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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Twins. Gucci SS23

In the minutes before Gucci’s spring-summer 2023 show, an email came in. “Welcome to Twinsburg,” read the subject line. Alessandro Michele’s concept this season was a reflection on identity and otherness. Michele, it turns out, is the child of an identical twin. “I am the son of two mothers,” the show notes began. Mum Eralda and Mum Giuliana “shared a genetic solidarity but, above all, they shared an intimacy which was inaccessible to others.” There’s something captivating, even uncanny, about twins – we’ve all seen the photo of Michele and his friend Jared Leto, tuxedoed doppelgängers at the 2022 Met Gala. The Gucci creative director played up the intrigue here, dividing the audience in two via a partition lined floor to ceiling with portraits of twins and look-alikes by Mark Peckmezian and staging two simultaneous shows without either half understanding until the last models made their way down the runway. Then the wall of photos lifted, revealing another set of bleachers and another set of models wearing identical looks. For the finale, the twins emerged from opposite sides of the set, stretched their arms across the runway, and joined hands.

In true Michele fashion, the collection’s 68 looks didn’t need doubles to make an impact. He worked his way through strict tailoring, souped-up activewear, Hollywood Boulevard glitz, embroidered chinoiserie, red carpet glam, and country quilting, among other motifs. The sequined jacket that announced FUORI!!! was Michele’s nod to an early 1970s magazine produced by the Fronte Unitario Omosessuale Rivoluzionario Italiano, and the stuffed animal handbags were Gremlins, stars of the 1980s black comedy of the same name. A helpful fellow journo pointed out that the Gremlins had a propensity for multiplying, which gets back to Michele’s explorations around identity. He pointed out another twinning detail in the men’s garter pants that revealed a bare expanse of upper thigh. Garters are historically associated with women’s hosiery; we aren’t used to seeing that part of a man’s anatomy. Highly eclectic visual allure and conceptual interpretations aside, it’s the solidarity of twins that Michele was really tapped into. In his post-show press conference, he seemed troubled by the climate crisis, growing anti-gay sentiment, and the renewed threat of nuclear war. “Clothes are not enough,” he said, adding that the filial atmosphere backstage was “therapeutic” for him and his team. “When we are many, we are much stronger,” he argued. This show made you believe it.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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Identity Crisis. Missoni + Etro SS23

There’s this tricky thing about Italian brands that used to be family-owned. Once a new designer, who never worked with that family, takes over the steers, a hard identity crisis begins for good. This Milan Fashion Week, on the same day, there were two such debuts: Filippo Grazioli at Missoni and Marco De Vincenzo at Etro. Both delivered highly uninventive collections that were strangled with some familiar style codes of the brands, but lacking any fresh perspective of what these two idiosyncratic Italian houses could be in 2022. Grazioli’s take on Missoni felt like yet another failed attempt of the brand to rejuvenate itself since the family no longer does the creative direction. The designer, who cut his teeth at Givenchy and Hermès in the past, offered a tight palate-cleanser collection which was a very plain interpretation of Missoni’s timeless zig zag and fiammato patterns. Most of the looks orbited between sleek minimalism and uninspired, 1960s retro. It would d be interesting to see Grazioli playing with the house’s codes with a freer, more daring approach, expanding his creative reach. Because if you are planning to design just good clothes, then don’t even bother – or at least, don’t show during fashion week. A range of similar problems appeared on Etro’s runway. De Vincenzo is a well-known designer in Milan, but when I heard the news of his appointment, I scratched my head. Etro’s most recognizable repertoire – the eternal paisley pattern, the fringed gypsy look, the romantic sweeping gowns – was nowhere to be seen in his debut. “I don’t really like fluid fabrications; I like structure and compact materials,” De Vincenzo explained. “I’m not really familiar with the boho world. It doesn’t mean that in the future I cannot interpret it my way, but for now I’ve been given this position to express my point of view. That’s why I’m here.” I really don’t understand his mission then. There’s no need for Etro to be something else than Etro. And definitely not a bunch of shallow designs, featuring lazy-looking dresses and silly crop-tops. The collection tried hard to appeal to a younger audience, but I guess it was forgotten by that very same audience the minute the show ended. Missoni and Etro are brands that truly deserve better. Either their new creative directors quickly find balance between their personal aesthetics and the houses’ style ethos, or they will simply fall into oblivion, just like many other Italian brands that never could find their way again without their charismatic founders (and their descendants).

Missoni spring-summer 2023:

Etro spring-summer 2023:

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Gothic Mermaids. Blumarine SS23

Blumarine‘s Nicola Brognano keeps on digging deep into the 2000s nostalgia, but for spring-summer 2023, the designer switched the attitude: from girly to femme, from roses to crosses, from flimsy Lolita-esque dresses to tight-fitting, liquid silhouettes. Also, the Blumarine woman went underwater, becoming an IRL mermaid. In his childhood, Brognano was obsessed with The Little Mermaid cartoon. “I watched it on repeat so many times that the VHS got destroyed,” he said. But what is it about the Little Mermaid that so enthralled Brognano? “She was a redhead like my mother, and I loved the way she was dressed, all those eye-popping colors. I remember a minidress that was exactly a cartoon version of a Versace metal mesh number.” The glamorous mermaid look evidently stuck, but for spring, Brognano turned it into a darker, gothic representation, “intriguing and sexier, less pop, much dirtier.” The image of the Blumarine girl seems to be submitted to a constant process of mutation into ever-evolving versions of herself. A plethora of sexy numbers in luscious jersey contoured every curve, flaring into extra-long trains trailing on the sandy floor of the show’s set, which was scattered with shells and bathed in aquarium-blue light. With similar conviction, the Blumarine mermaid was provided with endless variations of True-Religion-esque denim trousers and cargos, whose hems opened into flares so wide or into undulating ruffles so humongous they almost seemed to crawl behind the models. Midriff-baring was de rigueur; being the ubiquitous trend’s instigator, Brognano just owned it with nonchalance, offering shell-shaped bras in oxidized metal paired with extremely low-slung denim flares or cargo-skirt hybrids. In the Blumarine seasonal mutation into gothic marine creature, the crystal-studded cross replaced the rose, one of the label’s symbols of voluptuous sensuality, here reduced to a few timid rosettes gathering the draping of figure-hugging minidresses. In Brognano’s ongoing identity shaping, drama takes the place of innocent flirting, and romanticism has darker, erotic undertones.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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