Milan threw the fashion world a curveball for spring next year. There are certain styles, rather than trends, that the Italian fashion capital reliably delivers for summer and they are all present and correct. Nautical stripes and sea-fresh shapes - tick. Vintage Riviera and Dolce Vita glamour - tick. High octane colour and embellishment - tick. Delicate femininity with decoration from embroidery to beading - tick, tick. But none of them are as straightforward as they sound, and there are different, darker undertones. And then there are the holes….
Inspired by the energy that comes from new names re-imagining old brands, and by the international cultural explosion of this year’s World Expo in the city, Milan’s designers are taking risks and pushing boundaries as never before. So MaxMara’s nautical stripes go with unconventional, spacious Breton-inspired tops, wide, paper-bag trousers and those portholes that, with their 1960s/1980s reference, are becoming a key 2016 fashion theme after appearing in London.
Holiday resort glamour gets a new laidback look in Ferragamo’s earth-shaded or fresh-striped, often off-shoulder, tiered dresses, or in brilliant, Caribbean-inspired prints at Stella Jean. The high octane has a high-risk, 1980s slant in Fausto Puglisi’s little draped satins and big gilt metal suns, or in bleached-out denim and tie-dye taffeta at Roberto Cavalli.
Italian handwork is writ larger then ever at Gucci, where the new/old inspiration is the brand’s 1950s bourgeois heyday but the detailing is strictly couture - richly intricate beading, trompe l’oeil sequins, hand-sewn ribbon trims, hand-applied, jewelled snake motifs. As for the holes they are everywhere - as sporty cut-outs at Sportmax and Bally (where, in leather, they are called “moth holes”), a big black mesh contrasting with bright geometric shapes at Marni, as random burn-out holes in soft suede at Cavalli.
The rest of Milan is a tale of the unexpected. Donatella Versace takes to tough animal camouflage print and khaki, big boots and backpacks, Tomas Maier at Bottega Veneta abandons his usual ladies for sports-luxe camping and hunting gear, Peter Dundas at Roberto Cavalli turns from boho beading to 1980s casual wear, Giorgio Armani breaks out into vivid blue or red sequins, and the queen of fashion surprises Miuccia Prada leaves the poetry (Victorian or 1960s style) of her last two collections for discomforting, modern leather stripes and mismatches. MIlan had us all unfamiliarly on the edge of our seats.
The new names to know in Milan are strictly home grown. Learn to say Alessandro Michele, the powerhouse at Gucci who is setting the new agenda; Marco de Vicenzo, a young master of fabric construction and delicate, Japanese-inspired print; Rodolfo Paglialunga, who is adding a topical soft twist to Jil Sander’s minimalism; Alessandra Facchinetti, making intricate waves with leather at Tod’s; and Massimo Giorgetti, bringing a surprise grunge sensibility to venerable brand Pucci.