At a moment of turmoil in the global fashion industry, when companies have to decide whether to move at the speed of the internet or to take a more thoughtful, slower approach, the difference in style and temperament between the Milan shows is enormous.
Fausto Puglisi: Behind Bars
“Italy — the sun, the sea, the perfect bodies of Greek statues or the mosaics of the Palatine Chapel," said Fausto Puglisi to define his roots in southern Italy.
But the show was much darker than those words suggested, as the designer went on to talk abut the invasion of his Sicilian home land by Phoenicians, Greeks, Byzantines, Muslims and Normans — to name a few.
So the leitmotif was slavery, people behind bars. It was a theatrical show put together by Armando Punzo the artistic director of Volterra, the world's only theatre company inside a prison.
And as each model/actor came out behind bars, against the backdrop of an altar and with a neon crucifix illuminated above their heads, they looked like supplicants as seen in a Caravaggio painting.
The clothes seemed to be the least of the display to the designer. But the visible outfits included a jacket, slashed open, and trousers. Even simple shorts and tops had certain menace.
Into view would come a bared back framed by a dress with beige pink and green panels, while another flower patterned, Grecian drape dress was pulled together with a hefty belt.
Although undoubtedly heartfelt for the designer, there was a discomforting effect of seeing a long dress with a shoulder and one leg exposed — the latter from the thigh.
The fabric was patterned with crucifixes, with some of the crosses apparently on fire. A powerful message? Yes. But fashion shows, however dramatic, also need some focus on the clothes.
MaxMara: Tropical Modern
As the first models strode down the wooden boardwalk in sporty clothes printed with giant palm leaves, the message at the MaxMara show was none too subtle. "Tropical Modern" was the name given to sportswear — from sun visor to swimsuit to summer shoes punctuated with air holes.
The looks were then repeated in black, to show that the same clothes would do for work days, perhaps with an over-the-knee skirt and a visible bra under a transparent top for a touch of daring.
Do people with hot desks, their communication strategy a smartphone in a pocket, really want to dress in black jackets and slim over-the-knee skirts with bosoms swelling out of a band at the bust line? Or would they be likely to pull on a non-bicycle-friendly skinny zipper dress smothered in palm fronds?
The design team said that the Latin American architecture of Lina Bo Bardi was the inspiration behind the tropicana-meets-streetwear. But MaxMara's problem is that it is known — quite rightly — for its impeccably tailored coats.
And although there was a long white coat with a black hoodie looking strong and modern in this spring 2017 collection, the more practical clothes looked like costumes for a space odyssey. A white or bright blue jumpsuit — well cut of course — seemed more futuristic movie than summer reality.
Their design team worked its cutting skills. But neither the tropical modernity nor the vaguely menacing uniform looks added up to a vision for smart women in this millennium.