Innocence, decency, a love of nature and a youthful sweetness — does this sound like fashion today?
I have seen a shift in the Milan shows for summer 2016 that suggests a changing attitude. The tough carapace, the sexy silhouette and, yes, the vulgarity of clothes we have been seeing for the last decade have melted into something softer, gentler.
Although there may still be visions of skin, it is not bared, but more often seen through a veil of light fabric. Marabou feathers waft across the body or tickle the feet in a way first seen at Céline, but which is now becoming a general trend.
It is possible to speculate that these changes in Italian fashion have a wider dimension. That a Pope who rides though New York in a Fiat 500L and a prime minister, Matteo Renzi, who has only just turned 40, have both contributed to a freshness and youthful spirit in the Italian air.
Historically fashion has been a bellwether, a precursor of change. And at the Milan shows, there is something new on the horizon.
Etro: from Bohemia to Ballerina
In an excellent show, Veronica Etro translated her space into a "nomadic garden", taking influences from what she called "Bohemian craft". Etro, known for colour and complex patterns, moved from earlier Indian inspirations to another country — literally, and in the calm spirit of the entire show.
From the start, when the usually explosive shades were faded to neutral, but with intense workmanship that moulded to the body, this show had a fresh spirit. The designer had taken ballet as inspiration, hence the palette as pale as a pair of satin point shoes and wrapped-to-the-body shapes. The result was that Etro had embraced a subtle summer look that was gently erotic, rather than exotic.
Developing Etro from a fabric house into a meaningful fashion brand has been a steep learning curve for Veronica. But in this collection the dense yet delicate flower patterns and ribbon details brought her craft close to perfection.
Philosophy di Lorenzo Serafini: The Beauty of Innocence
A passion for lingerie as fashion developed in the 1990s when John Galliano was the first to bring visible underwear to haute couture. But that was a deliberate concept to align eroticism with style.
At a delicate Philosophy show, the designer Lorenzo Serafini declared "the beauty of innocence" — and that summed up perfectly his fine collection.
There was Broderie Anglaise used to suggest vintage lingerie, flower patterns that were reinvented from Art Deco designs or from toile de jouy. They all produced the effect of a prairie maiden transported from America's Great Plains to Italy's meadow-sweet fields.
The Philosophy brand is founded on craftsmanship, and in Serafini it has found a sensitive designer who declared his goals to be: "beauty, love of nature" and a "romantic sensibility".
Emporio Armani: A Warm Glow
"Charmant" ("charming") said Giorgio Armani backstage at the Emporio show, where the set and the clothes were both bathed in a soft pink glow like a sunrise.
I would add the words 'innocence' and 'decency' to describe the line-up of sweet young things in tops and skirts, flat shoes decorated with glowing crystals, bags enhanced with flat flowers — in pink, of course.
The show opened with tailoring, the concept of jackets or even coats that seem appropriate for work. They teamed with short — but never vulgar — skirts, some flowered, others in Armani's favourite pinks and blues. That colour palette darkened to a sandy ginger, which was worked in with blue to make awning stripes on a light summer coat; or orange was mixed with pink.
This was a collection where the warming colours spoke for the show's spirit. It was not a fashion revolution but an appealing wardrobe with a feel for freshness.
Giamba: A Fun-Filled Romp
The innocence surrounding the spring 2015 shows was challenged at Giamba, the junior line of Giambattista Valli, whose charming white cotton tops and brief skirts were teamed with ra-ra sparkly striped skirts. They were cute, but looked more suited for Coachella than a morning in church.
The teen-scene obsession with self — not to say selfies — was apparent in the decoration: a pair of well-manicured hands on a sweater; lipstick cases in varied colours decorating dungaree shorts and coloured lips as embellishment for tailored shorts.
Some of the ideas were naughty but cute, as in modest bosoms marked with tiny stars; while the image of a full face with dark hair engulfing an entire bodice was funky, but fun. There was a feeling that many of these ideas could be found at high street stores. But the look at Giamba was elevated, surely, to capture the kids of his clients for the main line and haute couture.