MILAN (AP) — While the Milan fashion scene cultivates youthful womenswear designers, some of the world's most iconic female rockers are taking the stage during Milan Fashion Week.
Courtney Love and Debbie Harry are headlining on the sidelines of the six-day run of fashion previews for next spring and summer. Love sent the audacious German designer Philipp Plein's catwalk reverberating Wednesday night as fashion week kicked off, while Harry performs this weekend at the amfAR charity auction to raise money for AIDS research.
On the runway, it's a season of musical chairs. Designer Peter Dundas has left Emilio Pucci's fashion house for Roberto Cavalli's, replaced by Massimo Giorgetti formerly of MSGM while Arthur Arbesser makes his Iceberg debut. And Gucci's new 42-year-old creative director shows his second womenswear collection — this one with more than five rushed days to prepare as went his February debut.
The National Fashion Chamber is giving space to 17 designers with less than five years of experience in Milan's modern Porta Nuovo district of new skyscrapers as part of efforts to promote youth in a fashion calendar still dominated by talents who have been around decades.
In his first year on the job, fashion chamber President Carlo Capasa is trying to inject fresh energy into Milan fashion week, and has increased the number of runway shows, previews and events this season to 177 from 137 a year ago. The calendar includes fashion week runway premieres by Daizy Shely and Damir Doma.
Capasa told The Associated Press that he is working to make Milan fashion week "stronger, more international, more modern."
Highlights from Wednesday's previews:
Alessandro Michele's second womenswear collection for Gucci, his first with the full creative director title, explores beauty, from the exotic to the garden variety — all of it feminine and romantic.
The heady Michele said in his notes that he took inspiration from a 17th-century map of an imaginary land, named the Carte de Tendre, and a practice called "derive," or a rapid passage through varied environments.
Michele's clothes are a little less obscure, even transparent at times, but with no fewer intellectual rewards for those who probe.
As his winter collection, Michele played with ruffles and pleats. Pleated skirts slide along the hips, worn with sheer blousy tops. Ruffles flounce on the front of dresses, along a trouser hemline and down sleeves. But Michele also recreated the same accents two-dimensionally, a neck ruffle or a belt with sequence and beads.
"It was the idea of something that you see is not exactly real, from the Renaissance again, like a tromp l'oeil you can be what you want, also if it doesn't exist," Michele said backstage.
Michele said he explored everything from images from the 1970s to English prints for the collection, delving into books and nature alike. Repeating motifs included a serpent, which snaked up the back of a sheer black floor-length gown, and a toucan, whose open wings give flight from the back of a dress.
"It is a personal view of beauty, so I tried to map what I had in my head," Michele said.
In a rare natural intrusion into the tightly choreographed fashion world, wind buffeted the Gucci runway, set in an abandoned train depot open to the outside and decorated with a background of lush greenery, lacquered chair and a serpent carpet, suggestive of the Garden of Eden.
In just two short seasons, Michele has become the darling of the fashion scene and he was mobbed backstage by well-wishers and admirers, including brand owner Francois-Henri Pinault and his wife Salma Hayek.
With a collection that traces the path of Italians' global emigration, Haitian Italian designer Stella Jean reminds Italians that they were, and are, a nation of outward migrants.
Jean expressed anger backstage at some anti-migrant rhetoric coming from Italy in reaction to the unabating flows of migrants across the Mediterranean Sea.
"Our historical identity can't permit these phrases. There's not a family in Italy that hasn't had someone migrate," Jean said. She referred both to Italian emigration to Northern Europe and the Americas in past centuries, and the flight of Italian youth abroad now in search of jobs.
"The difference is they can take low cost-flights, while the others must pay 5,000 euros," she said, referring to the fees demanded by smugglers for passage to Europe.
"The trajectory represented in the collection, was taken by many Italians, arriving in South America and North America, and returning to Europe. It is everyone's story," she said.
The looks for next summer combine bright Peruvian striped jackets over tiered skirts, hand-painted long dresses with scenes from the Andes and jackets inspired by the American West with multi-layered grass skirts in alternating colors. Jean derived volume from ruffles that adorned the sides of sleeves and the backs of skirts, but the volume was always tempered by sartorial touches. There were also creative accents like gecko-adorned visors, worn with a waft of curls peeking out of the top.
Jean, who made her Milan runway debut two years ago, said her looks always take influences from at least two cultures, typically mixing exotic fabrics and flourishes with Italian tailoring. Her fashion travels the globe, with textiles from Burkina Faso and leather from Ethiopia.
"It's a dialogue, to show if it can work there, it can work in your life. It is beyond aesthetic," she said.
The ever-uninhibited Courtney Love belted out "Celebrity Skin" for the Milan fashion crowd, lending punk cred to German designer Philipp Plein's #pleinpunk collection for next spring and summer.
Love, dressed in tattered jeans and a dark T-shirt, rode a conveyor belt along an ironic automated fashion runway, accompanied by robot guitarists, named Fingers and Bones. Drones hovered overhead as Love sang "Model/actress, oh, just go nameless!"
Backstage, Plein said that Love for him represented the authenticity of the punk music movement.
"She is not just a part of the industry who plays someone else," he said.
Punk rockers expressed their anti-establishment credo also in the way they dressed, the designer noted. "They made their own jackets, they cut their own hair," Plein said.
Now Plein is drawing on their influence for a punk-inspired line that features stud-encrusted biker jackets and chain-mail tops decorated with tongue studs. Plein paired the looks alternatively with gladiator skirts, tulle tutus and studded leggings. The standout piece: an attention-grabbing feather skirt that screams ostrich and would be impossible to sit in.
Models were conveyed down the fashion assembly line, stopping to pick up sunglasses from one robot, handbags from another.
Anna Jaue, a buyer with her own boutique in Toronto, traveled to Milan just to see Plein after buying a pair of his jeans this summer and being persuaded his brand is just what her clients are looking for.
"I'm bored with everything that is out there, and my clients are bored," she said. "This is very unique for me. My clients are thirsty for this."