When Did Milan Fashion Week Become Fun Again?

Eric at MFW: Recap Day 2 - LEAD
Photo: Antonio de Moraes Barros Filho/WireImage (2)

As the protective layer of plastic was pulled back from the runway just before the start of the MaxMara show on Thursday morning, revealing a set constructed with strips of fresh sod, I noticed an ant making its way slowly across the catwalk. I wondered to myself, sandwiched between editors, did the ant see Gigi Hadid stomping toward him? What might be going through his mind? Was he thinking, perhaps, Should I take a selfie? Are Gigi and Bella competitive over who gets to open a show? Do these blades of grass make me look fat?

And my, isn't this a great MaxMara collection?

I am happy to report that last question was on my mind as well (and also to tell you that the ant survived Gigi and the remaining dozens of looks). This was a surprising collection, filled with tropical prints that would not have been out of place at Indochine or the Beverly Hills Hotel, and hilarious but also cute knits that depicted lemurs, parrots, and a frog. This reminded me of one of my favorite movies of all time, Rio, but in fact the collection was more inspired by Latin American landscapes and Carmen Miranda. I wasn't that far off. Besides the colorful spirit, though, this MaxMara show was far more youthful and sporty, with great technical fabrics mixed into the collection, along with some great, simple dresses underneath the sporty coats.

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Milan Fashion Week is off to a great start. Tell that ant that Bella Hadid had the honor of opening both the superb Fendi show on Thursday and the flamenco-friendly Alberta Ferretti show the day before, both collections that were so in tune with the upbeat message of the season that you have to wonder when, exactly, did Milan get its groove back? Fendi was especially good, with super light dresses decorated with surprising floral sprays, some printed and some delicately embroidered (see: Gigi and Bella Hadid, pictured at top). Rugby stripes were a theme on an apron skirt, coolly constructed dresses and a sweater, as well as the sports-derived accessories. The shoes—oh, the shoes—were so great in this show, a hybrid of a heel and an athletic sock in one example, that suggested a collaboration with Nike would not be out of the question. They were clearly original in the hands of Karl Lagerfeld and Silvia Venturini Fendi.

As for Miuccia Prada, whose fascinating collection ended the night, the show this season was as much about the set as it was the clothes. While it was lost on me that the enormous mesh cage we were seated upon was actually built upon the remnants of the prior season's more rustic set, until I saw a press release after the show, I did immediately register the impact of a film installation that played in snippets along monitors hovering over the runway, a double ramp. These were clips from a new movie collaboration between Prada and the director David O. Russell, called Past Forward, showing women as they removed articles of clothing. They were shown in forward and reverse in such short bursts that they at first called to mind the flatness and repetitiveness of Boomerang clips on social media.

Prada's collection, meanwhile, was largely a riff on slip dressing, with very lightweight dresses trimmed with showgirl feathers, loose jackets marked with a generic identity tag (a kind of branding in its way), and lots of furry Bambi sandals that looked like something a Hadid might wear on a Starbucks run. This is not meant disparagingly, as the clothes had a more simple, shallow appeal, meaning clothes designed to be bought and worn happily, which is what fashion is supposed to be about.

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Getty; Antonio de Moraes Barros Filho/WireImage

What makes us fashion ants most pleased is when a season offers choices both directional, as in the hyper-decorative camp led by Gucci's Alessandro Michele, and easily wearable. In the latter category, I particularly liked Genny's collection by Sara Cavazza Facchini. Clean, spare, and mostly white, with options oriented for the body conscious and those who prefer to be less bare, this was a strong show from a designer who is helping to put a revered Italian label back on the fashion map.

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