Tuesday, September 25, 2007

MILAN spring/summer 2008

when one thinks of the name maxmara, the first thing to come to mind are coats. not japanese influenced utilitarian. but there it was. asymmetrical tailoring, the sombre colour palette, an almost post-apocalyptic futurism, and those flat oxfords the japanese are so in love with. throw in some british early eighties new wave references and you have a collection that unfortunately will fly under the radar. perhaps its because the maxmara legacy is so entrenched with its coats that any form of experimenting or new direction can become almost crippling than evolution. which is too bad because if this was a collection from a designer just making his mark, it would have been unanimously praised. even in a season when the japanese influence is developing into a really strong statement for the future, the history of this house is almost crippling its development. if louis vuitton, lanvin, and balenciaga in paris can be rejuvenated into the future, why not established milanese houses like krizia, complice or maxmara. one can understand that because these milan based labels have been family owned for decades and it would be hard to let an outsider in and take creative control, but in times when the world is getting smaller and smaller, families and relationships have no other option but to get bigger.

for a house that has become synonymous with luxurious furs, the house of fendi, for the past couple of years, have been sending out some of the strongest spring collections. just like the spring collections of 2006 and 2007, the most predominant colour is white. although the most unforgiving of colour, karl lagerfeld fixed that problem with the most simply way, good design. of all the collection lagerfeld designs, the fendi label has the most innovative fabrication. and it is here that the designer manages to combine his strict tailoring, with feminine softness. as exemplified by two dresses, one after the other, both with sharp, pointed shoulders and a fitted bodice that seemed to float away from the body like chiffon from the waist down. as the collection moved onwards, there was a sudden burst of circular shapes in bright colours that were printed on to the fabric in a way to slim down the body. from then on, the circular pattern resurfaced everywhere else. francisco costa also played with this idea a couple of years ago, but kaiser karl of course does it like only he can. towards the end with his finale of evening dresses, the circular pattern almost looked like some of his couture dresses for chanel. they had that ephemeral, airy quality that transgressed time and will always be eternally feminine. the collection lagerfeld designs for fendi might not garner as much attention as the one he does for chanel, but that does not mean that this house does not have as much magic.

for a few years now the marni label has been consistently defining its image to the point that it has almost become as iconoclastic as the chanel tweed suit. the brand's mixture of girlish charm with techno-futurism propelled its designer, consuelo castiglioni as one of the leading avatars in the fashion world. not only copied by mass produced corporate retail chains, her influence has also been omnipresent throughout other luxury goods houses. the evolution of marni as a powerhouse has been a quiet one, much like its designer, it prefers to let the directness of the clothes speak for itself. what it lacks in terms of intellectualism that other designers are famous for, marni makes up for in spades for its sincerity and individuality of its vision that makes its customer extremely loyal to the brand. this season, although was not a watershed marni collection, was an exercise in what makes this brand so successful. the structured voluminous shapes, the quirky styling touches like the russian serf hats and folk-art influenced jewelry, luxurious fabrics in approachable sportswear inspired pieces, all these things combined to something that can't be described as anything else but being very marni. there were some key trends that surfaced in this collection, a more pronounced shoulder, fifties circle skirts, draping, and strong colour blocking. these might seem on point with what has been going on throughout the collections, but these are things that the house has been doing all these years. if it is true when they say that "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery", then i guess that there are a lot of sincere people out there.

the intellectual cauldron that consistently bubbles at the house of prada got a surprising new ingredient for spring, fairy tale. for a designers who is famously grounded on reality, she excited us again by expectingly be unexpected by her direction. season after season of dictating a new course for fashion, one might think that she can't possibly surprise yet again. but she does, and with this season her influence wasn't so abstracted by the time the first look came out, it was actually in full view. there were nymphs printed on silk pajama suits that looked fresh out of a muscha art nouveau print. all the arabesque lines also reappeared in the footwear which resembled flowers and vines that morphed into shoes. it veered almost between the magical and gloriously demented. then again, miucca always had the knack of making things that are "ugly" into something sophisticatedly beautiful. which probably explains the resurfacing of some of her infamous "geek chic" ideas that is over a decade old. there was that mixing of prints and fabrics, with some printed to give the illusion of texture. an idea that she also explored with her menswear collection a few months back. also present in her men's show was all the knitted jumpsuits, tunics, and cardigans that grounded that fantasy element of this collection. underlying all the flights of fancy was a response to a cold reality done in a childlike, naive way. what was new however were full circle skirts, the unimportance of hemline which ranged anywhere from just above the knee, to almost the ankle. the other strength of prada is a sense of playfulness combined with cerebral narrative. it is this dichotomy that guarantees that she will always be one step ahead of everyone else. to quote marylou luther of the international syndicate, "she's our research and development for the whole world of fashion", a point no one can really argue.

of all of the jil sander shows that raf simons has orchestrated, this feels like the one closest to his personality. after winning accolades with his interpretation of a 21st take on late nineties minimalism, raf diverted into a more decorated, although be it, restrained sense of elaboration. the decoration came in the form of a cocoon like envelopment of chiffon wrapping around more structured silhouettes. these silhouettes came in the form of cropped jackets, anoraks, and layered fabrics that formed into cocktail dresses and wrap around tops that hinted at the designer's own individual vision of modernism. to fully succeed in thrusting the jill sander pragmatism forward, raf had to combine the house's trademarks and infuse it with something that was far removed from it. for a house that is financially supported by its tailored legacy, it has to be presented in a way that creates a sense of drama. in a time when minimalism seems dated and out of sync with today's obsession with signature items, there has to be a form that it stands out from the banal. sticking with the sander trademark of unfussy, direct to the point clothes, simons managed to merge understandable commercialism with attention grabbing presentation. like last spring's bright crayola colours, this collection also saw the young belgian veering away from the monochromatic palette so closely associated with minimalist designer. the minimalist tag might regularly pop up when akin to raf's sander designs, but props are due when the designer manages to merge his vision and the eponymous' designer at the same time.

it's surprising that not many designers have amalgamated classic couture silhouettes with avant garde japanese designs. i mean, this would have been the ultimate exercise to challenge a modern designer. perhaps it takes two equipped minds to fulfill that feat. roberto rimondi and tommaso aquilano were one of the few who saw the challenge and tackled it with such virtuoso that they managed to combine pagoda shoulders and couture shapes and make it blend harmoniously. and in a season when tailoring is paramount, the duo excelled at merging the traditional with the current. the obi waist and samurai armor were re-interpreted into waist cinching and voluminous sheathes. the lure of orientalism might inspire and escape most designers, but the duo managed to succeed in the way saint laurent did in the seventies. not a hard proposition to excel at. considering they are playing with the hardest and trickiest reference points. what makes them succeed is their sincere attention to the craft and intellectual propriety of design that they are able to learn from past transgression and develop and mature into a team that not only realizes the need for change, but also cradle the adjustment modernity needs.

if you were wondering what last autumn's burberry rocker chic was going to wear for summer, well this is it. there was still a hint of the aggressiveness from last fall, but here it was softened up a little bit. the leathers were turned ruched chiffons that sort of looked like leger bandage dresses (perhaps a nod to the trends of his native london), and the blacks were replaced with greys, beiges, and towards the end, and explosion of turquoise and fuschia that linked this collection with his surfer inspired menswear collection he showed a few months ago. the showed started well enough but it lost its focus during the middle of the collection when it veered too close towards tom ford territory. the burberry customer has come back season after season for bailey's unique interpretation of english icononography. his previous collections were classic, refined, but at the same time young and absolutely modern. this collection was a bit too over the top for the perennial burberry woman. although he flirted with embellishments before, he kept the general silhouette sparse, and the tiered ruffles with the ruched chiffons was a far cry from the quiet humour he's become famous for. but it wasn't all bad, when he tones those ingredients down he comes up with something beautiful, like the silvery grey trench that opened the show, it was ruched, it had ruffles, but it had control and it didn't feel like it was wearing you. one thing no one will argue with though, now everyone knows bailey can do sexy like the best of them.

photo: style.com

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