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Trend report: the new nautical

Italy’s designers are looking beneath the waves this season and offering fresh, intriguing takes on the theme of the sea. Offering far more than traditional on-deck style, labels from Emilio Pucci to Max Mara are offering fresh and exciting new takes on seaside influenced fashion

Hannah Lewis / © Katie Wilson-Ells
Hannah Lewis,

Pucci dives under the sea
There was a hotly anticipated debut at Emilio Pucci this season, as young designer Massimo Giorgetti presented his first collection for the famous Italian fashion house. Anyone who was worried he would struggle to fill the boots of his predecessor Peter Dundas had their fears put to rest. A confident and accomplished collection hit the catwalk, boldly coloured and filled with youthful, experimental touches, the signature style for which Giorgetti won acclaim at MSGM.

One concept in particular turned heads in this collection, and that was Giorgetti’s unabashed embrace of all things sea-themed. The Emilio Pucci label was founded on the island of Capri, and perhaps it was this that inspired the new designer to look underwater for his inspiration. Colourful fishes swam across garments, realised in cartoon-bright embroidery or painterly prints, and loose tailoring was invigorated with vivid underwater scenes.

The colours of the underwater world
In Giorgetti’s hands, the natural colours of underwater life were exaggerated and became kaleidoscopic, transforming simple pieces into statements as tropical fish, sea turtles and crabs clung to cocktail dresses. Giorgetti’s most fantastical motif told a magical underwater love story, with mermaids and sailors appearing alongside ropes, shells and sea creatures. Elsewhere the aesthetic was more subtle but just as effective; sheer sweaters were adorned with shells, layered over billowing white trousers or worn atop blue and white printed jersey, cleverly creating the illusion of rippling waves.

As this Pucci collection proves, a new take on nautical is emerging. Gone is the classic yet predictable yacht-friendly wardrobe and in its place is a fresher, more surprising approach to the trend, which takes inspiration not only from life at sea but also life under the waves. Italy is famous for its beautiful coasts with their plentiful wildlife, and, as the summer season arrives, the nation’s designers are celebrating this heritage, creating luxurious, uplifting pieces that pay homage to the great Italian seaboard and its part in shaping Italian culture.

Fausto Puglisi offers beach inspired glamour
Fausto Puglisi, a relative newcomer to the Milan roster, is known for his intricate embroideries. Like Giorgetti, Puglisi looked to the sea for his central motif this season; 3D shells in shades of coral, pink, gold and bronze clustered together on skirts, crop tops and bodices, peppered the hems of outerwear and peeked out from Grecian-style draped silk, a flash of pattern and colour in otherwise colour-blocked looks.

Here was a decidedly elegant, grown-up telling of the nautical story, the shells standing out against black cocktail dresses, nestled among Puglisi’s expert embroideries, which glistened in gold and silver. Gold and glass beading stood out like spikes from bodices and across gladiator-style skirts, among which the shells appeared like jewels, a luxurious scatter of underwater treasure.

Dolce & Gabbana head to the seaside
At Dolce & Gabbana, every collection reads like a love letter to Italy. It’s hardly surprising, then, that sea themes made an appearance as the design duo of Stefano Gabbana and Domenico Dolce looked to their nation as seen by visitors, and to the rich cultural heritage and varied landscapes of their country. Dresses featured cartoon-style motifs depicting beaches and seaside activities, or bold photo prints of Italy’s picturesque coastal regions, and a sharp black tuxedo was embellished with jewelled crabs and starfish. Seaside life is vibrant and filled with colour, providing exciting and beautiful points of reference.

Max Mara presents the new nautical
But sea-inspired style isn’t all about bold motifs and extravagant colour schemes. Max Mara presented one of the strongest collections of the season. While wholly different from those of Pucci or Puglisi, it too presented an unforgettable and eminently wearable vision of nautical fashion. Horizontal stripes, the classic combination of red, white and navy, oversized gold buttons – this might sound literal, it might sound familiar, but in the hands of creative director Ian Griffiths it was anything but.

Straying from the traditional colour palette, Max Mara mixed in blacks and yellows, cleverly avoiding any sense of costume. The brand’s signature soft tailoring was played out in Riviera-inspired prints and classic nautical details. Breton striped tees, glimpsed under simple jackets whose epaulettes and gold hardware gave just a hint of the naval, offered a subtle take on the trend, but elsewhere the theme emerged boldly. A fringed, striped and sparkling pencil skirt was paired with a lighthouse motif T-shirt. Many looks were realised head-to-toe in red, white and blue, with striped summer jackets layered over yet more stripes, and loose pants adorned with rope prints. Max Mara is famous for understated elegance, and here the simplest pieces and silhouettes gained new life through the clever, modern interpretation of a traditional theme.

Take tips from the Italians this season and inject your wardrobe with a dose of the nautical. Whether you’re inspired by Max Mara’s vision of life on the decks or Pucci’s underwater fantasy, nothing says summer like a nod to the seaside.



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