MILAN (AP) — Reflecting on a Milan Fashion Week that marked the re-emergence of denim and the pre-eminence of the flat Birkenstock-inspired sandal, the question was bound to surface: Wherein lies luxury?
Milan designers, who crammed the usual six days of womenswear previews for next summer into 4 ½ ending Sunday, are clear on their response: in Italy's artisanal traditions.
Whether reviving the dying art of brocade in the factories north of Milan, perfecting sartorial crafts to create new shapes, or honoring the centuries-old Murano glass-blowing traditions with textiles mimicking its melting striations, Milan designers touted Made in Italy, the calling card that distinguishes Italian brands and, more often than one might expect, raises ready-to-wear to an art form.
Giorgio Armani, who rolled out the summer collection that will herald his company's 40th anniversary, is all about mastery — but avoids the term luxury altogether.
"Luxury is surrounded by other things, super-decorated stores," Armani told reporters last week after showing his main Giorgio Armani line. "Rich can be of substance, refer to content, to the workmanship. Sometimes luxury has zero workmanship."
One can quibble about the definition of luxury, but glamour certainly had its place at this round of fashion previews. Heidi Klum supported her pals at Versace and Roberto Cavalli; Oscar-winner Paolo Sorrentino made a film for and an appearance at Armani; Kate Moss chatted up Anna Wintour at Gucci; and Amy Adams took the front row at Max Mara.
Star models also took their turn: Naomi Campbell strode for Pucci, while Georgia May Jagger showed for Fendi. And amFAR tapped the fashion crowd's deep pockets to raise $1.4 million to fund research toward its goal of finding a cure for AIDS by 2020.
THE WEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF FASHION
Perhaps the biggest trend out of Milan were light looks, effortless without being ethereal, from billowing floor-length Georgette dresses that trail on the ground to paper-thin trench coats, super-fine knitwear to translucent layering, over and under.
These looks were understated, suggesting more than they reveal, and inviting motion. Dresses were all covering, but still clung momentarily to the body with every step.
At Armani, the lightness was reinforced by the tailoring, soft-peplums and wide-legged trousers that tapered elegantly at the calf, and complemented by prints mimicking gentle waves left in the sand by the wind.
Max Mara focused on lightweight long trenches in florals that dissolved into animal prints, Roberto Cavalli kept pace with long sexy gowns, and Missoni created diaphanous, maxi-dresses from knitwear as light as air and as delicate as lace.
Designers took us on a psychedelic trip back to the fashion-rich 1970s.
The hippie looks were crafted out of suede — a must for next season — denim (will get to that later), and leather, with heavy helpings of fringe, beading, laser cut detailing, macrame and even granny squares. Get out the crochet needles!
Up-and-comer Marco de Vincenzo, with LVMH's backing, deployed his fringe in an orderly fashion on coats and dresses, while Etro was more true to the chilled-out looks of San Francisco's hippy heyday with poncho dresses and laser cut vests. Prada gave us an updated clog with brocade-covered heels. While modesty was the rule in Milan, Costume National bared some skin with a macrame mini-dress and a halter top with harem pants.
Some critics fretted that the 1970s is an old fashion saw trotted out in moments of creative ennui. But the infectious freedom infused alone by tassels is undeniable, especially once a Doors soundtrack starts playing in your head.
MILAN'S DENIM REVIVAL
Who can forget the 1980s era of designer jeans, with the focus on tight and all eyes on the shapely tush.
The Milan Denim Revival of 2015 is nothing if not a relief from that stomach-sucking era. Italy's designers have volleyed back with relaxed denim looks, turning their nose up at spandex and jeggings that have made tight jeans any (wo)man's game.
Denim trousers are easy-to-wear, wide-legged and cropped — a look that renews emphasis on the shoe. Jeans are also dressed up, with lace panels, floral appliques, brocade beneath distressed tears and of course, rhinestones.
At Emporio Armani, they fit Giorgio Armani's passion for blue and included wide-legged denim with a shiny, cropped cuff, dressed up with short tailored jackets. Karl Lagerfeld says women are increasingly asking for denim and he obliged with jodhpur-styled jeans for Fendi. Gucci came out with mariner-front styles cropped at the calf. Ermanno Scervino dressed up faded denim wrap skirts — the skirt silhouette of choice for next summer — hooded overcoats and shorts with contrasting denim appliques.
If there was a battle cry this season, it was ready-to-wear made easy-to-wear. With this, came an emphasis on active wear.
Some was dance-inspired, others took light-hearted cues from Magna figures, decorated with sequined icons of ice cream and lips, and yet others derived from minimalist tendencies.
Dancer's wraps have long come out of the studio, and here they are again on the street. Leggings and shape-hugging T's gain new respectability under long trench coats. And big-fitting sweatshirts worn with wide-legged shorts form a distance can seem a well-coordinated dress.
OF PLATFORM AND TENNIS SHOES
Ten-inch heels will be rotating to the back of the closet next summer. To the fore: more forgiving wedge and platform sandals, and a fair bit of flats, including sneakers.
Much of the footwear may tip an evolutionary nod to Birkenstocks, but designers raised the game, by incorporating geometric elements into the platforms, and, of course, luxury materials.
Sneakers also got a dressing up, with versions that go all the way up the knee with multi-colored straps for a gladiator-esque effect and sprinkled with Swarowski crystals for eveningwear.
There was a tendency to mix informal with the formal: casual shoes with dressy looks, and vice versa. And what's good for the shoes, is good for the bags, say Milan designers.