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Milan Fashion Week highlights: designers’ strength in diversity

Normally Milan is the place to spot the key trends for season, confirming threads of ideas that started to assimilate in London and New York. Not so this season. There was immense diversity in inspiration, themes and collections, from the frenzied styling of Gucci to the earthy North African wanderlust of Uma Wang. This time Milan did not speak with one voice.

Techno sports

The term encompasses not just the widespread use of techno fabrics, sporty meshes and finishes in some collections, but also the Italian passion for football. Both Stella Jean and Fendi expressed their love for ‘the beautiful game’ with sporty football strips. Designers were adopting Velcro fastenings and rubber detailing as at Prada and Fendi, or scuba mesh fabrics as seen at Ferragamo where the new designer grounded the twisted leather dresses and Python print nylon jackets with scuba flatforms. “Sportswear is the future of fashion,” says Donatella Versace and “to make it unique and luxurious is the challenge.” She achieved it with technical fabrics sculpting the body, and billowing nylon blousons and parkas.

The Americana hippy

The Cavalli and Etro girls are haute Bohemians, well travelled and likely to be found in the VIP area of a rock festival like Coachella, or wafting between glamorous parties on super yachts during the Cannes and Venice film festivals. This is Peter Dundas’s wanderlust muse at Roberto Cavalli this time rocking a patchwork denims, suede Native American jackets and chamois dresses printed with Navajo and Apache motifs and patterns. At Etro, the bohemian would find kaftans and long duster coats in a mix of Oriental and Americana prints and styling.

Pleats please

Issey Miyake could be about to have his moment again in fashion as designers cast around for ways of revamping the metallic pleated silhouette that has been such a hit in recent seasons. Tightly packed pleats on long tube skirts, jackets and trousers, made a reappearance at Marni and Jil Sander. Kinetic movement is influencing fashion and the sensuous bounce of finely pleated fabric is appealing to some designers. Both Marni and Jil Sander produced lovely round-shouldered dresses that sashayed down the catwalk.

Fringe benefits

Fringes are pushing frills off their perch as the trim of the season in Milan. Forget stiff ruffles, it is all about the sexy swing of long fringes on bags, dresses and coats, even the shoulder-grazing single dangly earrings on the catwalks are fringed. “It’s all about the movement,” says Sandra Choi, Jimmy Choo’s designer, explaining her, and there is a lovely sexiness about movement of a long fringe hippy shawl at Cavalli or the tiered fringe dresses at Marco di Vincenzo. Armani similarly used fringes to bring dynamic momentum to his collection of easy cardigan jackets in indigo prints.

Modern classics

There is a subtle updating of the classics, be it a trench coat, a box pleat skirt, a sweater or a crisp cotton shirt in collections at Prada, Bottega Veneta and Fendi. Bottega Veneta showed some classy looking black dresses, luxurious leather jackets and coats; Prada talked backstage about trying to find a new way of elegance and simplifying things. However she did manage to add a pile of feminine feathers to slit skirts and pyjama suits. Gucci, beneath all the styling pulled out some 1940s Hollywood sportswear – ivory ensembles edged in the signature Gucci braid worn with chic turbans and some classy ’70s trouser suits and silk pyjamas.

The tropics

The fallout from the Rio Olympics is that some designers have gone very tropical. Dolce Gabbana’s festive spirit and Latino vibe was infectious with the audience joining in the dancing to the salsa beat after models paraded retro dresses, embellished military jackets and denim. Normally the go-to house for winter coats MaxMara hits the jungle for summer with printed giant tropical greenery over its taut bomber jackets, sportswear and sun visors, while Stella Jean’s signature painterly prints combined Hawaiian and Burmese themes.

Denim reinvented

Patchwork is an emerging trend this season as fashion looks at ways (albeit by looking back) to reinterpret denim. Cavalli did it and Giambattista Valli did it with Giamba, his younger line, mixing denim and brocade in patchwork jeans. Denim and its summery equivalent chambray appeared with pretty broderie Anglaise embroidery for romantic dresses at Luisa Beccaria, while, Jeremy Scott, ever the maverick, in his Valley of the Dolls collection for Moschino, spray painted denim troupe l’oeil jeans on models.