Italy’s fashion capital is again alive with the sound of shoppers swarming boutiques and editors filling socially distanced fashion week venues, a sign of a light at the end of the pandemic tunnel.
Milan Fashion Week opened Wednesday with 42 live runway shows and 56 in-person presentations, the biggest presence yet since the pandemic struck Italy 19 months ago, smack dab during fashion week. Adding digital presences, 146 brands are participating in six days of mostly womenswear previews.
Signs of recovery are also evident in Milan’s largest department store, the recently renovated Rinascente, where foreigners are spending six times what they spent in 2020 when receipts plunged some 70%.
In a clear sign that Italy remains dear to the hearts of Chinese consumers, exports to that country have nearly doubled during the pandemic, to nearly 6 billion euros from a pre-pandemic 3.2 billion euros, according to the Italian National Fashion Chamber, spending at home at least part of what they once would have spent during trips abroad to Italy.
Highlights from the first day of fashion week:
FENDI’S 1970S ECHOES
The 1970s echoed down the Fendi runway, with prints, motifs and colors carried by modern silhouettes, during the second collection by womenswear creative director Kim Jones.
The looks were pop-star glamorous, with big intarsia fur coats and knee-topping boots worn with mini-skirts and sheepskin lined short shorts. For daytime glam, a cotton candy pink satin cropped pink jacket was paired with wide-legged trousers.
More modestly, silky pantsuits dramatically trailed a diaphanous cape. Kaftans were decorated with chocolatey swirls that were actually a hand-sketched Fendi logo that Jones found in the archives. A satiny, strapless evening gown in diagonal stripes flowed with flower-child angel wings. Structured architectural jackets revealed a sensuality. Trousers, by contrast, were flowing.
Jones said that he was going for an updated Studio 54 vibe from the height of the disco era, as he considered both the legacy of his storied predecessor, the late Karl Lagerfeld, and the era when he first made it big.
“Our woman has let loose a bit -- she is going out, dressing up. We’ve all been locked away for so long that I think that’s what we all need right now,’’ Kim said, calling his Fendi “multi-generational ... for all different kinds of women.”
A white monochrome gave way to pastels, bright pinks and purples, toned-down gold and finally black, accented by sheers and sequins. Hair was wound into a tight bun or frizzed-out, perhaps accented by golden heart barrette, lightly folded like butterfly wings.
The bag of the season encircled the shoulder or wrist, with Fendi emblazoned in gold raised lettering on the underside. Larger shoppers featured images of two women, one Black, one white, like a 1970s album cover.
DANIEL DEL CORE’S CLOUDS
German designer Daniel Del Core brought his flair for the dramatic to a couture-inspired collection inspired by a trip to the Costa Rican rainforest.
The collection projected an otherworldly aura, with models making their entrance through a cloudy mist against an azure backdrop, then continuing along a mirrored runway that the designer said was meant to suggest a reclining skyscraper.
“It speaks of the explosion of the nature, of color, very exotic,’’ Del Core said of the second collection of his eponymous brand. For him, the models are nymphs emerging from water with dampened skin. They projected serenity.
Diaphanous, shoulder-baring mini-cocktail dresses had dainty pleated details that gave subtle movement, worn with thigh-high pale pink boots. A longer version featured layers of diagonal ruffles, some left unfinished and trailing behind, worn with chunky flesh-colored booties with sculptural heels. Satiny trousers were worn with a modernist bustier.
The drama amped up with more couture pieces that included large structural headpieces, dresses with large origami orchids bursting out of the neckline and sleeves that dragged on the ground. Some of the pieces were so intricate they took hundreds of hours to complete, Del Core said.
Del Core, a former Gucci events coordinator, launched his own line last February after a productive and imaginative pandemic lockdown.