Even by the half-way point of Milan Fashion Week, it was clear that the two strongest collections of the season here belonged to designers who are women. Miuccia Prada, with her strangely compelling amalgam of sporting influences and fabric and print collages, delivered practical clothes that were also provocative. But Donatella Versace, on her umpteenth professional comeback, has truly found the confidence to create a strong, professional look that embraces sexuality, power, and comfort all at once. And her timing is just right – fashion, like the rest of this mixed-up world, needs more voices of empowerment coming from women at the top of the pyramid.
Technically, this was Versace’s second show to reflect her new outlook on life. Having moved her runway shows out of the cramped backyard quarters of the Versace showroom into a mega arena on the outskirts of Milan, she has reasserted Versace’s position as a power player of Italian fashion. And her new collections reflect dominance as well, with trim power suits with strong shoulders that look as precise as military uniforms, with a similar palette, too. This season, she added an element of icy, mineral-like prints, repeated in pastel intarsia on fur coats, and beadwork and embroidery on dresses. This was a little in keeping with the Versace of old (meaning sexpot), but the effect this time, under the big lights of the stadium with a mile-long runway, was rock hard.
Elsewhere in Milan, there has been a surprising focus on street wear, and in some cases, clothes that looked designed for street walkers. Giambattista Valli’s Giamba collection included jacquard silk skirts with a graffiti pattern, and they were cut super short (as were most of his youthful skewing dresses) and shown with punk boots. Philosophy di Lorenzo Serafini, a collection mostly made up of boho lace dresses with pretty bow details, also included its share of teeny dresses worn with chubby furs and one mysteriously printed with images of wolves. Alessandra Facchinetti, too, brought a cooler edge to Tod’s this season, with biker jackets and shearling-collared bombers in plaids, purple, and caramel.
What of a good suit? A loosely-cut double-breasted pantsuit at Bottega Veneta by Tomas Maier was superb, as were the slimmer cut versions that followed in a show that was more about tactile dresses mixed with pops of animal prints. For statement versions, see Rodolfo Puglialunga’s latest for Jil Sander, which included oversize coats and suits (including a version with city shorts) that were pronounced in their intention to stand away from the body, with the sleeves a little too long.