Fashionistas back to Milan for live shows -- for real this time
The who's who of Italian fashion returned to the runway Wednesday at the start of women's shows in Milan, which organisers hope will boost an industry stifled by two years of coronavirus.
Fendi, Diesel, Alberta Ferretti and Roberto Cavalli featured on the first day of runway shows at Milan Fashion Week, which reunited the requisite leggy models, international jet-set and paparazzi in Milan to recapture the headiness of pre-Covid fashion.
This season, for the first time since Covid-19 erupted in Italy in February 2020, in-person shows with audiences -- a major advertising weapon for luxury brands -- will outnumber pre-taped shows and films streamed for homebound fashionistas.
Now, Milan is hoping for an event worthy of the return of hundreds of buyers, journalists and fashion executives to the city.
Certainly Fendi's futuristic, bunker-like runway space was a fitting stage for their return, and all the hallmarks of a normal fashion show were on display -- plentiful air kisses (with or without masks), guests tottering on gravity-defying heels, pouting for selfies, and men in skirts.
Pants-wearing and sunglasses-clad guest Fabian Maurer was sporting an enormous oversize furry tote from a previous Fendi season.
"I have all my invitations in here," said the Munich fashionista, 36. "And my mobile".
Model Bella Hadid opened the show in a snuggly Easter pink curly mohair jacket paired with a transparent, lingerie-like dress with ruffled seams cut to the knee.
The focus on transparency -- even on pants, in Easter shades of apricot and mint -- appeared at odds with the Fall/Winter 2022/2023 season, but in fashion, anything goes.
Kim Jones' collection, Fendi said in show notes, was "tracing the edges of strong lines and shapes, blurred and reinvigorated by a sense of lightness".
Just remember to stay inside.
- Shredded and slashed -
Despite the Prosecco-fueled parties this season, the chairman of Italy's national fashion chamber (CNMI), Carlo Capasa, has acknowledged the "uncertainty" that still weighs on the sector.
But the 58 physical shows and nine digital offerings are "a strong sign of optimism and positivity, which infuses new momentum into the industry", he said during a recent press conference.
"Everything is heading towards recovery in 2022."
Anticipation was high Wednesday for Belgian designer Glenn Martens' second collection for Italian denim brand Diesel.
Martens presented a resplendent haute couture collection in Paris last month as Jean Paul Gaultier's guest designer, garnering rave reviews for his deconstructed take on the French designer's signature corseting.
In Milan, denim was shredded, slashed, and slung low over hips in the mens' and women's collection, while generously oversized coats in avocado, rose or cerulean blue were one part decadent glamour -- and one part Muppet.
Models shared the cavernous runway space with enormous blow-up male and female figures, thighs and buttocks in the air, lending a definite soft porn vibe to the show.
- Clawing back -
Two years ago this week in Milan, Moschino presented a Versailles-worthy collection of embroidered silk confections on models in towering hairdos. The carefree, "Let them eat cake" vibe was soon brought to a brutal halt by the pandemic.
Since then, after a period of factory closures, plummeting sales and a sea change in how people dress (sweatpants, anyone?), the industry has sought to claw its way back to pre-Covid levels.
Italy's fashion and related sectors are expecting revenue of 83 billion euros ($95 billion) in 2021, up 20.9 percent year-on-year, and driven by China and the United States, according to CNMI. That is still 7.8 percent shy of 2019 levels, however.
Chinese buyers will still be absent this week due to restricted entry into Italy, but Russians appeared to be in full force, helped by a recent government measure allowing entry to those with non-EU approved vaccines, in particular Russia's Sputnik.
A surge of Omicron cases resulted in a scaled-down Milan men's fashion week in January, and anxiety continues to hang over the show circuit, which began this month in New York and, following shows in London and Milan, wraps up in Paris on March 8.
Looking ahead, Ferrari makes its Milan debut Sunday, eight months after designer Rocco Iannone presented the first fashion collection for the luxury sports car brand, using its assembly line as a catwalk.
Fashion watchers are also eager for Matthieu Blazy's debut Saturday as new creative director of Bottega Veneta, following the surprise exit of Daniel Lee in November.