Friday, September 26, 2008

Next stop, Paris; part une

The last day of the Milan shows are always a bit like the last day of the Paris shows, lots of heavy hitters that everyone counts on to end the week on a high note. Lucky for us it wasn't a huge letdown.

Let's start with the best...

Milan's blond Medusa pulled off yet another coup in the revitalization of the house of Versace. At this point it's almost hard to remember that little more than 3 years ago, Versace was the Kate Moss of Milanese fashion, the once prestigious name that was resting too much on it's laurels while plagued by scandal. Very few designers can take credit for being able to wipe away years of overindulgent design and financial hardship, but I think it's safe to say that Donatella's determined to make sure that this high she's on isn't short lived.

This spring she's continuing with the short, sharp, youthful looking silhouettes she propsed for fall, but she's made it even more architectural with sharply angled shapes and zipper details that slice around the torso, neckline or hem of dresses. Even the little heart motifs, which in theory would sound like a one way trip into Hello Kitty territory, looked sharp, and dare I say it, cool. Could it be an homage to Yves Saint Laurent, who used a heart motif in some of his most influential collections and who always accessorized his favorite look in each collection with his legendary"couer fetishe", a baroque looking jeweled heart pendant? Who knows, but with Yves' spirit lingering in collections during New York fashion week, it wouldn't surprise me if the late master's influence was on a lot of designer's minds this season.

I also found myself thinking of Francisco Costa's collection for Calvin Klein back in NY. That too played with short silhouettes made of stiffened, razor sharp angles. Donatella's take was a bit more palatable because ultimately it's a more flattering look. Even though the bust of dresses had pleats and folds and hips were built out into almost blocklike shapes, the waist was always in focus, and who wouldn't want a waist that looks tiny in comparison to squared off hips and exagerrated bust? Of course, it wouldn't be a Versace collection without some gorgeous eveningwear. But this season, Donatella barely skimmed over her drapey goddess gowns and kept the silhouette short. TBH I would've preferred if she had just nixed the gowns all together because the short options looked fabulous and completely overshadowed the gowns that, though beautiful, weren't as special. In doing shorter, youthful shapes Donatella had more leeway to work with embellishment, which was plentiful, but still managed to stay sort of minimal. In particular I love the crystal encrusted yellow mini with built out hips and sclupted torso.

I actually like this collection a lot more than I did last season. Last season was comprised of things that other designers have been doing, just "Versaced" up. I mean yeah, A-line dresses and voluminous coats were new territory for Donatella, but not really for fashion as a whole. This however, seems much more ahead of the pack. When you have an intellectual, minimalistically minded designer like Costa doing the same thing at the same time, I think it's fair to say that Versace was pushing herself harder than she ever has.

Whether the hearts were a tribute to Saint Laurent, or she just wanted to let people know how she's feeling, it's clear Donatella expects people will love this collection.

Dolce and Gabbana

The boys at Dolce and Gabbana were clearly in the mood to explore their eccentric side, and they did it as only Dolce and Gabbana can; bigger, louder and more gaudy than anybody else could even dream of doing. Mind you, I mean that in the best possible way. First, you have to notice some major similarities to Christian Lacroix, I mean, who wouldn't? Put all that aside though and some of the things they did were kind of cool in that how-is-that-wearable way. One of the main things to pop up, no pun intended I swear, were these round, overblown sleeves. The way they crease makes me think of a fortune cookie just waiting to be smashed open. Again, I mean that in the best possible way. In fact, I kind of like it. It's D&G's contribution to the ongoing love of all things shoulder related in fashion right now. Let's call it the Margiela effect. But the shoulders came in many different shapes, squared, peaked, puffed...the only thing consistent was the fact that they were all oversized. On the Lacroix front, each outfit was covered in mismatched jewelry, particularly at the waist. Top each look off with veils, ribbons and flowers in the hair and you're left with a baroque orgy of stuff to look at.

The other story going on was mannish looking silk pajamas and dressing gowns, very Rockefeller sitting in his study with a brandy and a cigar after a hard days work taking over the entire oil industry. It had a certain gender bending sexiness (that YSL influence strikes again), but it was very disconnected from the rest of the collection which, frankly, was more interesting.

Just like at casa Versace, it's become a ritual to end a Dolce and Gabbana show with extravagant eveningwear, though their's has steadily become more and more for the sake of show than anything else. This season we see the culmination of that movement in evening dresses that can only be described as gigantic walking wedding cakes, complete with huge fondant flowers from bust to bottom. Built out of wire mesh, they could put Marie Antoinette to shame without even trying. Honestly, I think they're a little ridiculous, and not because they're not wearable. I mean, how many people have the need for a $70,000 gown anyway? Let's not even delve into how on earth you would dry clean them. No, it's because they're just so overwrought and, like the pajamas, have very little to do with the rest of the collection. Considering the Lacroix influence that was all over the rest of the collection, I would've hoped they would translate that into their eveningwear too.

I found myself thinking earlier about Dolce and Gabbana. They've got themselves in a weird Catch 22 situation. They made their name exposing bras, panties and corsets while maintaining a southern Italian naivete. They epitomized the whole Madonna/whore dichotomy, and very well I think. There was always a balance between the baroque romance and the up and out vulgar sexuality that they specialized in. These last few years though, they seem to have lost that balance, instead sticking to one of those two extremes, and I don't know that it's their fault. If they were to do their signature razor sharp Mafia tailoring and corseted lingerie gowns with a heavy dose of vamped up maximalism, most people will deride it as tacky and predictable Milanese trash. But when they do break out of their metaphorical corsets, they open themselves up to accusations of being inspired by other designers and working more to put on a show than to create beautiful clothes. As a result the charm of their aesthetic has lost out to showmanship. I hope they start to scale back and just give us that steamy Italian romance that they're really good at. Until then, let them eat cake!

all fashion show images from

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