Helmut Newton’s spirit hovered over the Blumarine show. “Always loved his work, how can you not? Always been one of my heroes,” said Nicola Brognano backstage. Newton lensed memorable advertising campaigns for Blumarine; one of the best was shot in 1995, with a young Eva Herzigova clad in a skintight black satin number, slit high to reveal her fabulous legs. Brognano had Herzigova, still breathtakingly gorgeous at 48, close today’s show, nicely coming full circle. You cannot reference Helmut Newton without conjuring dark, sultry atmospheres of intrigue. Brognano is prodding the girly Blumarine ingénue to enter grown-up territory. “She’s more femme and sexual,” he said. His co-conspirator, über-stylist Lotta Volkova, chimed in: “She isn’t so pretty and girly anymore – or at least not only. She has grown into a strong, sexy woman, in command of her body, and powerful. She is a glamorous vamp.” Nocturnal and provocative, the collection was paraded by a cast diverse in age and body type, reflecting the image shift. Lila Moss, Euphoria’s Chloe Cherry, and Mini Anden were among various beautiful curvy figures and willowy, slender silhouettes: all looked equally alluring, clad in a series of skintight, draped micro dresses, each one slinkier, sexier, and skimpier than the other. A bold palette of black, red and purple signaled an erotic detour from the candy pinks and powdery baby blues favored by Blumarine’s teen incarnation. Sweeping long black coats, shapely and nipped at the waist, looked dramatic; in Newton-esque style, faces were sometimes veiled, eyes hidden behind dark glasses. A catsuit in black patent leather with a built-in bustier had an obvious fetish allure; the see-through top with breast-hiding velvet hearts worn by Herzigova in the Newton campaign was remade, as an homage to the Blumarine’s heyday.
In just a few seasons, Nicola Brognano (with Lotta Volkova’s styling help) has flipped and twisted one of the sleepiest brands in Milan and transformed it into a 2000s-era e-girl nostalgia heaven. Blumarine last had such success in the end of the 90s and the beginning of the millenium, when nothing seemed better than rhinestone butterflies, sexy ruffles and lots, lots of denim. It’s 2021, and ironically, that’s what the TikTok generation loves and needs in their lives. Yet when asked backstage about his inspiration for spring, Brognano said “no one in particular really“. He knows that what matters is inundating social media accounts with the brassy swagger of all the skimpy, hotter-than-hot pants trotting on stilettos on the catwalk today, as well as the risqué fringed and beaded bikinis barely covered by a cropped cardi trimmed in regenerated mink or crocheted in fluoro recycled poly, or the see-through chiffon cargo pants with midriff-baring matching tops in eye-popping Day Glo colors. The co-conspirator in Brognano’s implacable turnaround is Volkova, who was busy backstage before the show shepherding models into a not-too-orderly lineup. Dressed in a whisper of a dress in pale pink stretchy gauze and chaperoned by her gallant, elegantly groomed black poodle Dimitri, Lotta fired off a barrage of her own takes on Blumarine’s new fundamentals: “Military Fairies. Sexy Butterfly girls. Frivolous and fun early Y2K mood when social media wasn’t on the horizon. Denim patchwork queens. Trippy, psychedelic, neon girls. Red carpet denim prints, red carpet bandanas. Low-waisted mermaids.” Love it or hate it, but that kind of Blumarine seems to be timeless.
It’s no longer just Hot Girl Summer season. Now, it’s Hot Blumarine Girl Summer. Nicola Brognano is entering his third season at Blumarine, and his brand revamp (together with Lotta Volkova’s phenomenal styling help) keeps on getting hotter, sassier, bolder and certainly desireable. “When I came on board, they were all skeptical,” he told Vogue. “I’ve been grilled by critics. Now they love what I’m doing. The message was strong, different, fun; it was a clean cut with the past but I’ve kept a certain Blumarine spirit. Gen Z followers immediately reacted; girls on TikTok started to replicate Blumarine furry skirts and tops from day one. We have dedicated fan pages.” For resort, Brognano is riffing on the new repertoire he’s established for the brand: a girly, sassy, mischievous take on the early-2000s pop star glam of Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, and Christina Aguilera that he worshipped as a teenager in Southern Italy. “Inspiration for me doesn’t mean a thing. We have to live in the now,” he said. “I’m inspired by social media, by the young girls dressing for real life on Instagram and TikTok. I’m not looking to the past. But I never forget what made me love Blumarine in the first place: its romantic sexiness, itsmalizia.” Brognano’s Blumarine girl is guilt-free sexy and a bit of a badass. She’s playing dress-up, but then “fucking it up with something revealing and wrong,” adding a fake fur stole over a skimpy crocheted minidress, or wearing slouchy cargos in luscious pink satin together with a slim-fitting hot pink leather blazer and a midriff-baring bandeau top. And she loves butterflies, tattooed as embroideries on pieces like this season’s bright green strapless minidress and signifying frivolity, lightness, and whimsy. “The butterfly is becoming a sort of new Blumarine logo,” Brognano concluded. “Versace has the Medusa. We have the butterfly.”
Miu Miu was one of the best things that happened this season. Since Miuccia Prada works with Raf Simons at Prada, she seems to have more spare time for the sister label, because the last couple of collections are just delightful. And the autumn-winter 2021 line-up is brilliant in many ways. First thing we know: Miuccia loves the mountains. “I remember being young, when it was hot, and you’d go skiing in your bikini,” she recalled in a digital press conference after her Miu Miu screening. “It looks strange, but in the end, it’s not.” Captured epically in high snow in Cortina d’Ampezzo in the Dolomites, her Miu Miu collection took those memories and feelings for the outdoors to the new extremes. Through a literal lens, it was the most obvious transition from indoor to outdoor dressing you could imagine: a code-switch between lingerie and skiwear. Figuratively, it was post-confinement psychology: a material outpouring of our mental state of undress and the compulsion to cover it up and put our best (and furriest) foot forward. Padded bustiers and bodices proposed alongside silk-satin slip dresses – some with aggressive spiky straps – conceived a kind of alpine lingerie (“For me, very sexy stuff,” said Prada) juxtaposed by mittens and mountain boots fit for a faux-fur yeti. “I walk a lot in the mountains and when it’s bad weather, it’s difficult,” Prada reflected. “Little by little, I realized what I was trying to say: bravery. The dream to do something that’s important and difficult. The clothes are not romantic but the spirit is.” Like animals emerging from hibernation, our return to normal is laden with anxiety, mainly because normal won’t be the normal we knew. As a result, our relationship with clothes will change. The collection offered methods to the madness in meetings between the two poles, like oversized ski suits rendered in dusty pastel boudoir satins, knitted balaclavas (that double as a face mask), girly and glamorous takes on Fair Isle jumpers, and the jumpsuits that Prada has been pushing in a big way this season. The show’s film climaxed in a bonfire ritual in the snow. It felt pagan, like a love letter to the nature the world seems to have reconnected with over the past year, and gained new respect for. “Nature is the one thing that heals you,” Prada said. “I love mountain adventures.” And we love when Miu Miu is oddly fantastic!
Blumarine is hot! While nobody really paid attention to Nicola Brognano‘s debut last season, it was clear that he (with Lotta Volkova’s styling help) has a plan for this Italian brand that once was the synonym of sexy glamour. “I’ve always been fond of Blumarine since I was a kid, Vogue Italia issues were treasured in my mother’s bridal atelier,” Brognano said during a visit to the set where the fall video was being filmed. “I still remember vividly the Blumarine advertising campaigns shot by Helmut Newton in the ’90s, they were fabulous!” That was the label’s heyday. Making it pertinent for today’s sought-after young audience, winning not only their social media attention but also their spending power is the challenge the designer has to face. He might succeed – he ticks all the boxes. For autumn-winter 2021, Brognano looked at his teenage heroines, Britney Spears and Paris Hilton and their early aughts excesses. He was a huge fan. The collection screamed Madonna-meets-Steven-Meisel-‘Sex’-Book as well. “My Blumarine is more dirty, bitchy, sexier,” he said. It definitely seems to have the punch celebrities respond to. Ariana Grande, Rihanna, and Dua Lipa have all asked for clothes, or for the impossibly high stilettos with crisscrossing full-leg straps that are becoming a hit. If Brognano knows how to put the power of stardom to good use, but he’s also business savvy. The ultra-short draped minidresses in candy colors can be covered up by cozy oversized cable-knitted cardis with fake-fur collars. Elongated crocheted-wool vests had a thrifty feel; they were see-through enough to look sexy without being too revealing. Nostalgic Blumarine fans weren’t neglected either; the everlasting roses motif was abundantly represented, digitally abstracted in liquid watercolor prints or knitted in sprouting 3D rosettes on cropped wool sweaters paired with matching briefs. Denims were totally Britney – low-slung, extra tight, bell-bottomed, and studded with crystals (properly kitschy!). Brognano’s Blumarine is firing up.