccia Prada can pull off so effortlessly.
Two hours later and all notions of chic went out the window at Moschino, which started with the press battling through thousands of diehard fans with selfie sticks to get into the most hyped show of the week. His clothes may be fashion Marmite but Jeremy Scott has cornered the social media market -- within seconds of being inside the show space, Instagram was flooded with images of Moschino's road works runway.
The set was complete with a working carwash and road signs reading "Model Xing" and "Dangerous Couture Ahead." K-pop superstar CL sat front row as models strutted in high fashion high-vis jackets, hats made from traffic cones and even outfits resembling the rollers from a carwash. It's fair to say that not everyone will be dressed as a traffic cone come spring but this was frivolous, fun fashion at its best and a welcome change from an industry that has often been accused of taking itself too seriously at times.
Day Three: Armani's pretty in pink and animal prints dominate Versace collection
Friday started with a pink and pretty but not particularly innovative collection at Emporio Armani, followed by a spring collection focused on its famous fabric and flowing silhouette at Etro. Then it was Iceberg's new creative director Arthur Arbesser's turn to show what he's made of at the brand that's been gaining fashion accolades over the past few years.
He's focused on bringing Iceberg back to its knitwear roots while injecting a sense of fun and, as he puts it, "madness" into the collection. And given the way he ran onto the runway to take his bow (and hug his mother), smiling from ear-to-ear, he seemed to be pretty pleased with how his first show went.
That evening Donatella Versace dedicated her Spring/Summer 2016 show to "women everywhere." Her collection, universally hailed as one of her best to date, featured military pieces and an updated take on animal print in acid greens and yellows.
A front row of Naomi Campbell, Heidi Klum and fellow designers Christopher Kane and Riccardo Tisci (lest we forget Donatella is the new face of Givenchy) gathered to watch the world's supermodels (Natasha Poly, Raquel Zimmermann and others) in the sexiest show of the season.
To top off her success, Donatella and her gang then went on to Givenchy's party in a warehouse on the outskirts of Milan to watch Nicki Minaj perform.
Day Four: Peter Dundas takes creative director reins at Roberto Cavalli
Saturday started with yet another debut -- this time Peter Dundas for Roberto Cavalli, who took the famously glam and blingy brand in a more youthful direction. Ciara, the face of Cavalli, looked on from the front row.
After working at Roberto Cavalli in the early 2000s, the start of his reign as creative director was hailed as a "homecoming" by the Norwegian designer backstage. He kept some of the Cavalli hallmarks though -- the sex appeal was still there in the form of thigh high split billowing dresses and animal print -- but added his own touches too, namely acid wash and tie-dyed denim, though chances are that the best is yet to come.
A typically sophisticated Jil Sander followed, with designer Rodolfo Paglialunga sticking to a color palette of white, blue, grey and black and adding flowerpot hats and pink and orange buckled shoes. A move away from the uniformity of traditional Jil Sander, it seems Paglialunga is finally coming into his own after three seasons with the brand.
Topping off Saturday was a label at the other end of the spectrum, DSquared2. They couldn't be called sophisticated but like Moschino you're always in for a good time at the Caten twins' show. And after 20 years in the business their ethos is the same as when they first started; it's all about the fun factor, which their psychedelic surf collection certainly had. "We're a little bit like the oddballs over here, we never really fit in, which we like. We're a breath of fresh air," the designers told us as they danced their way through the backstage area.
The start to the penultimate day of fashion shows proved that Milan is a city of contrasts. Following the camp psychedelia of Saturday night, Consuelo Castiglioni marched to the beat of her own drum, and in a minimalist white setting, showed a Marni collection that defied definition and instead was a melting pot of her influences. Colors were primary and pieces were sporty and loose. Accessories too were key — watch out for the oversized Crayola-colored shoppers set to become early contenders for spring's bag of the season.
It's been a strong season in Milan, and one that has marked many new beginnings and exciting times ahead for a city that was in need of rejuvenation in the fashion stakes. But SS16 doesn't end there. Now onto Paris...