Milan Fashion Week Thursday: Emporio Armani, Prada, Max Mara and MM6
Thursday marked a day of thrilling shows in Milan; from the Riviera romance of Max Mara and the grand minimalism of Prada, to an orchestra-led display by MM6 and a giant ovation at Emporio Armani for Giorgio. Suddenly, the Italian fashion system appears awoke and in rude health.
Emporio Armani: The king takes a bow
Whatever else you say about this latest Emporio show, it had one of the all time great ovations.
Unsteady on his feet, but beaming and determined, the 88-year-old Armani took his bow to an enormous roar. In a season dominated by the passing of the Queen, one could not help feeling impressed by the grittiness of Armani, the doyen of the industry.
And the last man standing, seeing as all his great rivals have either sold up or gone public. The applause this Thursday afternoon as much for Armani’s remarkable career and life as for the collection. Which, though erratic, had moments of real beauty.
Staged before an LED wall and runway of a watery sunset, Emporio opened with soft shouldered linen suits, blazers and chauffeur's jackets worn with knitted skull-caps, berets and tam o’ shanters. Quite why Armani covered pants with skirts of tulle and gauze was hard to fathom, as were the weirdly proportioned baby doll dresses with way too high waists.
Initially, the palette was blissfully non-color; putty, ecru, off-white and faded beige. And, just when one felt a sense of ennui, suddenly the show changed gear with some soft Asian-inspired jackets, dhotis and tanks beautifully printed with tropical flowers, before climaxing with crystalline sequin tops worn over billowing silk pyjama pants.
Setting the stage for Armani’s 40-second bow, where he mocked himself by pretending he was staggering, before gently exiting, even as he carefully touched the LED backdrop for balance.
Thunderous applause marched the king of Italian fashion as he departed his throne; his catwalk on Via Bergognone.
Prada: Pandemonium outside, calm in the interior
No show in Milan draws as many fans as Prada, where several thousands teenagers gathered to cheer their heroes, in-and-out of the brand’s headquarters.
Scores of black-suited security ferried in the celebs that, judging from the fans, included more K-pop stars that cinematic royalty. That said, a chaotic moment followed by a truly polished display from Miuccia Prada and design partner, Raf Simons.
This season, staged in front of soaring black paper walls, and cut-out windows offering sunset views, courtesy of film auteur Nicolas Winding Refn, whose most celebrated film is Drive, the movie that launched Ryan Gosling. Even the doorways into four different show-spaces were made of scissored paper.
Suitably austere for a show that opened with a half-dozen mono-color assemblages. For this is as minimalist as Prada gets - battleship gray nylon redingotes over pale gray stretch cotton leggings and boyish shirts. The palette was startling reined-in: pearl, putty, gray and teal.
The duo’s most bravura idea - a new jumpsuit, though topped by a tailored shirt and completed with leggings. On a lithe figure one will look like a Milanese style-setter par excellence.
For evening, a series of Rothko-reminiscent printed silk slip dresses and cocktails ending just below the knee. For cool spring nights, several very clever cardigans, worn backwards with just one large button. Arty but never antiseptic, where all the cast appeared with bedraggled hair and enormous eye lashes.
The whole show seemed to have just one shoe, but it sure was a good one. A round-heel clog-like pump made in bevelled black, lime and dull orange.
While their new tote bag covered in leather roses and made in distressed leather seems a sure-fire hit, an idea that continued in a series of jersey dress, again finished with a handful of fabric roses. Though the key moment in the collection were the semi-sheer gauzy skirts, wrap coats and dresses - where big black bloomers were very evident.
One has perhaps seen bolder and more adventurous Prada shows. But, one could also not fail to applaud the sheer authority of these clothes; the genuine sense of empowerment; their overall confidence.
MM6: Stravinksy-driven stars
One brand in fine fettle in Milan this month is MM6, the contemporary line of the house of Martin Margiela, which hired the 60-piece Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano to backup a really great show inside the Auditorium Fondazione Cariplo.
The location was in Largo Gustav Mahler, but the orchestra opened with Stravinsky’s 'The Rite of Spring', a perfect platform for a collection that blended youth quake and quirky conceptualism.
The design team gets the DNA of Margiela, from the shotgun perforated fabrics used in worn violet jeans or black sweatshirt/dresses for men cut with volume and even elongated blazers in white.
The sense of the unexpected and the juxtaposition of materials one associates with MM6 was also triumphant. Wearing bathing suits or leotards as unbuttoned tops or rotating worn sweaters by 90 degrees to turn them into zipped mini skirts. Producing witty visual puns like the mini-bag made of a doubled over ballet slipper.
A sense of arty volume too. The opening oversized leather spy coat cinched by a big fabric belt, worn with micro-mesh leggings that finished in a shoe.
All mixed in with some fab nylon boot/sneakers, courtesy of a partnership with ski-maker Salomon, that included several punchy high-tech waistcoats that also operated as backpacks.
Under the guidance of Renzo Rosso’s holding company OTB, MM6 has grown into an impressive marque. Worldwide the brand boasts 29 flagships, over half them in Japan. It also retails in over 500 sales points from department stores to big boutiques like Dover Street Market.
A success celebrated by this show inside the Auditorium Fondazione Cariplo, greeted at the finale with prolonged applause.
There was a time when Cariplo was the biggest savings bank in the world, and it was good to see the institution saved some of the money to make this acoustically brilliant auditorium with its interior wooden roof and walls.
Max Mara: Goddesses in godets
Eileen Gray encountered Renée Perle, in a ode to Riviera sophistication in an impressively understated statement of pure elegance at Max Mara.
Gray’s cerebral modernism apparent in some perfectly cut and sculpted dresses that were at the heart of this collection. Often referencing Eileen’s legendary E 1027 villa at Roquebrune-Cap-Martin with its symmetrical floor plan occasionally leavened by curves.
Max Mara built its reputation on being the best coat maker in Italy, and it’s a tribute to creative director Ian Griffiths’ skill that it’s now a go-to source of great dresses.
His favourite material, lino greggio, an undyed linen that recalls burlap and was cut into some grand mega-flared sailors pants with front bibs; spruce blazers with oversized flaps; and languid dusters.
Though Ian’s biggest idea was a series of godet dresses, where the extra fabric, cut on the bias, made the dresses flare with great polish.
“I learnt all about the godet from Ossie Clark. He taught me the intricacies of making them, and the key of including the extra fabric cut on the bias,” smiled Griffiths, referring to his former fashion tutor.
Before pointing to a sketch by Clark on his mood board in the backstage. A series of images of the halcyon days of the 1920s and 30s when the Riviera was being discovered by artists like F. Scott Fitzgerald, Picasso, Stravinksy; and muses such as Perle, the lover of photographer Jacques-Henri Lartigue.
All topped by some magnificent hats. Giant Provencal straw hats twisting and curling, as if the sun had dried them just so. All accessorised with rope platforms, and massive straw totes. One could almost feel the heat around Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat even on a chill Milan morning.
The Côte d’Azur may be famed for its fauna and sturdy nature, but there was barely a print in sight, except for a quintet of abstract floral print columns - all of them in mixes of gray, black and white.
Though Ian did include some summer hues of bitter yellow, egg shell and lichen - seen in a trio of marvellous cashmere coats worn over entre deux guerre swimsuits. Along with a little bleu de travail, the faded sea blue seen in well-used French workers' jackets.
No wonder he entitled the collection 'The Blue Horizon', a classy and cool array of fashion precisely at a moment when so many other designers seem to be trying that bit too hard.
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