Gucci leads the way to fashion fantasy, while Cavalli and Ferretti are also part of Milan's fashion renaissance
Gucci: Michele's Fashion Revolution
Gucci had the word for it. Or, to be more precise, as many words as there were glow-in-the dark strings swaying over a rose-tinged catwalk, where the models walked in their maxi-decorated outfits as if through a red fog.
"Phantasmagoric" — meaning fantastical, deceptive, dreamy — was the word Gucci designer Alessandro Michele gave to his collection of Baroque meets Rococo, embracing history from pre-French Revolution in 1789 to tailored trouser suits from the 1970's.
Except that the 20th century tailoring came in silken pants suits in vivid shades that occasionally dissolved into soft Chinoiserie pyjamas.
So it was no wonder that the collection was titled "Magic Lanterns" and its invitation an illusion in paper of a theatre stage with birds and serpents inside.
The concept of "snakes and ladies" is not new to Michele's oeuvres, it was his starting point two years ago. That might seem as though the designer were stuck in the past with his gorgeous fabrics and painterly colours — vivid yellow, grass green, orange and royal blue - but his skill is in the way that the collection breaks into pieces.
With a magpie eye, an audience of eager shoppers can focus on a decorative handbag, an elevated shoe, a daisy patterned jacket, a bold jewel or a pair of glasses. They came with a nerdy look that grounds the too-much-is-never-enough aesthetic.
Having sat through the show's foggy vision, I dashed away from my pink velvet bench to ask Alessandro to tell me more. And he did. It seemed that his inspiration came from hanging out in LA — but not at the movies.
"I went to the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.
"It's such a nice place — I've been to a party there and it is the most glamorous place I've been in my whole life," said the designer.
"I was thinking that I could create my own kind of club, but that it was a place that was all an illusion. It was the way to look at things from different sides — the double meaning of the same place."
Hmm! I did not feel I had leaned much from this conversation. But Alessandro Michele has the most important thing for a designer — a unique vision.
Impossible, perhaps, to communicate, but with a powerful influence on the way fashion is moving. And unlike his vision of the cemetery, I cannot imagine him laying to rest the wild mixes of colour and cloth that have made Gucci the hottest brand in the luxury world.
Cavalli: Peter Dundas Brings The Sun Out
After a year at Roberto Cavalli, Peter Dundas is making his mark. Lounging with two models on a colourfully patterned sofa, the designer could not define what had started this collection of summer prints and holiday clothing.
"I don't remember my starting point — I saw some fringes I really loved and when I started looking, that looked like a Norwegian embroidery on Fair Isle — so that is where all the mixing came in," he said.
"It was a patchwork of all the things I liked."
Given that a show's normal mood board was on offer as the Moorish fabric hung on every wall of the show, the message was clear. And so were the clothes — his and hers holiday wear, meaning a decorative jacket and skinny trousers — and fancy bras for women only.
This was Dundas back on form, compared to the tentative start of pallid jeans when the designer took the reins of Cavalli, where he had worked previously between 2002 — 2005, before moving on to Pucci.
This time the brand message was in full throttle. When blue jeans came out, they were embroidered with glittering suns and snowflakes and worn with an intensely decorated top and a skinny scarf. Or the jeans might have been smothered by a floor length cape that looked like it had been formed from a carpet of an Arabian tent.
These clothes were not earth shattering, but they had the Cavalli touch in the intense handwork and in a seductive glamour. Dundas has always been a designer who celebrates having a good time and there was really no outfit — from satin trousers and a sand suede jacket through to long skirts patterned with gilding — that you couldn't party in. Especially if on vacation in Ibiza.
So with Dundas, Cavalli has found once again its place in the sun.
Alberta Ferretti: Sensuality In Fluidity
Alberta Ferretti is known for grace, elegance and outstanding workmanship. All that was in her summer 2017 show — the prettiest of outfits in hot colours like purple, (a current trend) turquoise and berry red, but as summer clothes that revealed flesh, especially at neckline and shoulders.
The underlying sexiness was not really about exposure, even if there were a split chiffon skirt and a visible lacy bra top. It was sensuality in fluidity, as the soft fabrics poured over the body.
Known for her exceptional and delicate workmanship, Ferretti had something else in mind.
"I wanted to introduce passion into my fashion narrative — expanding my vision of femininity," said the designer.
And although she added ease and openness, the result was lovely: loose but not louche.
The fabrics, always an Italian masterclass, were soft and inviting, but, above all, they seemed to have no fixed position on the body, slipping and sloping by design.
One gesture told the whole Ferretti story, as much as the cut, colour and the delicacy of the work. Buckled leather belts, often two or a trio, pulled the outfits together as the delicate dresses swayed on the catwalk in the church-like building.
The sense of loosening and tightening, with a frisson of sensuality, added a new dimension to Ferretti's always impressive workmanship.