Milan Fashion Week Fall 2015: Day One
Gucci: Romantic Attic Chic
“What I am trying to do is to put something poetic into a powerful, iconic brand. I am really inspired by different time periods, and that’s something we are missing in fashion,” said Alessandro Michele backstage.
This was just before he unleashed his romantic, girlish look, putting his beating fashion heart into filmy fabrics, flower patterns, coats with a pretty decoration at the back and furry loafers that you can bet have brought orders texted in to Gucci already.
The show was an absolute volte-face from the streamlined, crisp, urban Gucci of the last decade, when Alessandro was working under Frida Giannini.
She has now left, and Alessandro convinced François-Henri Pinault, CEO of the Kering luxury group, to give him the chance of a lifetime.
And who wouldn’t succumb to this great romantic? With his dramatic black curls, intense enthusiasm and vision that encompasses the Renaissance and sweet floral prints, along with the idea of a modern woman who runs to answer her lover at the door, wearing a dress that is part nightgown and part Victorian frock.
“I love Jane Eyre,” said the designer, referring to the heroine of Charlotte Brontë’s best-known novel. This style can best be described as ‘attic chic’, hence a tailored, flower-printed jacket with the mark of a fold at the hips, as though the garment had been locked in a trunk for half a century.
Berets perched on the head suggested a young French woman from an earlier era.
The show was engaging in its passion and visual energy. It was not a triumph – that would suggest a more pushy, in-your-face collection, rather than this dream of a gentle woman wearing semi-sheer dresses, handcrafted knits and back-to-the-Seventies trouser suits, or tops and pleated velvet skirts.
All were distinguished by appetising colours, like a ginger coat with fondant-pink fur cuffs, or a petal-like asparagus green skirt with a lilac blouse and red flowers in the hair.
The clothes – including those for men – stood out as young, logo- and status-free, fitting into the dynamic of Hedi Slimane’s Saint Laurent.
But is it Gucci? A bag with a Napoleonic bumblebee? Shoes bobbling with fluffy fur baubles? A whiff of the brocade and velvet from an opulent past?
The question is better asked like this: what is Gucci? Is it primarily a leather company that makes clothes (like Louis Vuitton)? Is it the hot and sexy look that Tom Ford invented in the Nineties, his heyday now a generation ago?
Did Frida Giannini’s chic and slick look better catch the essence of Gucci?
And above all, are Alessandro’s wild, romantic dreams going to stop the fall in Gucci’s sales and profits?
“We are very excited. Alessandro is like a hidden jewel, he was under the radar,” said Marco Bizzarri, Gucci’s CEO, sitting with François-Henri Pinault and his wife Salma Hayek, who was already wearing a trouser suit with navy jacket and wine-red pants from the new collection.
“Business will grow, but we must maintain creativity,” Bizzarri continued. “Even big luxury names cannot do something average.”
I don’t know about the finances, but I warmed instantly to the new designer, for his passion, his enthusiasm and his intelligence.
It has been a long time since luxury seemed so romantic. Alessandro put his heart in the show, and it showed.
Stella Jean: Stylistic Disobedience
Stella Jean defines herself as “irreverent.” As a mixed-race designer in a traditional Italian fashion universe, that might not seem too surprising.
And the secret to her A/W15 collection was diversity – but in shape, rather than in cultural meaning.
So there was a big, straight, floor-sweeping coat, mannish apart from ethnic effects, like embroidery figures of what looked like Indian children. This was followed by skirts so full that they bounced up and down in what seemed like a parody of femininity.
But Stella Jean has learned a lot since she first sent out her models in wobbly high heels. In this show there was a literal change of footwear to include personalised sneakers, adding to the masculine offerings.
The designer has also enlarged her repertoire, showing handmade knits that were both colourful and told a story. The only thing she has not quite worked out is how to provide a blank canvas against which colour and pattern can stand out by contrast. A few whisper-quiet coats or knits would have made the rest easier to digest as fashion statements.
Alberta Ferretti: A Fashion Renaissance
Sunrise to sunset. It is one of the most magnificent acts of nature.
In a poetic show, Alberta Ferretti caught that rise and fall, translated into a – digital –woodland setting where fabric was presented with knobs like a tree trunk, or the sponge brown of a mushroom’s underbelly.
The show was lyrically beautiful, one of the finest Ferretti has ever done, due only in part to the fiery ball of the sun as it rose and fell on a screen at the back.
Instead of sending out clothes for winter in the countryside, there were just a few coats in brown, green and an autumn leaf of orange or gold.
A poetic imagination brought out trousers, which are beginning to look like a fixture of the Winter 2015 season. There were also ankle-length skirts with long-sleeved, shapely tops.
Since the Ferretti look has never been vulgar, she slipped gracefully into the style of long sleeves and hemlines.
Ferretti described the show as an ode to Italy.
“I started thinking about the importance of imagery in contemporary culture, and how communication is now largely through social media,” said the designer. “That took me back to the Renaissance, when portraits could convey truths about the era and society.”
That might suggest a historic collection stiff with costumes. The opposite was true: it was the past seen through a prism of modernity, so that inspiration from tapestry or mosaic caught the light of today.
But it is difficult to grasp where Puglisi is headed, and which women would feel empowered by wearing a coat or a top sliced at an angle to bring the eye towards bare flesh.