A focus on art is a theme for some original designers. During the Milan spring/summer 2016 season, Antonio Marras, Gabriele Colangelo, Aquilano Rimondi and Marco de Vincenzo all showed fashion from an independent and artistic point of view.
Antonio Marras: Creative Dreamer
Mighty rocks chained to the ground by a forest of pulleys and woven “magic carpets”: Antonio Marras put his fashion heart in art. And true to the designer’s quirky vision, there was a collage of ideas.
In conversation with the designer backstage, his inspirations sounded like a polyglot of references built on the classic film by Armenian director Sergei Paradjanov, The Colour of Pomegranates. But the show was a calm interpretation of Marras’ belief in clothes less ordinary. Prints with a similar brown, rust and dusty gold tone as woven rugs in the background were cut in simple shapes: a coat worn over tailored shorts; a belted dress; a tunic and cropped trousers.
Decoration extended to the accessories, including headpieces made of flowers that were also embroidered on collars and pockets. With the muted tones and often light fabrics, such as gazar or soft satin, the collection had a gentility and decorative elegance.
Marras is a one-off: a creative dreamer in a fashion world of cookie-cutter clothes. Let’s hope that the return of the romantic Boho at Gucci will help this designer of dreams to get the attention he deserves.
Gabriele Colangelo: Primitive Sophistication
African portraiture, interpreted as raw and rugged textures, was the inspiration for dresses that were as unusual as they were elegant from Gabriele Colangelo.
This was a genuinely original take on the artistry of fashion, because the designer understands that he must absorb his inspiration and translate it into a comprehensible collection. The results were, to take two examples, a lean dress with fur tuft effects developed like African kente work, and what I thought was devoré or burned-out velvet. It turned out to be a bonded treatment that gave a chiaroscuro effect.
I so admire designers who can digest their knowledge - especially of fabrics — and make clothes that have an apparent easy simplicity. Loose threads, giving a perspective of the undone, are a decorative tool in the 21st century. Gabriele Colangelo created an excellent collection based on what he described as “sophisticated primitism”.
Aquilano Rimondi: Transparency and Lightness
I have always been engaged by the decorative depths, the exceptional embellishment and the Italian artistry in the collections of Tommaso Aquilano and Roberto Rimondi. Their collections have often transported me to a world of cultural artefacts with almost theatrical flourishes.
This season was a more lightweight affair, both in the simplicity of the designs and the lightness of the materials. We sat for the show in an empty bank, which might have been a message from the design duo that they have set out to sell.
But something has been lost on the way. The clothes were quite persuasive - if you like them light and white. A shirt dress in organza might be patterned with flat flowers that were yet another fashion reference to Andy Warhol’s Factory. Other white shirts were tucked into a lattice of silver skirt. The geometric effects continued with white thickening to cream or black edging towards navy. My main problem was with frequent transparency. The see-through look may still be around in Milan fashion, but such bodily exposure seems increasingly unconvincing.
Marco de Vincenzo: Zen on Acid
Dip-dyed shades bleeding through black, white, red, blue and lime on a simple dress — or perhaps more geometrically positioned full moons of colour: Marco de Vincenzo’s show was built on flamboyant artistry.
But I should have seen fashion’s hazard warning when I read the designer’s words about his inspiration: Japanese Imperial chrysanthemums, Hokusai’s solar discs and... Andy Warhol.
The concept of historic Japan going pop was not such a bad idea. To quote the designer, his vision was of “a neon polychrome manga fairy tale”.
Original thought is essential to keep fashion alive. But among the pleated lurex, feathery fringing and Seventies-style denim, this show of a zen garden on acid included something weird: a peculiar focus on the bosom. Breasts were trussed up with underwired brassieres, which produced an awkward, even embarrassing, focus — especially when one single bosom was displayed like a bauble.
Add the fluffy sandals, as seen originally at Céline, and now everywhere, and de Vincenzo seems to have failed to focus on the great strengths that brought him to the notice of Fendi. His exquisite handwork was still present — but the designer’s attention was elsewhere.