Character. Bottega Veneta SS23

Milan Fashion Week had a strong finale in form of Matthieu Blazy‘s second collection for Bottega Veneta. Don’t let the first impression of eclecticism, or even incoherence, fool you – the collection had a truly convincing plotline. It was about character and personality, which are conveyed by the clothes of the wearer. Knowing Blazy’s great affection for art, you could be sure to receive a full visual, as well as sensual, experience from his new season offering. To start, he set a fabulous scene, enlisting the 82-year-old Italian design pioneer Gaetano Pesce to create a site-specific installation that included a colorful, swirling poured resin floor and 400 unique chairs (all will be sold during the upcoming Design Miami). As the crowd filled the space, it appeared to be a meeting of unique personalities: Cicciolina circulated, Erykah Badu posed for pictures with Raf Simons, Kirsten Dunst and Kodi Smit-McPhee chatted with friends, and Pesce soaked it all in from the front row. “Unique” is really the operative word here. Backstage, Blazy said, “the collection started with meeting Gaetano. I went a lot to visit him in New York and we had a lot of discussions about diversity. He worked on his side and I worked on mine and we did a juxtaposition. The idea was ‘the world in a small room.’ We went full on,” he continued. “The idea was to represent different characters and put them in the landscape of Gaetano.” Picking up the thread from last season, the opening looks, though they looked like denim, flannel, and cotton tees, were all leather. Modeled by Kate Moss herself, a flannel shirt required 12 layers of prints to achieve the depth of color Blazy was after. “It’s this kind of casual comfort and we put it to an extreme and we call it perverse banality,” he said. Speaking of Moss, she looked as effortless wearing that ensemble as back in the 1990s, running from one show to another show, wearing the same look, not all-leather, rather all-thrifted. Blazy also revisited the “dynamic” silhouette he established last season, exaggerating the sense of clothes-in-motion by adding what could be described as fins to the back of pant legs. Similarly, the storm flaps on trench coats seemed to have caught a breeze and stayed there. The curving funnel necklines on jackets and shirts gave them a streamlined profile. These are subtle details, but if they’re missable by the uninitiated, they matter a lot to fashion obsessives who watch for such changes. This was a highly resolved collection, a reminder in a Milan Fashion Week (that included some shaky debuts and tedious tenures) of the importance of experience. Blazy has a lot of it, and it showed in all aspects of this show, including in the knit jacquard dresses and separates – “highly technical,” he said, “but the results are not technical, they’re emotional” – and in the trio of fringed finale dresses in colors lifted from Pesce. “It’s a new technique where you weave with fringe integrated into the fabric and they’re all knit by hand. That’s also very technical,” he laughed.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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Excavation. Trussardi SS23

Serhat Isik and Benjamin Huseby‘s vision of Trussardi takes shape with the designers’ second season for the Italian heritage brand. Presented in the gilded salons of Palazzo Clerici, the spring-summer 2023 offering gave hints of how they’re easing into their role, after a strong first outing which was a break with the past, clean to the point of subversion. “This time it was more about trying to develop a wardrobe that makes sense for Trussardi,” they said backstage. “It may sound boring, but we’re bringing our own vision, mixing modernity with history.” Digging into the brand’s archive was “excavation work,” they explained. “There’s lots of richness there – the exceptional leather work, the ’80s and ’90s sexy and cinched silhouettes, the sensuality, the femininity, but also a masculine glamour.” Some of these elements were brought back for spring. Sensuality was played out in fluid dresses in liquid jersey with twisted necklines and cascading hemlines; floor-length satin gowns were wrapped around the neck, draped and ruched; slits and cut-outs opened to reveal bare skin. The best representation of leather work was a faux embossed crocodile bomber, round-shouldered and cinched, paired with a ruched miniskirt. The designers also tried their hand at denim, one of the house’s signatures, offering sculpted pieces glamorized with crystal appliqués. “It’s a learning process,” they offered. “Absorbing and adapting to the Milanese culture is a sort of anthropological exploration. We’re learning to work with things that we don’t always like, or which make us slightly uncomfortable. Our view of history isn’t linear, rather it’s often chaotic“.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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Luxe. Ferragamo SS23

Maximilian Davis‘ energetic collection for Ferragamo was the best debut we’ve seen this Milan Fashion Week. It was the right balance of luxe and contemporary – something both old and new clients of the brand will appreciate. The 27-year-old, London-based designer seems to be just what this lately conservative, sleepy Italian house needed. The signifying grande geste of Davis’s new beginning included dropping the “Salvatore,” switching from a cursive font to something much more in line with contemporary design consensus, and laying claim to a new house color: a specific tone of arresting red. This was unmissable, dyed into the damp, rain-spattered sand that floored the courtyard and painted on the boards that backdropped the arcaded arches of this 17th-century Milanese seminary venue. The spot is currently being transformed into a hotel by the Ferragamo family’s Lungarno group. The red represented Davis’s own (now on hold) eponymous label, where it had echoed the flag of Trinidad and Tobago and his heritage. It also speaks to the heritage of Ferragamo, one of whose many famous archival shoes is a beaded red pump made for Marilyn Monroe by the founder in the 1950s. How about the clothes? Said Davis, “I’m developing new fabrications and introducing new silhouettes to the brand, and trying to understand what the younger client needs to make it a success.” There was a strong play for top-to-toe color in athletic-inspired bodysuits and technical field jackets and pants for men. One full look in red, a five-pocket pant and turtleneck, was beaded in homage to Monroe’s pumps. Inspired by the founder’s early incarnation as shoemaker to Hollywood, Davis riffed on sunset and sunrise via dégradé, bleeding-print fabrics that were themselves inspired by artist Rachel Harrison’s Sunset Series. Tailoring was presented in chunky, stolid shapes given twist and movement through the addition of sash details or the removal of sleeves. It was often realized in a delicately finished double-bonded crepe. There was a “playful and slightly perverse energy,” Davis suggested, in leather and suede short shorts. Accessory-wise, the house Gancini hardware was reflected in the heel of a handsome new strappy sandal and the bracelet-like hardware of a small clutch bag. It was also traced in the neckline of a regal charcoal evening dress. Davis spoke of “reenergizing” Ferragamo. The applause that greeted this first installment of his tenure suggested he’s on a good path.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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Utilitarian Glamour. Jil Sander SS23

We asked ourselves what feels modern,” Lucie Meier said, while discussing her and Luke Meier‘s spring-summer 2023 collection for Jil Sander. All of Milan has gone sexy, but the Meiers have a different take on modernity. “We looked at clashing glamour into very simple workwear, our fundamental very simple pattern cutting and then doing things that are more eccentric,” Luke added. That might mean something as straightforward as cutting cargo pants in silk satin or as extravagant as pairing a strapless confetti sequined evening dress with sneakers. The Meiers have always incorporated craft into their work, but whereas in the past macramé and crochet gave their clothes an earthy sensibility, this collection had a shiny gloss – the glam factor. A tank top and midi-kilt were embellished with cloud-shaped mirrors, and the lineup’s single print was lifted from the L.A. street grid after dark, the turned-on lights making a graphic pattern. A knit dress was made using thick yarn with baked-in sequins, and there were feathers galore: peeking from the hem of a sleeveless cotton dress, wrapped around the neck, decorating the large clutch that was one of their bags of the season. Most luscious was the group of finale looks, whose excesses of sequined knit fringe bounced like jellyfish as the models padded down the gravel runway that was actually a chic garden. The only thing that didn’t feel right was the abrupt rain.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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Goth Diva. Versace SS23

Versace turned up the heat in the middle of very mild-looking Milan Fashion Week. A steady stream of Prince hits pumped through the speakers as the crowd assembled at the spring-summer 2023 show, and in the middle of the runway, scores of black candles glowed behind walls of glass. Reading the signs, it looked like Donatella Versace was going goth for spring. The first four models, who emerged together, seemed to confirm it. They slithered out in clingy black jersey with slash cutouts and multi-strap platform Mary Janes. Up next were another 10 black looks, from Adut Akecg in a fringed leather motorcycle jacket and micromini, to Binx Walton in a matching bustier and hip-slung jeans. “I have always loved a rebel, a woman who is confident, smart, and a little bit of a diva,” the designer said via press release. She might as well have been talking about herself. Then came monochrome color: electric fuchsia and Princely purple, cut into a liquid jersey number or a sheer dress over satin flares, and teeny party dresses in many variations—strapless with more fringe at the hips or slinky with a cowl hood. A leather teddy was laser-cut like lace and embellished with thousands of little metal studs. This season’s prints combined tropical flowers, zebra stripes, and the label’s all-caps logo on repeat. This section included a couple pairs of jeans. Shredded in precise diamond patterns, this was not your average denim, but it was a whole lot more casual than anything Versace has put on the runway lately, a sign of Donatella’s ambition to expand and diversify her offering. Before the end, the collection moved through the black-to-bright cycle again. Mariacarla Boscono’s black suit and sheer shirtdress mid-layer were sharp. The baby dolls, garters, and lace veils in pink, purple, and acid yellow looked torn from Madonna’s “Like a Virgin”–era playbook via Stephanie Seymour in “November Rain.” For the finale, Versace had another pop-culture blast from the past, none other than Paris Hilton in pink chain mail. Rebels of all kinds welcome here.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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