Milan Fashion Week came to a close just after a total lunar eclipse, the sort that indicates heavenly bodies in perfect alignment. As portents go, it doesn’t get much better than that.
The clothes, however, did not quite live up to the — well, astronomical implications. All that new energy everyone kept talking about during the week? It got a boost from a gently calibrated, Balthus-inspired Arthur Arbesser show, full of youthful (but not naïve) florals and tone-on-tone ghostly cat prints, but mostly felt gone with the blood moon.
Instead, Milan ended in retrograde.
To celebrate his new book, a 40th anniversary extravaganza tracing his career from childhood to today, Giorgio Armani had not a party but a presentation. At 12:30 in the afternoon. Immediately after his show.
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The attendees (those who weren’t rushing off to the airport to hie themselves to Paris for the final leg of the ready-to-wear season) were seated, auditorium-style, as photos from the approximately 500-page tome streamed along the walls — clothes, ad campaigns, personal shots (Armani playing guitar with Eric Clapton), baby pictures — and the journalist Suzy Menkes paid homage to the designer’s history.
Little wonder, then, that Mr. Armani was in a reflective mood on the catwalk. Revisiting his signature pieces and his recent fascination with China in airy fabrications and a palette of red, white and blue, he offered up a mostly unforced collection of relaxed, striped tops and pleated, cropped quasi-transparent organza trousers; tailored jackets glinting with stylized eastern embroideries over cuffed shorts; and a finale of sparkling navy red-carpet gowns with carnelian underskirts brushing the floor.
Imagine what to wear on a yacht facing the lights of Shanghai at dusk, and you’ll have the idea.
Meanwhile, the big news at Missoni was stripes (stripes have been everywhere in Milan this season). Long vertical stripes on caftan-like knit tunics and long, flowing knit cardigans; horizontal stripes on neat knit polo shirts and clingy knit tank dresses; zigzag stripes on ankle-length T-shirt knit dresses; patchwork stripes on knit pants. Stripes that occasionally echoed animal print. Stripes inspired by the Masai. Stripes on high-top sneakers and stripes on silk. Shoes made up of patent leather strips to form stripes.
Stripes are the pattern on which Missoni was built, so this could be pitched as going back to its roots.
And the collection was unquestionably better than last season’s weird detour into Devo-land. Stripes, when it comes to Missoni, are a safe bet. They are cheerful. They tap into the athleisure vibe that has become a key part of dressing.
When you think about it, the Missoni stretch knit was athleisurewear before athleisurewear was invented. And yet, when the story of a collection can be told in a single look, it’s probably time to risk adding another idea.
At least while there were also stripes at Salvatore Ferragamo — indeed, one long, sun-ray pleated knit swing dress in optical illusion shades of pink and black was pretty much a twin to a long, sun-ray pleated knit tank dress in optical illusion shades of red and dark brown at Missoni — they were mixed in with paper-thin patchworked black leather pantaloons and paper-bag waisted skirts (what is it with these blossoming ’80s volumes?) decorated with ribbon ties; long peasant-flounced cotton dresses in Côte d’Azur shades; thin-knit capes; and little black dresses wafting marabou at the edge.
“Balance, moderation, harmony” went the official refrain, and it was all that: a touch of Bardot by the seaside here; a dab of Hepburn in her L.B.D. there. But moderation is not the same thing as desire.
On a runway, it has no tidal pull.
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