MILAN – Milan Fashion Week opened its third day of preview shows for next spring and summer against the backdrop of thousands of young environmental protesters calling out the industry Friday for its wasteful and polluting ways.
The question hanging over fashion week is whether after 19 months, the coronavirus pandemic has led to any real changes in a system that has revolved around four ready-to-wear cycles a year, plus cruise and couture. Yes, shows are socially distanced, and fewer editors are admitted than ever. But with companies racing to restore sales to pre-pandemic levels, one is left to wonder: are deeper changes really afoot?
Signs at the climate march through the heart of Milan urged “Dress the change,’’ a slogan aimed at the second-most polluting industry after energy. “Everyone wanna be hot, but Earth isn’t one of them,’’ read another sign.
Some highlights from Friday’s shows:
PRADA DECONSTRUCTS EVENING WEAR
Prada returned to the live runway for the first time since February 2020, when the creative partnership between Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons was announced and just as Italy detected the first locally transmitted cases of the new coronavirus.
Fans thronged the sidewalk outside the Fondazione Prada showroom and contemporary art exhibition space to hail VIPS and influencers alike, as old fashion rituals resumed.
Inside, masked editors vetted with a health pass sat at a social distance that left plenty of room to breathe. Another show was staged simultaneously in Shanghai, with images of the darkened skyline broadcast in the Milan showroom.
The collection, the third of the Prada-Simons era, was a deconstruction of traditional evening wear -- trains, corsets and evening gowns -- as a study in sensuality and in revealing the female form, the designers said in show notes.
Simons bemoaned the “irreality” of an evening gown “however beautiful,” and it is certainly the case that many gowns have spent the pandemic hanging, unheralded, in closets.
“These clothes can become complicated: evening dresses, historical costume. We want to make it uncomplicated, easy, that feels modern,” Simons said.
Mini-skirts in couture silk trailed long sashes, sometimes left floating behind. More formally, skirts sported full tuxedo tails. They were worn with sweaters, distressed leather bomber jackets and sleeveless blouses with black-and-white prints that laced up for a punk feel.
Dresses were cinched at the waist and left open at the back in a way that suggested the Prada V logo, while the skirt had a deep inverse-V slit. Leather straps on bare biceps finished the look.
Knitwear was soft, with breastplate or corset detailing, finished with the same leather bicep straps. Mini-knit tunics were cinched at the waist and worn over matching short-shorts
The color palette ranged from navy and black to cotton candy pink and canary yellow. Magenta accented acid green, which in turn complemented girlish pink. Shoes had a low, cantilevered heel, giving the sensation of suspension.
For Prada, it is a mistake to discuss the show in terms of a “return to normal.”
“We have learned that we in fashion engage with a much wider world,’’ Prada said in the show notes. “After all that has happened, how can you just go back?”
VERSACE'S ENERGIZED RUNWAY
Donatella Versace pumped energy into Milan Fashion week with a star-filled runway and front row, and collection strong on the fashion house’s codes: bright colors, safety pins and especially silky foulards.
British singer and emerging fashion icon Dua Lipa opened the runway show in a skin-baring black suit held together with colored safety pins as her song “Physical” blasted through the venue and closed it in a liquidy fuchsia skirt and corset.
In between, she was joined by Naomi Campbell, smiling and brightly clad in a hot-pink suit and orange shirt, Gigi Hadid in a snug latex black dress with just a silky flash of turquoise and pink, and Lourdes Leon Ciccone, in a metallic silvery dress.
The show opened with black suits and dresses with tiny flashes of color in pins and foulards that peeked from hemlines and slits, the colors growing ever more bold until they burst into a vivid palette of pink, aquamarine, seafoam green, acid green and yellow.
The women’s silhouette exuded the confidence, with body-hugging dresses and skirts offering an array of ways to bare skin with high slits on skirts, pinned together tights and ab-revealing corsets or bra-tops. Footwear included wavy platforms shoes in bright satin.
Menswear was more relaxed, with floral suits, sportier varsity jackets with mesh tops, or bright leather jackets paired with tight latex T-shirts and jeans.
Outside the Versace venue, hoards of fans partied like it was 2019, waiting for glimpses of arriving VIPs.
Front-row guests included Milan’s own fashion influencer-turned-entrepreneur Chiara Ferragni and her husband, the singer Fedez, American influencer-turned-actress Addison Rae and actress Bella Thorne with her Italian boyfriend, singer Benjamin Mascolo.
Simone Rizzo and Loris Messina, the designers behind the Sunnei brand, invited the fashion crowd to don sunglasses inside a white tunnel and watch the collection as strobe lights flashed.
The youthful collection was strong on layering, with long skirts worn over trousers, or grassy fringe peeking out of Bermuda shorts. Proportions were mostly loose and oversized, with coats gathered at the waist to offer some definition. Bags were soft and large, or rigorously boxy.
Sunglasses, de rigeur in flashing tunnels, strapped to the back of the head.