Soft Geometry. Missoni AW20

The spotlight of the last days of Milan fashion week was stolen by the abrupt spread of corona virus in multiple of Italian regions near the city. Still, one of those closing shows just can’t be ignored: I’m speaking of the beautiful Missoni line-up. The organizing principle was geometry. Press notes made reference to the 1884 book Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions, in which its author, Edwin A. Abbott, made squares sexy. Angela Missoni‘s take on geometric patterns of all kinds were collaged on every manner of knit, from the most generous of belted cardigans to body-clinging ribbed tops and tube skirts. The palette was dark and moody and shot through with metallic Lurex, and as ever the patchworking of different motifs was a highlight. The navy and gold intarsia coat with slouched-on ’80s proportions is the must-have, just as all the gorgeous blazers.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Never Obvious. Bottega Veneta AW20

With today’s breaking news of Raf Simons co-designing Prada with Miuccia Prada (!!!!!) since next season, Daniel Lee‘s Bottega Veneta might not have that much attention it had for a while in Milan this coming September. Still, Lee evidently tries to win with the mainstream hype that started to abruptly surround the brand he shook up, and tries risky things. Painful colour combinations that look so bad they’re actually good. Volume plays that aren’t the easiest to pull off. Accessories which are distant to regular “it” bags and “it” shoes (fringed octopus clutches, rubber boots in neons). I’m aware that the audience’s memory span is too small for noticing all the Phoebe Philo and Céline references (really, every single look reminded me of a specific collection – and especially Philo’s now iconic swan song line-up, which was also the last for Daniel), so no surprise the collection’s edginess is this electrifying. For autumn-winter 2020, Lee decided to examine softness – something he has missed in his debut last year. “When you look at the brand’s beginnings, everything it made was so soft. I find that super inspiring.” That thinking informed the ready-to-wear he put on the runway. But equally, so did the fact that at the age of 34, Lee is part of the street wear generation that’s wearing trainers, sweatshirts with prints and any piece of clothing that puts an emphasis on cool and comfort. He asked himself, “How do we put ourselves together in a considered, elegant way but still feel comfortable?”. His answer was simple: stretch. Even the refined men’s tailoring was built with stretch in it, he said, so it moves with the wearer. He also put big emphasis on both knit dressing and jersey, for both day and evening. Movement is his other obsession. He said he’s been spending a lot of time at La Scala watching dance performances; he likes all kinds, from ballet to modern. No wonder why those sequinned maxi-dresses and coats with floor-sweaping XXL-fringes look so amazingly vibrant and energetic once they are worn and presented in motion. Expect this collection to sell out within hours once the pieces arrive to the stores.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Assemblage. Marni AW20

While the topic of sustainability seems to be utterly dormant in Milan, at least you’ve got Marni‘s Francesco Risso that takes some steps in order to address it. The collection used what appeared to be fragments of existing garments: take the cardigan dresses created from several different pieces of knitwear, each element linked with the crude stitchery of a child in a craft workshop. The remnant scraps produced in their manufacture, Risso noted, had been regenerated to create smaller elements such as the purses shaped like Victorian carpetbags or the old-fashioned wrestlers’ shoes. Risso described the effect as DIY, and the deliberate naivete continued with the magnificent finale pieces made using scraps of humble cotton fabric patchworked together with shards of cut velvet woven by hand in a factory in Venice on looms that were originally designed by Leonardo da Vinci – a vanishing, time-consuming craft that Risso understandably wants to “protect and exalt.” “They are basically our new furs,” he said of these precious garments. The collection, as the designer explained, was “collaged from the beginning to the end – from macro to micro to fractal. It’s about putting together remnants.” Julien d’Ys gold and silver dust make-up and lacquered hair on the models added even more spark to Risso’s wearable assemblage. Gorgeous.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Eat (and Wear) Cake. Moschino AW20

I suddenly started enjoying Jeremy Scott’s Moschino last season, when he showed the super camp intepretation of fashion-meets-art. His work lately is absolutely un-commercial, and that might be reason looking at it is so amusing. For autumn-winter 2020, he chose a total fashion cliché: Marie Antoinette. Karl Lagerfeld did a Chanel collection dedicated to her. Last season, Thom Browne had his models wear painful-looking crinolines, corsets and big hair fit for the Versailles. In Milan, Scott clashed Marie Antoinette pannier dresses with the most emblematic womenswear garment of the radical 1960s, the miniskirt. Scott’s mini pannier came in various iterations: gold brocade on denim, white biker, black biker, and toile de Jouy. This archetypally 18th-century pattern was used across the collection with the original faces of its cavorting courtiers transformed into wide-eyed anime characters. The kitschy, cake-based finale that was served was hilarious and provided total visual oversaturation with all its sweetness and icing-like details. Let them eat (and wear) cake.

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.

The Contrasts. Prada AW20

This season, Prada was about contrasts, which actually create an equilibrum. “We can be strong and feminine at the same time… women carry the weight now.Miuccia Prada was insistent: delicacy and frivolity are not antithetical to power. Finally somebody said that out loud, in the language of fashion. Beads, silks, fringes, the “clichés of femininity,” as she described them, accompanied pieces traditionally considered masculine. A boxy belted jacket was paired with a fringed skirt, while classic bib-front shirts were glammed up with skeins of crystals suspended from the shoulders. Basketball jerseys got a similar treatment, elongated to the knee and then accessorized with ropes of beads and sneaker-boot hybrids. For Prada-ists, this collection is a great retrospective of some of Miuccia’s big hits – especially autumn-winter 2017, autumn-winter 2015, spring-summer 2014 and autumn-winter 2009 – which were patchworked into something new. Prada’s vocabulary is so wide and distinct that there’s no wonder why she is bringing some ideas back to her work.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Io Sono L’Amore. Zanini AW20

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Marco Zanini‘s small, name-sake label launched a year ago, and though the challenges are constant, he now finds himself with a roster of top boutiques around the world and the kind of personal satisfaction that comes from doing precisely what he wants after many years of working for other companies. This also is reflected in the garments: there’s no compromising at Zanini. Not on materials, not on the finishings on the inside of the garments, and definitely not on his silhouettes. For autumn-winter 2020, Zanini’s interest turned to traditional English wool flannels, which he cut into mannish two- and three-piece suits that he lined in white linen. Another wool jacket and matching full skirt were lightly hand-quilted. The thick cashmere knit worn with another big skirt looked just perfect, worn with a cameo necklace and a cotton poplin shirt underneath. Very, very Milanesa. This collection made me think of Luca Guadagnino’s masterpiece “I Am Love”,  starring Tilda Swinton as Emma. I can see Zanini’s delightful silk eveningwear worn around the wonderful Villa Necchi Campiglio and his daywear being Emma’s day-to-day basics. And in our reality, Marco’s brand is gradually stealing hearts of clients who don’t need logos and one-season statements, but want a garment that will forever feel luxurious and beautiful.

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Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Soft Minimalist Femininity. Jil Sander AW20

Lucie and Luke Meier‘s Jil Sander for autumn-winter 2020 is, simply speaking, beautiful. It’s the peak condensation of the aesthetic they’ve created at the label: soft, minimalist femininity. The knitted dress hug the body, the over-sized tailoring guards the wearer, the blanket-like, fleecy throws bring comfort and warmth… everything’s a delight. The show was staged with wooden chairs arranged in a round-edge rectangle in the center of the runway: the models walked the perimeter and took their seats. Backstage, Lucie and Luke talked about capturing movement and emotion, and the sense of stillness the models inhabited set off both. The Meiers practice a more considered, tranquile sort of fashion, one that puts primacy over noisy Insta-moments. What’s not to love about it?

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

The Ritual. Gucci AW20

For a good start of Milan fashion week, at the very beginning of the Gucci show, the curtain was pulled back on the frenzied sort of preparations that typically happen backstage of any runway presentation. On a rotating carousel, bathrobe-clad models were quickly trussed and styled by fleets of dressers in gray Gucci smocks before taking their place along the stage’s edge. The vintage-feeling clothes, which included big hats and opera gloves, were no less theatrical – there were frilly baby-doll dresses, bell-bottom suits in pastels and baroquely ruffled ball gowns, inspired, said Gucci’s Alessandro Michele, by the idea of a mother dressing her child for a special occasion. What truly appealed to me in this show is Michele’s embrace of the dress-up ritual. It can be spontaneous, planned, conscious or unconscious, one day you can look like Janis Joplin, another be a goth lolita, and then on Friday be the S&M-version of Marie Antoinette. The opening look perfecly showed the theme of the collection: a confused-looking model in one of those gowns, with a chunky knitted sweater over her head.

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Collage by Edward Kanarecki.