Fendi goes fro strong, romantic women, Armani sets classical style against theatrical excess while Gucci models carry their heads
Gucci kicked off Milan Fashion Week in typical eccentric style last Wednesday as models carried replicas of their own heads on a runway transformed into a creepy operating room.
Suspense had already been building for the show by Gucci’s star creative director Alessandro Michele due to the invitations – orange timers which counted down to the event in glowing red numbers.
The first shock came when it started on time – almost unprecedented in fashion history.
Then male and female models walked onto a runway amid operating tables under bright neon lights in the Gucci Hub, the brand’s Milan headquarters, over the steady beeping of a heart monitoring machine.
Michele introduced the “Cyborg Gucci” in the Autumn/Winter 2018-2019 collection, which included a wild mix of cultures and symbols, from a pagoda hat to a balaclava, a classic burgundy velvet dress to a gold lurex jacket, fine lace to the logo of the New York Yankees.
The models added to the transgressive vibe – not only did some carry replicas of their own severed head, but others were adorned with a third eye, or even a baby dragon.
“What touches me is not just the talent but also the dose of humour and self-deprecation on the part of Alessandro Michele,” said leading Italian actress Chiara Mastroianni.
“His collection is so rich it will take time to understand everything.”
Another first day highlight was the launch of the exhibition “Italiana: Italy Through the Lens of Fashion 1971-2001” by the National Chamber for Italian Fashion.
Donatella Versace, Giorgio Armani, Pierpaolo Piccioli, Silvia Venturini Fendi and Jean-Paul Gaultier were some of the stars attending at the Palazzo Reale.
The exhibition was organised by theme – Identity, Democracy, Logomania, Diorama, Project Room, Bazaar, Post-Production, Glocal and The Italy of Objects – and included the clothes by fashion houses such as Missoni, Armani, Versace, Krizia, Romeo Gigli and Gianfranco Ferre.
“There is no nostalgic intention but rather pride and willingness to celebrate fashion and reproduce its complexity,” curator Maria-Luisa Frisa explained.
“Italian fashion is a creative laboratory that has generated worlds, defined strong individual characteristics... and continues to do so today,” she added.
The following day saw Silvia Venturini Fendi and Karl Lagerfeld honouring the feminist wave with their emphasis on strong women in Fendi’s collection for next autumn and winter.
The idea is to dress a woman “who has more and more sway in society, who can defy men’s rules and take over,” said Venturini Fendi, the label’s co-artistic director with Lagerfeld.
In a decor evoking a boudoir crossed with a private men’s club, the silhouettes were assertive, with square shoulders shaping the leather coats as well as the short and long capes in fur or Prince of Wales wool.
The look bestows “super powers on the Fendi Woman,” Venturini Fendi said before the show.
The kerchiefs worn around the neck in many of the creations recall a bygone era when women embroidered handkerchiefs to give to their men as they went off to war, she explained.
As a motif, it is romantic while also saying women are assuming power, she added. “This woman does not stay at home and embroider, she is out in the street with her head high.”
The motif reappears as the patchwork pattern of a flowing white dress that’s both girlish and business-like.
Feminism comes naturally to Fendi, which was founded by five sisters in 1946 building on their parents’ fur and leather shop.
“I’ve never made a difference between men and women, so it’s natural for me to support these struggles when they re-emerge,” Fendi said, referring to the #MeToo movement against sexual abuse and harassment.
After the show, Serge Brunschwig, who was last week named Fendi’s new chairman and chief executive appeared backstage to greet Venturini Fendi and Lagerfeld.
Giorgio Armani, meanwhile, stayed well ahead of heads and other gimmicks when he launched his new collection “Atmosphere” on Saturday, proclaiming his deep-rooted classicism against extravagant theatrical trends.
“My fashion is not that of a theatre which lasts as long as a catwalk show, which serves only to create chatter and would be disconnected from what the client finds in my boutiques,” the 83-year-old designer said at his Autumn/Winter show.
“I won’t talk to you about severed heads... I have never played that game, and today’s show confirms the idea I have always defended – I am not here to confuse you.”
The season is proving something of a crossroads between the so-called “Armania” codes of linear elegance, pure elongated forms and other cultural influences.
For Armani, ethnic motifs are found in embroidery on short or long jackets, in pompom jewellery, on the edges of shoulder bags.
“The intrusion and the inclusion of ethnic references in fashion is what sets off emotion,” he explained.
“Saint-Laurent did it with Morocco in the 70s and people remember that.”
Silhouettes are fluid, trousers billowing, shoes flat.
The neutral palette that characterises Armani style has been lifted with bright colours such as fuchsia, red as well as metallic or glass highlights.
After the show, some guests were invited to watch a short film called “The Jacket” made by the Armani Laboratorio, a cinema workshop where last November eight youngsters worked with renowned mentors from the film world.
Giorgio Armani declared himself “happy with the result” of the film.
“When a project is born but I do not have control of it, I have to leave it to the talent of others and that leads to apprehension.
“So I am reassured and very satisfied,” said the octogenerian with a twinkle in his eye.