MILAN (AP) — The Italian fashion industry is deeply tied to its manufacturing base, with the textile mills that populate northern Italy key to helping designers realize their particular visions. This could explain the fashion world's fascination with reclaiming disused industrial spaces to show off the finished product.
The third day of Milan Fashion Week for next spring and summer started with the fashion herd thronging past bemused Italian postal workers preparing the day's deliveries as the well-heeled and freshly caffeinated crowd filled an old depot that became the backdrop for Diesel Black Gold's Milan womenswear debut. The space even came with its own, complementary, industrial-sized "No Smoking" sign, which once safeguarded the daily mail but now protects high fashion.
Gucci has adopted a former rail depot nearby, while Giamba and No. 21 showed off their wears in an abandoned factory set in a middle-class neighborhood in a juxtaposition that demonstrates how integrated work and life in Italy are, despite stereotypes to the contrary.
Some highlights from Friday's womenswear previews for fall/winter 2016/17:
Donatella Versace's woman is an urban powerhouse.
The collection turns on daywear, from power suits to athletic-trimmed ribbed knits. Versace said that "every single piece is wearable, desirable, real."
Men's jackets are feminized, deconstructed into a dress with a plunging back, or finished with a jagged hemline covered with sequins. Pants are slim fitting, flaring to a cropped ankle or finishing in stirrups, while dresses have hidden zippers that with a simple pull can reveal or conceal thighs and more.
Gigi Hadid didn't need a zipper to flash the crowd, inadvertently or not, from the low-cut knit evening dress she was modeling. She got a high-five from the designer as she left the runway.
The collection also marked the return of Baroque elements to Versace, with black and white swirls set against psychedelic acid prints. Outerwear ranged from serious dark trenches with leather trip to ladylike pastel tinged white furs.
Marco de Vincenzo indulged in synthetic pleasures for his next collection.
The designer, who has the backing of LVMH, plays the serious business of fashion at the highest levels of technology, creating lustrous fake furs out of hand-woven Lurex jersey and shiny textiles with a watery finish from organza mixed with silk and nylon.
"It is important with the fabrics that I define as a little borderline, like fake furs in Lurex, are done very well. And here Made in Italy makes the difference," de Vincenzo said backstage.
The result was a lush, shimmery, peluche coats with graphic patterns in bold color combinations, like a light blue jacket with red amoeba-like spots that suggest an exaggerated animal print, and snug, gathered and knotted sheath dresses in shiny prints full of asymmetry.
Put together, the collection conveyed a nostalgia that comes with long-loved pieces retrieved from the attic, but with a colorful modern edge that created a world all unto itself. Take for example, a sheer smocked purple dress fitted with an accordion peplum at the waist, combing elements both modern and bygone.
Shoes featured neat rows of ruffles up the front of booties or covering open-toe sandals. And de Vincenzo created his first bag, a ladylike piece with a twist, a bear paw flap. Binding the collection was the persistent, unflinching use of bright, clashing colors: bright green, yellow and purple blurring together, electric blue, and red.
"It takes courage, it takes a lot of things, to do fashion today," de Vincenzo said. "I am following my route, without rushing."
BACK IN BLACK DIESEL GOLD
Renzo Rosso has repatriated his Diesel Black Gold fashion label to Milan from New York, in a victory for the Italian Fashion Chamber, which under new management is working to energize the national fashion system. Rosso brought menswear to Milan several years ago.
"Together we want to make Milan the most important fashion week in the world," Rosso said backstage.
Texture defined the clean, youthful looks, with a velvet top with puffy short sleeves tucked into a quilted mini, or a soft turtleneck sweater paired with a stud-laden leather mini.
The latest Diesel Black Gold collection combined power with utility: Jackets were inventive combinations of a standard leather biker front finished with a billowing quilted hoodie in the back.
Trousers were high-waisted, including Diesel's trademark jeans in a version with stripes of contrasting stripes of velvet, leather and sparkling brocade. Footwear included lace-up military-style boots. The color palette was rigorously blue, black and gray with a few white contrast pieces.
POP GOES EMPORIO
At 81, Giorgio Armani shot a youthful wink at the fashion crowd from his Emporio Armani line.
The designer embraced the digital language of today's youth, creating his own off-skew emojis out of circles, triangles and squares in yellow, pink and green — the season's motifs. One of the winking pieces, a cropped striped sweater, best belied an understanding of the digital generation's desire to transform this global communication form into wearable mascots — that is the desire to make the virtual concrete.
Armani dubbed the collection "New Pop." And his Emporio fall/winter 2016/17 geometrical motifs graced handbags, were printed on blouses and became colorful broaches.
Armani's indulgence in whimsy never comes at the expense of the brand's youthful elegance. Short trousers were loosely pleated, resembling skirts, and skirts were mini but not micro. Jackets were cropped and disciplined, with a double-breasted pea coat gaining sophistication from a green high-neck sweater that peeked from the hem and pixelated print trousers. Evening looks sparkled, including sheer cropped tops with a collage of shapes protecting the wearer's modesty worn with Bermuda shorts that were as soft as a skirt.
She's a very kinky girl, the Giamba girl's a super freak.
The looks for Giambattista Valli's signature Giamba line are made of lace and leather, sheers and furs, graffiti prints and zebra patterns for an urban jungle feel inspired by Nan Goldin's photographs of 1980s Greenwich Village subculture.
Italian-Brazilian socialite and Instagrammer Bianca Brandolini D'Adda purred at a photo backstage of a black bustier dress with a bodice of a repeating cat face pattern, declaring: "That one!"
The Giamba girl is glam-thuggish in a hoody pulled over a baseball cap, baggy leather shorts over matching leggings and finished with a sequin jacket. Alternatively, she's coquettish in a long lacey and a sequin dress that runs the gamut from transparent to frilly ribbon-covered numbers. Such touches as sheer lace and images of an open mouth being fed a raspberry lent a kinky expression to the collection.
Fashion is all about inspiring girls to express themselves "in a ruthless way," Valli said backstage, even if they "do it at home, with pieces from their wardrobe or buying vintage." The discussion about rushing looks into stores misses the point, he said.
"I think it is nice to inspire and if we bring the things right to the stores we are never going to be billionaires like Zara, Mango and H&M," Giamba said. "I do fashion, of course, to sell. It's a priority. But the biggest priority is to inspire people with a new look."
FOUR EYES FOR FASHION
Fendi's finishing touch for its latest collection was shades with wavy blue-striped accents, echoing the looks. For Prada, eyewear came with ornate twirling stems.
While eyewear, particularly sunglasses, have long been a fashion trend, and more and more a mainstay on fashion runways, the promotional pairing has been at the whim of the fashion designer. Now the government is backing plans to create more of a unified fashion system, bringing together federations promoting shoes, handbags, jewelry and furs with Italy's ready-to-wear apparel sector for commercial events. The project could launch as soon as next year, officials said.
In a taste of things to come, this year, the annual Mido eyewear fair, the world's largest, was held during Milan Fashion Week, a rare coincidence.
"We need to work more to demonstrate that we are a great country in terms of style," Mido president Cirillo Marcolin said in an interview. "We have to work a little bit more together to compete with the big power of French conglomerates."
Italy is the No. 1 producer of premium eyewear in the world, and fashion house licenses are one of the segment's main components alongside more architecturally oriented frame design. Revenues for Italian eyewear producers grew 12 percent last year to 3.5 billion euros, according to figures released Thursday. That compares with revenues of 62 billion euros for Italian ready-to-wear last year.