MILAN (AP) — A plethora of ribbons and ruffles signaled an air of romance in Milan this fashion season, but not all the references were strictly aesthetic.
There also was a nostalgic notion of connecting with the past, either stylistically or by challenging expectations of how that is done.
Some highlights Sunday from previews for next fall and winter womenswear collections during the fifth day of Milan Fashion Week.
OVER THE RAINBOW
The Salvatore Ferragamo runway was alive with color, playfulness and ironic twists.
Creative director Massimiliano Giornetti drew inspiration from artists from the Dada and the Bauhaus art and design movements for the explosion of patterns and colors.
"I like the way in which everything was very geometric, very rigorous, very constructed. They were playful," Giornetti said backstage.
The collection developed from dresses with horizontal bands of color in tiers of ribbed and pleated knitwear, to tunics and trouser combinations with thick vertical color blocking. And it continued with a series of outerwear in black-and-white checks and stripes.
Heartbeat pattern zigzags, oversized houndstooth and checkerboard patterns gave the looks a fantastical, almost Alice in Wonderland feel, from fuchsia, red, black and white chevron capes to a purple-and-red houndstooth double-breasted coat.
The silhouette was slim and sophisticated with playful touches like big buttons on cropped bodices, contrasting zigzag ribbons and rows of vertical zippers that, when closed, created a shiny pinstriped pattern, but when left open, revealed another layer of garment below.
"Especially in this moment, I think it is so important to send to the consumer a very positive message," Giornetti said. "But also to inspire the consumer, to inspire with the colors, with the combinations of different materials."
For this reason, Ferragamo CEO Michele Norsa precluded any move by the brand toward bringing the collection straight to stores, aside from a limited number of selected items as it has in the past.
DREAMS DO COME TRUE
Dolce&Gabbana have turned fairytale conventions on their head: their woman is both a princess and prince.
For a world where dreams do come true, designers Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana created an updated version of Cinderella's blue dress, this one a simple cut covered with silvery and crystal beads, with princess short sleeves but without the scalloped layers of skirts from storybook illustrations.
It wouldn't be giving the end away to say the slippers were transparent. The model was also accompanied by her wishful washerwoman self, wearing a short silken dress with her sewing mice.
Then the designers suggested the Dolce&Gabbana woman is her own prince, creating short bolero jackets with military details and pants that just cover the knees with stripes down the side. Those looks were finished with military boots.
There was also a plethora of black dresses, including one sexy ruched dress that epitomized the brand, though it may be reaching to say they were for the requisite evil queen. The designers also made oversized furry coats in big shimmering stripes of silver and gold or covered with floral appliques.
The fairytale is one of the fashion world's most obvious references, and the designers turned it around by focusing on a new generation of princesses who they described as "individuals first and foremost."
But they couldn't resist a happy ending: The finale was a flourish of pretty fuchsia, pink and silver beaded and crystal dresses.
EMBELLISHMENTS AS SPORT
Marni creative director Conseulo Castiglioni's outerwear is nearly puritanical in its strictness while the house's short dresses are adorned with big embellishments like oversized translucent sequins and big buttons. The dichotomy suggests a public vs. private identity: solemn on the outside while a party rages within.
Archway hemline cutouts contributed to the solemnity of the capes and coats in neutral tones, while puffy sleeves added a romantic touch and demonstrated the collection's exaggerated proportions. The sleeves, which were detachable with button or ribbon closures, grew more audacious as they were enhanced by geometric patterns.
Ribbed shirts with athletic stripes gave a sporty touch and were tucked into high-wasted pants or skirts with a ruffle on top and big pockets. Decorative dresses, meanwhile, were short and decorated with big colorful sequins or cut out of Marni's trademark prints, including florals, crystalline color blocks and blurred Venetian harlequin patterns.
Castiglioni, who built her fashion house out of a family fur business, included no full furs in the runway show, just a mini-cape and a contrast fur collar. Pointy pumps and boots were built on sculpted, metallic heels, some formed like crystals, others like waves.
UNMASKING FASHION IDENTITY
Designer Stella Jean probed our notions of cultural identity in a new collection that examined Western portraiture and sub-Saharan African masks as ways to recall our ancestors.
The looks mixed tribal motifs and prints with European tailoring and textiles as the Italian-Haitian designer continued to build fashion bridges between the developed and the developing worlds. She also deepened her study of cross-culturalism by taking Western references of masks interpreted by Modigliani, Giacometti and Picasso.
Graphic tribal images were applied like breastplates on silken tunics, worn over a straight skirt with alternating triangular patterns, while a sweater with the image of a mask opened onto a ruffled blouse, worn with a skirt of Peruvian prints. On the other side of the equation, an exaggerated Flemish-inspired collar graced a simple cinch-waist dress worn over a longer, flowing silken patterned skirt.
Handbags included doctor bags with portraits of old Europeans or made-in-Haiti plastic clutches embellished with masks and feathery tufts. Footwear included ankle booties and sandals, for which there were clear plastic galoshes resembling bags.
Missoni unveiled its new collection in a disused factory against the backdrop of a light installation -- fitting for its "urban poetry" collection proposed for next winter.
The looks came in a kaleidoscope of colors, with knits ranging from fine, nearly sheer long trousers worn with a matching vest and trailing sweater for a sophisticated look to soft matted knits worn as mini dresses for a cozier vibe. The family-run fashion house added vertical stripes to its trademark horizontal zig-zags, for leggings, overcoats and tunics.
Outerwear included capes of tiers of fringe and blankets worn as ponchos. Long scarfs finished many looks. Sheer ankle socks were worn with patchwork sandals and booties.
This is a collection for anyone who wants to be a fashion puzzle.
The first looks down the runway at Au Jour Le Jour were nearly nude organza slip dresses save some strategically placed letters and symbols, representing rebus puzzles.
Designers Mirko Fontana and Diego Marques said they were "working on the idea of perception." The beholder gets clues like a big martini glass, or a bird with sound waves emanating from its beak.
The body-conscious silhouette includes high-waist jeans with "touch me" spelled out on a ribbon down one leg and a snug pink dress with the brand's AJLJ logo placed prominently over the chest. The designers plastered their logo on much of the collection, meant as an ironic comment on the "logomania" of the 1990s.
Follow Colleen Barry at www.twitter.com/collbarry