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Italy's new fashion mood

Milan’s major fashion houses are putting forward a different vision of women this season, where individual style can shine. Harriet Quick unpacks the new approach

Harriet Quick portrait
Harriet Quick,

They say that in fashion sex sells. Plunging necklines, hourglass shapes, thigh-slit skirts and lingerie-inspired looks have been favoured by Milanese designers for decades: smouldering, bed-headed women at Gucci, empowered goddesses at Versace, Roberto Cavalli’s Amazonian beauties and the Sicilian black lace-corseted seductresses of Dolce & Gabbana are famous images in fashion’s archives.

Yet, this season fashion houses have had a rethink and have declared that it’s time to change. A more complex and multi-faceted picture of women has emerged that triumphs individuality and quirkiness over highly glossed perfection.

Nowhere is this turnaround more marked and dramatic than at Gucci. Under Frida Giannini, the label’s previous creative director, an image of a sexualised woman was promoted. The house’s new creative director Alessandro Michele has usurped this look, with a gauche girl, complete with heavy-rimmed glasses and barely done hair. Willowy silhouettes drape and move around the body rather than tightly hugging the wearer. Frilled, floral-print chiffon dresses, fur coats, silk pussy-bow blouses and masculine trousers are worn in a haphazard, carefree way, with creases visible on jackets and hems, all suggesting Michele’s fascination with storytelling.

Gucci provides this season’s accessory of choice, with its horse bit logo bag in canvas, a product that has suddenly morphed from being retro to being cool. Fashion’s new direction was summed up in the brand’s spring/summer 2015 advertising campaign; shot by Glen Luchford, it depicted a relaxed couple in a time-worn apartment.

The feeling of the unfinished and the unsaid, the nuance rather than the statement, breezed through Milan Fashion Week. Miuccia Prada took us on a chromatic odyssey with the palest cherry blossom pink and acid green tailored silk and jersey suits shown alongside cocktail dresses with fur shoulder straps and long leather gloves. The cut was roomy, giving the wearer and the viewer space to breath.

At Marni, Consuelo Castiglioni described her take on the trend as ‘twisted femininity’, with sleeveless coats, fur-pocketed skirts and fuzzy flower prints on soft wool outsized coats. At Alberta Ferretti, the team found a wealth of inspiration in the Italian Renaissance, with embroidered velvet, patchwork jacquard and high necks on intricately worked blouses. Even the most conservative brands changed tack this season. Max Mara wrapped its lead model Gigi Hadid in an outsized tailored version of its classic camel coat and followed through with big sweaters casually dropped over slim-line skirts.

Milan’s catwalks are showing a move away from an obsession with perfection and instead designers are indicating that it’s fine to relax into our own style. Start by looking for pieces that are meaningful – whether the new long-length skirt, a rippling chiffon blouse or a sleeveless coat – and let these fold into your look. What will naturally surface is a sensuality that suggests to the world that women are worth so much more than a sum of their bodily parts.



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