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Fresh Ideas Bring New Life to Milan and London Fashion Week

Stephanie Smith

A breath of fresh air has swept the city of Milan, and who isn’t noticing? This season, a stable of established and emerging talents presented for the first time in the notoriously insular and traditional fashion city. In a time of harsh economic downturn and uncertainty, infusing new young life into Milan may just prove to be an economically prudent decision for the city’s fashion industry. Speaking recently at  a press conference, editor of Vogue Italia, Franca Sozzani succinctly stated that Milan must establish itself as “the most prestigious platform for young talent.” After this seasons fashion paradigm shift, it seems as if Sozzani will see her desire realized sooner than expected.

Among the standout talent presenting alongside household names like Armani, Prada, Bottega Veneta and more, was Messina-born designer Fausto Puglisi. Having already designed stage costumes for infamously edgy superstars like Nicki Minaj, Madonna and M.I.A, Puglisi’s grit-heavy collection may have looked out of place among the decorous creations of more traditionalist designers, but for all its spunk the collection was far from unrefined. With “Welcome to the Jungle” blaring in the background, Puglisi showed off deconstructed biker jackets sitting atop barely there bra-like strips of leather which revealed startling amounts of flesh–think bondage bras. A strong palm tree motif ran throughout, and punchy scarlet and sky blue tones stood in stark contrast to copious amounts of black leather. Short was the word of the day for many of the designers fluted skirts, and high slits abounded in longer skirt offerings. The collection, an homage to Guns N’Roses gave all the lively, rock n’ roll edge one would hope for.

On perhaps the opposite end of the spectrum, almost but not quite newcomer Gabriele Colangelo presented a texture heavy collection inspired by a Japanese form of ceramics known as Raku. Fascinated with its three dimensional nature, Colangelo channeled this quality into a quietly confident collection chock-full of simple silhouettes. Oversized draped jackets in neutral tones were paired with billowing pants while texture heavy jacquards emulated the embossed look of Raku pottery and added interest to the collections basic silhouettes. In perhaps one of his more excessive pieces, Colangelo even dared to present a sheared mink heavy with a jacquard-esque pattern and texture. The designers astute attention to striking a balance between simplicity and decadence ultimately bred a graceful collection with just the right touch of zen.

Sicilian designer Marco de Vincenzo catered to the globe-trotting sophisticate with an urbane collection of understandable and to-the-moment cool daywear, offset with elegant evening pieces. Structured tops and tailored blouson hoodies sported a distinctly athletic look, and were often paired with pencil skirts and pleated midis. Adding further wow to the geometrically inclined designers collection was his first time use of floral embroideries. Intricate petals were incorporated both as trim detail and body embellishments, lending a luxuriously tactile quality to even the most simple pieces.

Yet another young brand creating buzz in Milan was MSGM whose colorful mashup of lovingly mismatched prints brought a new kind of irreverence to the runway. Designer Massimo Giorgetti–the creative force behind the brand–seems to possess the inherent ability to make opposing forces work. Whether a maxi dress paired with a crisp, white button down or an extended cap sleeve tee with boldly printed lounge pants, Giorgetti’s presentation gleefully played by its own rules. The ever popular tropical motif of the collection was at times undercut with more subdued touches, as Giorgetti often balanced particularly loud prints and prodigious silhouettes with no-nonsense neutrals.

Alessandro Dell’Acqua’s collection for No. 21 teetered on the edge of androgyny. Yet with careful use of materials like chiffon, and the presence of intricate beading on many of his pieces, the collection took on a distinctly feminine edge. Men’s dress shirts and blazers were re-imagined with everything from fringe detail to glitter, and flower shaped cutouts. Dell’Acqua even upped the ante by including menswear inspired chiffon boxers and cropped mid-sleeve dress shirts.

When Iggy Azalea provides the live soundtrack to a fashion show featuring models of color exclusively, it’s a good indication that times are a-changin’. German-born Philipp Plein’s runway show didn’t slack on the attitude, or the inclusion of black models. Aside from a rousing performance of the hit song “Work” by rapstress Azalea, the leather and lace filled collection also  didn’t skimp on sauciness. Sheer lace pants and skull shaped crochet cutout tanks were just the beginning for Plein. He also introduced studded leather jackets, textured leather lounge pants and a virtual plethora of metallic accents.

Rounding out the newness in Milan was Stefano Pilati–formerly of YSL’s–first collection for Agnona. Simply entitled Collection 0–Pilati intends to stick to this numerical naming system–the season-less collection cooly flew in the face of fashion calendar conventions. Not only were Pilati’s pieces not designed with season in mind, they became available for purchase the very same day they were presented. Classic two-piece suits in vibrant colors were given a modern feel with boxy menswear inspired cuts, while staple all-black pieces also got the boxy treatment. Yet, the presence of floral frocks and patterned shift dresses imbued the collection with a sweet effeminateness that was understandable and charming.



The view from London was just as titillating,  as the BFC has long been supportive of both emerging and established talents. Much-buzzed designer David Koma presented a collection inspired by Kyudo, a Japanese martial arts discipline that mixes Samurai martial arts and zen meditation. Rigidly structured, bonded neoprene body-con dresses with modest  A-line cuts melded Koma’s warrior girl vision with femme fatale appeal and hard-edged elegance. Koma also bounced between monochromatic color blocks and a particularly beautiful deep cerulean blue, which he cut through with black color blocked leather. Even with the collections abundance of exposed midriff and shoulder, it remained unapologetically hard. Essentially, these are just  the kind of clothes you want to put on when you’re trying to conquer the world.

Holly Fulton flirted with color and print in a fresh collection that drew unmistakable 1970’s inspiration. While atypical offerings like a cork dresses, jackets and skirts were a wonder to behold, it was the art deco inspired patterns and deeply saturated colors that truly captured attention. Ultra-feminine flowing skirts in heady, bright colors  intermingled with printed sweatshirt dresses and trend right boxy jackets. Artful cutouts provided flashes of chest, midriff and back, while high-waist wide leg pants circled back to Fulton’s 70’s inspiration.

Emilia Wickstead’s seemingly intrinsic ability to design flattering feminine pieces has earned her the reputation of being a true savant in womenswear. Dubbed a favorite designer  by the Duchess of Cambridge herself, Wickstead’s career is indeed promising. This season was business as usual, as the designer once again dazzled London Fashion Week crowds. Sumptuous cotton candy and sorbet palettes and vibrant, light as air unlined striped dresses lent the collection whimsical charm, while the sudden appearance of a piano print provided an appropriately ladylike amount of quirk. Adding still more drama to the collection were the sweeping, exaggerated high-low hems of Wickstead’s demure floor length skirts and midi-skirts.

Christopher Kane’s much anticipated Spring 2014 collection was a wonder in technical precision, and perhaps a rather obscure foray into plant biology. This season, Kane turned the flower theme on its head and presented a collection that gave run-of-the-mill floral prints the slice and dice treatment. Single petal cutouts outlined in shiny, metallic material popped against Kane’s pale green and lavender color palettes. Pleated, semi-sheer organza and chiffon looked positively ethereal floating away from the models bodies’.  The mad biologist also got playful, presenting a sweatshirt emblazoned with the word “flower”, and yet another boasting a scientific diagram of the interior of a flower petal.

Drawing inspiration from her two grandmothers, Simone Rocha’s “Respect Your Elders” collection is quickly coming to be viewed as a coming-of-age of sorts for the designer. While the girlish details Rocha has become known for are still present, many observed a new level of sophistication in this seasons collection. Classic silhouettes dominated, with coy, knee-length full skirts and loosely tailored ankle pants comprising the majority of the bottoms. Elevating the designers timeless skirt profiles were deconstructed ruffles and slouching,embellished tiers. Rochas also incorporated runway trends in the form of boxy coats and jackets along with midriff baring tops.

Given KTZ designer Marjon Pejoski’s penchant for travel, it’s little wonder that this seasons collection saw him desiring to interpret and present a more global point of view. Models were quite literally swathed from head to toe in billowing floral prints which took inspiration from the attire of desert dwelling nomadic peoples. And, the reported impetus for the inclusion of the glitzy geometrics found in some of the collections jackets, shirts  and skirts was Pejoski’s interest in Islamic mosaics. With such a broad spectrum of inspiration, it’s easy for a collection to move from cohesive to nonsensical, but in Pejoski’s hands it somehow makes sense.

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