A neophyte in the world of women’s wear, Belgian wunderkind Raf Simons made an impression with his beautifully focused Jil Sander debut. There was a sense of Olympic calm and mild severity to Simons’ elongated silhouettes ending with killer wedge-heel shoes, all of it in a pure palette of black, almost black, sand, and creamy white. And while the boxy jackets and cocooned coats paired with narrow trousers were perfectly Sander-esque — a relief, after so many seasons of bad Jil — the liquid column dresses, gently draped and slightly revealing, effortlessly captured the essence of modern femininity. In the hand of less talented designers, however, minimalism bears some traps. Take former Jil Sander employee Roberto Menichetti, for example: his experiments with mannish tailoring, lopsided folds, and shiny material were certainly noteworthy, but the collection lacked a bright spark. A tad more glamorous, Tomas Maier opted for luxurious understatement with metropolitan speed at Bottega Veneta. Elsewhere, Ter et Bantine and MaxMara similarly mixed monastic strictness with metallic sparkle.
Friends of late, but still empresses of far apart fashion realms, Donatella Versace and Miuccia Prada both suggested that the new sobriety is all about fierce assertiveness. In top form, La Versace made a statement with svelte A-line minidresses in shades of midnight blue and boxy, vinyl-detailed coats. La Prada, meanwhile, proposed her own version of the concrete jungle warrior: a somber neo-medieval chick that favors murky layers — knits, felted bustiers, loose trousers and luxurious anoraks, all in one outfit — and early hip-hop beats.
Big volumes commanded attention. At Marni, it was gray flannel in rounded cuts for roomy coats and slouchy pants worn with sliced-toe boots and a dash of naïveté, while at Fendi Karl Lagerfeld spiced up space-age simplicity with some Renaissance-style grandeur. Angela Missoni‘s flowing egg shapes came in a buttery, beige-y palette, and at Ferragamo the classy ’50s merged with the bouncy ’80s to great effect. Burberry Prorsum‘s Christopher Bailey tested new volumes in his own way: he kept everything supertight on top only to let the silhouette flare imperceptibly from the hips down via drapey tiers and fur inserts. This season, more than ever, Burberry’s pièce de résistance was the trench coat. A quilted leather one, in particular, was a knockout.
For some, restraint meant a hint of historical opulence. Roberto Cavalli did loose Poiret-style shapes in dark devoré velvet and luscious furs worth a reborn Luisa Casati, while Gianfranco Ferré‘s Elizabethan drama was a feast of glamorous strictness. Dolce & Gabbana, elsewhere, had their soul split between Napoleon and Josephine, which meant brass-buttoned military regalia shared the stage with ethereal Empire-waist dresses. At DSquared2, meanwhile, the Caten twins tossed an aristocratic pose, but ultimately their foxhound ladylike looks read heavy compared to the catchy jeans they did not forget to deliver.
If furs were everywhere — no collection, from Missoni to Borbonese, looked complete without a deliciously bourgeois mink bolero, or ten — then knitwear practically ruled: a knitted minidress is the season’s must. The knit-heavy, snow-washed D&G collection had plenty on offer, with a homespun quality; at Sportmax and C’N C floppy beanies and droopy scarves added a scent of grunge. In his disappointing debut at Pucci, Matthew Williamson quoted the dynamic, knit-intensive ’70s — think Biba and Sonia Rykiel — surprisingly leaving Pucci’s famed prints in the drawers.
Now that the moment for restraint has finally come, former champion of understated subtlety, Mr. Giorgio Armani, went in the opposite direction, incredibly opting for an anachronistic, glamorous recipe that exuded vintage Cinecittà allure. And what about Gucci? For Frida Giannini the new sobriety was not even an option. In a sudden twist, the designer who gave us fresh, unaware sexiness at Gucci only six months ago, reverted back to Tom Ford’s familiar tricks: slinky minidresses, plunging necklines, White Duke-style satin pantsuits, heavy makeup, and the like. One can just hope she’ll sober up again next season. In the meantime, let the fashionable recovery process commence.
Jil Sander a/w ’06-’07
Bottega Veneta a/w ’06-’07
Versace a/w ’06-’07
Marni a/w ’06-’07
Missoni a/w ’06-’07
Burberry Prorsum a/w ’06-’07
Armani a/w ’06-’07