MILAN (AP) — The looks were sheer and the message for next summer from Milan was crystal clear: Fashion should be fun.
Many designers showing spring-summer collections during Milan Fashion Week made prominent use of sheer fabrics. But rather than being straight-out sexy, the effect was often an optical illusion, giving the eye more to feast on, not less.
At Missoni, a form-fitting tube dress in the label's trademark patterns was worn under a voluminous sheer organza dress, while Blugirl layered sheer over sheer, creating a romantic effect without really covering up.
Prints and graphic motifs popped up all over, with cheery floral patterns the most ubiquitous. Color was important, with apricot, sea foam green, powder pink, blues and earth tones as the background. White and black are perennials, but no longer dominate the show.
The kaleidoscope of uplifting color — and the prolific use of ribbons, ruffles, beading and glitter — could be a designer rebellion against the European financial crisis and an invitation for women to look on the brighter side of life.
"Basta (enough) drab colors!" said Lavinia Biagiotti, who runs the Biagiotti label with her 'Queen of Cashmere" mom Laura. "We need to come up with some anti-crisis vibes, and why not start with what we wear?"
Designers didn't dictate a hemline, giving women free reign. They seemed more interested in the upper silhouette, which was often loose and embellished with pleats, flounces and rich embroidery. Variety also reigned in the trouser department: Gauchos and pedal pushers, palazzo pajamas and cigarette pants, and even the occasional hot pants.
The big trend in shoes was high-heeled sandals strapped at the ankle. In a bit of season-bending, Ferragamo combined the high-heeled sandal with an over-the-knee boot.
Bad news for hair stylists, the look is long and unfussy. There were few hats, but lots of hand bands and head scarves.
Asia provided the inspiration for many designers — whether it was a stylistic tribute or a nod to the importance of the new markets for luxury labels was impossible to know. Prada deconstructed the kimono, Aquilano Rimondi incorporated elaborate obi sashes and Pucci embroidered dragons, tigers and snakes on silk chiffon.
Prada, already widely heralded for the upcoming season's designs, ended fashion week Monday by reporting first-half earnings up 60 percent from a year earlier due largely to Asia, but also to tourists visiting Europe. That's a net income of €286 million ($370 million) on revenues of €1.5 billion ($1.94 billion)
The fashion caravan now moves to Paris, where French designers will show their summer ready-to-wear wares.
Roberto Cavalli closed the door on Milan Fashion Week with a show that had little to do with his trademark sexpot hype.
The Florentine designer's 2013 spring-summer collection opened with a series of white outfits combining chiffon with leather cut like lace, which set an elegant pace for the rest of the show.
White leather-lace pants fit tightly but looked classy, not trashy.
A series of outfits were also seen in delicately printed silk, pairing wide trousers or ladylike skirts with an extra-long jacket in the same print. The floral (usually jungle) prints came in pale green, pink, and apricot and at times were mixed with spotted and striped animal prints. Still, the effect was serene, rather than the usual sexual aggression evoked by jungle references.
There was serenity, too, in a series of negligee-inspired dresses. Despite their lacy embroidery and enticingly innocent styles, the models walking down the runway never crossed the line from sexy into vulgar.
Leave it to Dean and Dan Caten to go over the top.
The Canadian twins behind the DSquared2 label hit the "excess" button on their spring-summer 2013 womenswear collection, which was four parts black biker chic and one part ruffles and ribbons. The excess was especially strong on the accessories, with gold chains and strands of pearls draped by the dozen around models' necks.
Bare legs were the centerpiece of most of the outfits, be they cheek-baring hot pants, mini-dresses or even micro-minis small enough to confuse with belts. The looks were paired with high-heeled leather sandals or boots for maximum sex appeal.
The collection reached a crescendo with a gown fit for Alice in Wonderland's Queen of Hearts. Mini in the front, the dress rippled out to an oversized squared train, edged with wide purple-and-black ribbon. A large ruffle fanned over the bust in this creation strictly for the statuesque.
"Unapologetically sexy and rigorously glamour, " the twins wrote in their fashion notes. "Nothing exceeds like excess."
The designing team of Federico Piaggi and Stefano Citron presented their third runway collection for the label since taking over last year. The company has had a troubled design succession since the sudden death in 2007 of founder Gianfranco Ferre.
Their new collection had hints of Asia, including a bustier embroidered with snakes and maxi-obis that become mini-dresses. Asymmetric shorts and quilted skirts were paired with tailored white shirts — a clear reference to the style of the late founder.
The new owners, the Dubai-based Paris Group, have reiterated their commitment to maintain the fashion house's base in Milan — even though the headquarters and the show theater no longer belong to the label but to Ferre's brother.