Armani gives graceful close to Milan Fashion Week

MILAN (AP) — It was nipples out on the Milan Fashion Week runway this season, one of the clear trends emerging from a week of previews of mostly womenswear collections for next fall and winter.

Wherever there is a trend, there is always the counter-current, and holding out for what he described as “the dignity of women” was Giorgio Armani. Where sheer fabrics were employed in his collection, it was with modesty.

Armani’s show closed out fashion week on Sunday. Here are highlights from the last day of live runway shows:

TOMO KOIZUMI PUTS A SMILEY FACE ON FASHION

With swirls of colored taffeta and satin gathered into crushed roses, Japanese designer Tomo Koizumi put a smiley face on a rainy Sunday morning.

The exuberant looks were spasms of color fashioned into ruffles on a minidress constructed from stripes of knitwear, elaborate skirts with deep slits and dresses with southern belle silhouettes. These are occasion pieces that would be standouts on any red carpet, stage or party; imagine the lucky girl wearing one to prom.

The runway show was in collaboration with Dolce & Gabbana, which supplied textiles as well as handbags and shoes, Koizumi said. He turned a print from one of the Italian house’s recent collections into a series of 3-D floral creations.

“I took inspiration from Dolce & Gabbana, and I also got powerful support, which allowed me to push myself even harder,’’ Koizumi said.

Koizumi also put out there his dream: “To be hired by as creative director of a major fashion house.”

GIORGIO ARMANI’S INTIMATE PEEK INSIDE

Giorgio Armani once again gave the fashion world a glimpse of idealized life inside Milan’s stately palazzi, populated by women for whom dressing in comfort and style are not a contradiction.

Satiny loungewear in soothing earthy tones skimmed the form and were grounded in more structured pieces, such as leather motorcycle jackets or contrasting black vests. The looks were elegantly layered, with long dresses over a translucent ribbed trouser suggesting lingerie.

Where sheer fabrics were employed, it was with modesty, for example, over dark tights, and with a bandeau top of velvet.

Beaded fringe, velvet bows and a flower motif underlined the femininity in the collection. And before the Armani woman walks out into the street, one last touch of face powder …

Armani said the collection is about “the dignity of women, dressed with a lot of care and attention, and who take pleasure in dressing.”

CHECKMATE FOR FRANCESCA LIBERATORE

Italian designer Francesca Liberatore conceived her show, featuring a collaboration with the Errea sportswear brand, around a chess game, a comment on the state of the world on many fronts.

Eight Black models walked the runway and took their places on a chessboard laid out in the center of the showroom. Next came eight white models, who faced off from the other side.

“It is exactly because of the situation that we are living that for me it is essential to have an eye on fairness,’’ Liberatore said backstage. “And there is nothing like a game to even out situations.”

The first 16 models, who represented the pawns, were followed by the rooks, two with big bouffant hair styles to represent the castle shape. The knights wore long extensions to embody horse tails, while the bishops had hoods pulled over their hair.

Women took the roles of both king and the queen, and walked hand in hand in stately fashion to their spots on the board. Raised collars denoted the kings, sweeping trains the queens.

The Erra collaboration underpinned the looks, including track jackets, stretch tops and leggings in medieval patterns. Liberatore layered the sportswear with draped or half-pleated mini-skirts, tailored jackets, striped and ribbed knitwear and flowing overcoats in the way of an unselfconscious youth mixing style and comfort.

“For me, the chessboard also represented the idea of teamwork,” the designer said.

DIVERSITY DISPLAYED AT TRADE FAIR

White Milano, the premiere womenswear trade fair held alongside Milan Fashion Week, worked with the Fashion Minority Alliance to feature two Black designers as they promoted a conversation around diversity.

U.S. designer Romeo Hunte and Nigerian-Scottish designer Olubuyi Thomas look to their environments for inspiration, and both are keen on garments that can be transformed to serve multiple purposes.

Hunte draws on his Brooklyn-roots for his luxury fashion brand with the six square-dot logo, built around deconstructing garments and oversized proportions to give a modern touch. His trademarks include zipper features that allow a trench to shorten and go sleeveless, giving longer life and flexibility to the outerwear.

The Milan showcase gave him the opportunity to connect his 10-year-old brand with international clients. “It means a lot to me. Me being here will open the way for younger designers as well,” the designer said.

Hunte’s designs have been worn by Michelle Obama and Jennifer Hudson, and he recently did a collaboration with Tommy Hilfiger, whom he called his mentor.

Thomas seamlessly combines his Scottish upbringing with his native Nigeria because “that’s who I am.” He sources materials in both countries, including hand-woven tartans he designs and Nigerian textiles with cutouts and contrast stitching. One tartan skirt on display at White featured plaid in the back, with black pleating in the front (or vice versa), giving choice.

“I love working on garments that are modular, depending on who are you are, and what day it is,’’ Thomas said.

He is the only designer commissioned to produce his own tartan for an exhibit on the traditional plaid at an upcoming exhibition at the V&A Dundee, Scotland’s design museum.

CHINESE BRAND ANNAKIKI’S SENSE OF DOOM

Chinese designer Anna Yang infused her latest ANNAKIKI collection with a sense of doom from the multiple disasters humankind has faced in recent years, from the coronavirus pandemic to the war in Ukraine.

Yang could not travel to Milan Fashion Week because of visa issues, but her collection and new techniques did the talking for her. She brought out a sense of pessimism in raw leather and burned the edges of an ample tulle dress, achieving a dramatic effect.

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Paola Masera contributed to this report.

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