Arriving early to the Philosophy do Lorenzo Serafini show on Saturday evening, I spotted Anna Dello Russo, the ubiquitous fashion stylist, standing by the photographers in an unremarkable black dress and wearing turquoise hair extensions that have prompted many editors this week to start calling her a mermaid. Fashion people are not known for their subtlety, nor is Dello Russo, who minutes later appeared on the runway and took her seat wearing a transparent white lace dress that purposefully revealed her swim-toned body and black bra and panties beneath. In a sense, she was bringing a new dimension to Serafini's catchy collections at Philosophy, showing how the designs look on a real person, and demonstrating that fashion can be as much about character as clothes.
This could also be described as the overall message of the spring collections, which have thus far seen a fantastic display of shows that included a diverse casting of characterful models, with numerous appearances by the veteran supers (Naomi at Versace) and, of course, the contemporary stars like the Hadid sisters. After being virtually erased by celebrities in magazines for more than a decade, models are again at the center of attention here, and nowhere was that more evident than at the knockout Bottega Veneta show by Tomas Maier, who celebrated the house's 50th anniversary with a momentous cast of models including Anna Cleveland, Adriana Lima, Karen Elson, Eva Herzigova, and, rather unbelievably, Lauren Hutton wearing a trench coat and carrying a clutch that echoed the Bottega Veneta design she carried in American Gigolo in 1980 (even though that film is better remembered for putting Giorgio Armani on the map with designs for Richard Gere).
Maier's collection was itself a tribute to 50 years of craftsmanship and innovation, with an array of sandy colored suits and outfits that announced their simplicity as plainly as a folded shirt worn with trousers. That's Maier's line, anyway, but of course there was a lot more to it than that, shown in loosely-cut, flowing pants and dusty pink jackets with tailoring that resembled martial arts uniforms.
The final day of a very strong Milan Fashion Week began on Sunday with more exaggerated silhouettes from Marni, where papery cotton suits in a range of muted colors and wallpaper prints were shown with giant pouf pockets affixed to their belts. The show ended with a pair of black dresses that resembled modern sculptures, large and tubular, cut with horizontal slits that made them resemble paper lanterns. Some of the boxy-cut plisse pieces were especially fetching, and curiously, a look that had been seen at Jil Sander as well.
Missoni and DSquared2 closed out the night, one with a splashy collection of knit dresses that reflected the horizontal color blocking of a perfect sunset, along with some very tiny bikinis (in the case of Missoni), and the other a pageant of rhinestones, leopard spots, and sequined denim (often all in one outfit, in the case of DSquared2). But nothing could match the eye-popping, what-is-going-on factor of the day's marquee Dolce & Gabbana show, which also featured a surprising amount of embellished denim, here with rhinestone crucifixes and patches galore. The prints for spring centered on Italian treats, including pasta, gelato, and cocktails.
"Tropico Italiano" was the (very) loose theme of the collection, with waiters handing out coconuts at the entrance and a backdrop full of palm fronds. Yet the real story was in the front row, which had been co-opted by about 20 representatives of the social media connected millennial generation with a combined audience of followers that is likely greater than the population of North America. I actually thought myself quite in the know when I recognized at least three of them without needing to consult their photographs that had been printed for reporters on a five-page "one sheet," which is basically a press release for old people.
There was Lucky Blue Smith, looking sexily bored, and his lesser known siblings. Luka Sabbat, a male model who was profiled in The New York Times this spring for his Twitter and Instagram prowess, was eating a bunch of grapes. Zoey Deutch from Vampire Academy somehow landed in the mix. I felt embarrassed, slightly creepy, and yet somehow less disconnected than usual, I don't mind saying, when I was able to correct another editor who had asked for a photo with puppy-faced Cameron Dallas (15.6 million Instagram followers including me), having mistaken him for Justin Bieber.
Again, the makeup of the audience for this show speaks to the character side of fashion, for it would have to take a real extrovert to pull off some of the looks that Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana compiled for this outing. Such as: dresses printed with the complete catalog of offerings from Barilla, and heels and bags with electric lights that changed colors with every step.