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Fashion Diary: Milan Fashion Week gets real

March 1, 2010 |  5:00 pm

Milan-fashion-week
Milan grows up and covers up. That was the takeaway from the fall/winter 2010 collections, which weren’t as much about in-your-face showmanship and trends as they were about the value of heritage and craft. Facing competition from the glut of inexpensive fast fashion available at places such as H&M and Zara, where knockoffs of runway styles hit the racks long before the originals that inspired them, designers are redefining luxury as something timeless and personal.

For many who showed during Milan Fashion Week, which ended Monday, that meant returning to what they became famous for in the first place, designing clothes that won’t go "in" and "out" in a season, and putting an emphasis on the human touch. This season, we saw larger-sized models at Prada, celebrity outcasts Lindsay Lohan and Courtney Love front row at Roberto Cavalli and the Internet inviting everyone to the party, with more shows than ever being streamed live. It was almost as if the fashion industry joined together in a chorus of "Kumbaya." Maybe during the upcoming Paris shows, Vogue’s Anna Wintour will serve milk and cookies.

A cynic might say that all this inclusiveness is just good business when business isn’t good, especially now that consumers are getting fatter and older. Or that feel-good fashion could itself be a passing trend. But whatever the reason and the outcome, it was refreshing.

Dolce & Gabbana opened their show with a black-and-white film of seamstresses from their atelier painstakingly sewing each bead and button. It was a reminder of why a designer jacket costs so much, and what you are really getting when you spend $2,000 at Dolce & Gabbana versus $20 at H&M.
On the runway, the clothes were an elegant representation of the duo’s timeless design codes. Superbly tailored jackets worn with lacy underthings, crochet-knit suits, a mix of leopard print and polka dots, floral embroidered coats, and the Sicilian-style black lace corset dresses that started it all.

At Gucci, the winning formula for designer Frida Giannini was not the latest flashy trend ready to be copied. It was luxe, 1970s-inspired sportswear in a soothing neutral palette. Among the offerings: skinny straight pants with fold-over waists; asymmetrical silk skirts and dresses with modest cutouts; and a glove leather shift dress with beaver fur at the neckline. Outerwear was strong, too, including a fox-trimmed suede topper, and a camel coat with a removable knitted mink lining. Need more evidence that the Gucci rock chick has grown up? Python-patterned Chantilly lace dresses and a shift sparkling with ombre tortoise-colored sequins looked to be for the woman who hits home just before the sun rises.

Milan-fashion-week-cavalli- In a season when there has been so much talk about “real” clothes, there was plenty of opportunity for Giorgio Armani. It’s a pity he did not seize the moment to show what he can do -- and has done -- for the Everywoman. Instead, he concocted yet another party-time fantasy, dwelling too long on the bad ideas, such as funny fringed hats and jarring, two-toned cocktail dresses (Note: Orange and black should only be worn together on Halloween), and not long enough on the good. The new Armani jacket, which fastened at one side with a wave effect, and drawstring shorts, for example, could have been fodder for the what-to-wear-to-work discussion, too.

Smartly, Roberto Cavalli returned to the gypsy style for which he is known. This was a fur-and-animal-print-laden collection that was feral, but not ferocious. Wearing fur pelts and fur-fringe scarves piled on top of brocade coats; muted snow-leopard-print chiffon harem pants tucked into peep toe booties, and backless chiffon dresses with billowing skirts, this season’s Cavalli women were more mythical hunters than man hunters. Still, he could have used a few more ideas -- five pairs of harem pants on one runway show is enough.

"Primeval blankets" is how designer Angela Missoni described her approach to knitwear, which also had a warrior/protector feel to it, thanks in part to daughter Margherita Missoni’s jewelry designs -- metal collars reminiscent of those worn by the Masai. Sweater coats and ponchos worn back to front, unzipped so they slipped off one shoulder to reveal sexy camisoles; patchwork knit skirts fastened like kilts with enormous pins at the hip; and sweater knit booties with spurs made for a compelling boho tribal look.

-- Booth Moore, reporting from Milan, Italy

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Runway photos: Dolce & Gabbana | Giorgio Armani | Gucci | Missoni | Prada | Roberto Cavalli | More

More from Milan Fashion Week

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Top photos, from left: Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci and Giorgio Armani. Bottom photos, from left: Roberto Cavalli and Missoni. All credits: Jonas Gustavsson & Peter Stigter / For The Times

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