Aquatic Wonderland. Versace SS21

As we are somewhere in the middle of the fashion month, two camps of designers can be noticed: the ones that take the realistic, pragmatic approach, and the ones that prefer escapism in midst of a crisis. Donatella Versace is in the latter group, as she takes us to her aquatic wonderland for spring-summer 2021. The Versace line-up was really good this season (and you know I’m not the biggest fan of the brand), but it was the model casting that truly stole the spotlight. Seeing the gorgeous, body-positive models – Jill Kortleve, Precious Lee and Alva Clair – in the Versace fantasy-land was a inclusivity moment that sadly isn’t a usual sight in Milan (except for Fendi and Marni, which invite different models to their fashion shows for a couple of seasons now). Hopefully, Donatella will keep it up. What about the clothes? In the imagined ruins of Atlantis and water currents streaming down its projected walls. Versace goddesses and gods wore starfish, coral, and seashell motifs from Gianni Versace’s ‘trésors de la mer’ collection for spring-summer 1992. They were ready to take on a new reality like the Rebirth of Venus herself (starring Adut Akech in the title role, of course). Versace, who described the collection as having “an upbeat soul,” said her challenge was to give fashion meaning in a historical moment like this. “I wanted to do something disruptive and to break the rules because I think that, what worked a few months ago, does not make any sense today. Creatively, that meant finding a way to bring the DNA of Versace to a new reality and to people who have undergone a deep change.” Clothes-wise, it’s a fun, high summer venture: it was, on the women’s as well as the men’s side, high-octane sporty cocktail-wear for an optimistic future. In all its sea-centric detailing, it also had its moments of ingenuity: micro-pleated dresses trimmed with twirly ruffles, which bounced like jellyfish in the waves walking down the runway; crazy cascading skirts layered like the lips of shells; and a bag constructed like a big fortune cookie.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

From The Boudoir To The Boardroom. Fendi AW20

I really loved Fendi’s autumn-winter 2020 collection. First, no sight of F logos all over the place. Second, Silvia Venturini Fendi nailed the femme fatale look making it simultaneously powerful and confident. Third, the collection’s model casting is a revolutionary moment for Milan, which is considered the most „conservative” of all four fashion capitals. Jill Kortleve and Paloma Elsesser became the first ever so-called “plus size” models to walk a Fendi runway. They looked incredible. And there were also the „veteran” models: Karen Elson (she had completely elevated her grey knit look), Liya Kebede, Carolyn Murphy and Jacquetta Wheeler. Silvia found it frustrating to always present shows whose casts were defined by the sample size.  “Especially because you talk to me and I am not really a prototype of that shape. So it’s liberating for me to portray these clothes in a different way, on different sizes.” Yes, two models in a cast of 50 girls seems not much, but still. Big hopes that this isn’t just a one-season thing. Back to the clothes for a moment. Fendi mentioned liberation, and that was the spirit of a show presented on a curvy, pink upholstered runway. The spectrum of that freedom ran from the liberatedly libidinous to the glass-ceiling smashing, or “from the boudoir to the boardroom” as the show-notes put it. The pieces combined executive chic with a sexual tweak. This was a collection that embraced the double standards of male-eye categorization and short-circuited them via disassembly and disguise: dressing up for self-gratification rather than that of others. Silvia Fendi and Miuccia Prada are the only two pre-eminent female designers in Milan. This season, both of them make significant statements on women and femininity.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.