Versace is a brand renowned for exuberant, head-turning party pieces, so when Donatella Versace sends models down the catwalk in double-breasted wool coats (albeit ones embellished with iridescent beads ‒ there’s always flamboyance in her work) you know change is afoot. For autumn/winter 2017/18, tailored jackets underpinned Versace’s mainline collection, some full length and some pea coat in style, with bulbous shoulders. These were worn over slinky skirts that fell below the knee and were slashed to the thigh. They were accented by flashes of fiery red and orange accessories.
In the autumn/winter shows Versace was just one of a number of Italian labels that built collections around a cleverly tailored silhouette; a soft, feminine shape that fits closely but comfortably at the hip and then gives way to a flare, a fringe or even a peplum at the hem. It’s an accessible look, easy to carry off. For Donatella Versace, the message was about dressing the regular working woman rather than her usual glamorous party girl muse. ‘This is a collection about the power of women, and women who know how to use their power,’ she told press backstage. It was reinforced by slogans such as ‘courage’, ‘loyalty’ and ‘love’ spelled out across shoulders, along torsos and on woollen beanie hats.
The tone was more subdued at Bottega Veneta, a house whose design DNA is very different. Here tailored outerwear was again a key feature. The brand’s solid double-breasted coats in hot mustard, tan and an alluring orange and brown plaid were instantly covetable. However, it was a 1940s-style three-quarter-length dress in muted pastel shades with puffed sleeves that summed up creative director Tomas Maier’s mood. In a delicate silk that flowed softly down to the calf, it was cinched at the waist, creating an easy, hourglass silhouette that will be welcomed by women seeking a look that is fashionable, flattering and easy to achieve.
A further take on the season’s new silhouette was provided by Fendi, where a 1970s feel was anchored around creative director Karl Lagerfeld’s new skirt shape. A longer and looser variation of the pencil style, it came in wool herringbone and was generously tailored to mid-calf. It was slim enough to seem like a pencil skirt but had a roominess that makes it modern. It was worn with a matching herringbone jacket and over-the-knee leather boots in a beguiling shade of tomato red ‒ a combination that’s sure to take off. This silhouette populated a variety of looks in the Fendi collection, from pleated wool and silk culottes to zip-through shiny red leather skirts for the more adventurous dresser. Elsewhere, Roman numerals on waistbands spelled out the year that the house of Fendi was founded, while the acanthus leaf, a prominent decorative element in ancient Rome, appeared on cape-backed silk blouses. Both nodded to Fendi’s all-important Roman heritage.
The opening looks of Prada’s collection displayed a riot of patterns and texture, with 1960s patchwork and vibrant beaded mohair. But beyond the colour, many of the pieces revealed that same familiar, soft and easy outline; skirts and dresses hugged the torso and hips then splayed out at the hem with furry peplums or a shimmy of red ostrich feathers. For all Miuccia Prada’s flamboyant features of pastel-hued fur and pink-fringed leather, the majority of her pieces were cut for ease of wear and tailored to suit a wide range of women. ‘Fashion is about the everyday and the everyday is the political stage,’ exclaimed one of many posters displayed at the show.
There are moments in fashion when designers seem to pool their resources into a single look or message and usher in a new style that moves the agenda forward. While vastly different in spirit, many of Italy’s design houses presented a common theme in their collections, one that transcended colours and fabrics and all the details that distract from what is really going on. There was a powerful and feminine outline, characterised by a soft and elongated silhouette and a dress or a skirt that fell to mid-calf and then swished around at the hem. Welcome to fashion’s new vision, to be worn by women everywhere, for many years to come.