With accessories still money winners and clothing sales stalling, should Italy's big shoe and bag companies accentuate the positive — as Valextra has with its smart bags?
Ferragamo: Which Way To Walk?
The first shoes stepping out — make that clonking out — at Ferragamo were sporty versions of the famous cork sandals founding father Salvatore first made in 1938 and through to the post war years.
Unlike many previous fashion shows from this Italian brand, the focus was not on elegant, swooshing clothes from designer Massimiliano Giornetti, who left the company earlier this year.
This spring/summer 2017 show was in the hands of design team head Fulvio Rigoni who produced a mixture of sporty and pretty clothes: a flowered dress with gathered neck and sleeves or more dynamic and techno pieces as separates with similar silhouettes. The over-the-knee length of the flowered dresses in particular drew attention to the feet, where the platform wedges walked relentlessly down the runway.
Something was missing here, particularly Paul Andrew, the inventive footwear master — a British designer, based in America — who has only recently been hired by Ferragamo. Add a new CEO Eraldo Poletto after the retirement of longterm executive Michele Norsa, and there was reason to wonder why Ferragamo hadn't skipped a season until things settled down.
But the predicament the company faces is part of a much larger issue in the luxury world. Is it reasonable — or even wise — for brands with their roots in accessories to try to flower in fashion?
Yes, the system worked for Gucci and Prada whose clothes became a bellwether for changing looks, but whose accessories had the tills singing. But that was back then — the mid 1990s, nearly 20 years ago — before the disruption of the internet and feisty competition from all over the world.
I did not have the opportunity to speak to President and head of the family, Ferruccio Ferragamo and ask him why he had selected Poletto, a former CEO of handbag company Furla.
But I think I can guess which direction Ferragamo is plotting. And it will not be based on clothes.
Tod's: Re-Evaluating Fashion
Diego Della Valle — the powerful executive who capitalised on the gaping hole left by Gucci when Tom Ford nixed loafers in favour of high heeled shoes — is re-thinking the direction of Tod's.
Out after three years went Alessandra Facchinetti, whose polite and streamlined clothes never really made a significant mark as Tod's fashion offering. In came still life displays of sporty clothes defined as "timeless icons".
But the focus of the crowd visiting the Tod's display was on accessories — particularly the witty, dance-on-your-own shoes that Diego told me were designed to capture the attention of Instagrammers and Snapchatters.
The actual clothes were in leather with a sporty look, or perhaps blue cotton separates with a boyfriend vibe. The bags were of the finest quality and centre stage — say a plain cream leather slip dress with a python hem and a big, bold, snake bag to lead the way.
Valextra: On Message
It looked like a mathematics lesson in a super cool school with all those intersecting lines and curves, either arrow straight or in perfect, ever growing circles and in vivid colours. At last geometry could be fun.
Even the most sulky schoolgirl would get the ruler and compass theory. Especially as it ended up as a handbag.
Valextra's geometric effects saw a slash of black and pink across big bold bags, graphic in shape. The effect was even more dramatic as lightning strikes of orange and white landed on shocking pink leather. Or a yellow leather square would be appliquéd to a navy purse. Another way of personalising the look was to add back straps
The Italian bag company has made its mark through its clarity of vision and its desire to draw the customer into its story, as the original designs are personalised in colour, pattern or shape. With its clear message that its heart is in handbags, Valextra has made a bold statement of putting accessories first.
Sergio Rossi: Shoe Business Is Show Business
Was it a balletic dream — dancers leaping and uncurling across the theatre's stage — until the performance ended with a shower of shoes?
Sergio Rossi underscored a belief that footwear is the most beautiful and exciting of fashionable objects by taking theatrical designers Patrick Kinmonth and Antonio Monfreda to bring the beauty of the human body — and especially its lower half — on to the Milan stage.
Modern dancers, stretching, hiding behind and breaking away from flat, portable screens, gave a three-act performance at the Teatro Filodrammatici. The idea was to put a focus on the feet - but even more so on the movement of limbs.
Using an artistic team to bring emotion to footwear, was a good way to showcase designs finished with metallic flourishes, inspired from the Sergio Rossi style of the 1990's.
And just in case there was any doubt in the craftsmanship, there was another subtle sign to pick up: 'SR. 1' engraved on the heels.