After several weeks of snow and subfreezing temperatures in Italy, the chill is out of the air _ at least weather-wise _ and Italian designers are looking at the bright side of things as they begin the latest round of preview showings for fall-winter 2012-2013.
The tightly-packed fashion week calendar boasts 70 shows and as many events, including showroom presentations, store openings and "aperitivi," the Italian version of a cocktail party. All the top billed names were scheduled to introduce their winter collections, from Armani to Fendi, from Gucci, Prada and Versace.
The Italian Fashion Chamber has set up a press center in the shadow of the Duomo, or cathedral, in downtown to Milan to accommodate some expected 15,000 fashionistas in town for the shows and has mounted a show tent in front of one of Milan's favorite monuments, the Sforzesco Castle, where several of the shows will be held.
"We're hoping for a triple-A season, with no downgrading," said Mario Boselli, president of the fashion chamber said at a press conference ahead of the shows in a quip reflecting Italy's downgrading by ratings agencies as the nation struggles to avoid financial disaster.
The designing duo Dolce&Gabbana, who never miss an opportunity to celebrate, are throwing a mega party over the weekend. On Friday, Vogue America's Anna Wintour and Miuccia Prada will co-host a preview presentation of the exhibit entitled "Elsa Schiaparelli and Miuccia Prada: On Fashion" to open at the Metropolitan Museum's Costume Institute in New York in May.
On Wednesday the first day of the 7-day preview showings, both Gucci and Ferretti presented a woman who keeps her feet firmly on the ground while letting her feminine fantasy fly.
The latest Gucci woman is an enigma. In the same wisp of a body she combines rigor and romance to create a sense of demure discipline.
One thing is sure _ the lady is dark, as underlined by the chiaroscuro lighting effects at the Wednesday afternoon show which opened Milan fashion week for fall-winter 2012-1213.
"This is a modern-day romanticism, a dramatic sensuality, a dark glamour, with subtle games of provocative intellect," is how creative director Frida Giannini defined her latest collection in the show notes.
Throughout the collection Gucci mixes pieces with military accents with ultra feminine styles complete with sequins and slits.
The basic silhouette has a tiny waist and straight skirt with uneven hemline, long in the back, shorter in the front with subtle draping.
On a strictly dark background, Gucci brightens up the look with tapestry textiles, floral prints and embroidery. Velvet and silk or brocades and leather combine to create an extra opulent effect, not to mention the over the top-feathered creations.
Military attire is relegated to the officers club. Crocodile riding boots and oversized coats combine with demure velvet skirts and embroidered see-through equestrian pants.
Night is dreamy and feminine with long dresses in wrinkled tulle or velvet, embroidered with hand-sewn floral patterns.
The new stirrup bag, roomy as well as classy, has a revisited metallic spur closure. Gucci offers a more structured version of the saddle bag for evening in de rigeur black crocodile. Footwear is either flat and masculine or slipper-like with a sharp high heel.
The look is definitely all about feminine chic _ starting with the models, who with their demurely pulled back hair, parted in the middle looked like a parade of Audrey Hepburn clones. The runway sound track from "`Breakfast at Tiffany's" left no room for doubt.
The fall-winter 2012-2013 collection presented Wednesday afternoon by designer Alberta Ferretti was a closet full of 1960's favorites from the little cocktail dress to the belted coat dress, to the first pant suits with tapered jacket and wide pants.
Ferretti also brought back the classic pump as a fashion must and the crisp clutch brief case so popular in the early 1960's.
Along with staple black, the Ferretti palette included lipstick red and a yesteryear favorite, purple.
But if the look was prim and proper by day, by night it transformed into contemporary glam, in classic styles, fashioned out of sheer chiffon with enticing slits, ruffles and strategically placed embroidery.