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Sexiness is in the air at Milan Fashion Week

Labels like Diesel, Fendi and No. 21 presented collections that celebrated skimpy dressing

A model wears a creation as part of the Diesel women's Fall-Winter 2023-24 collection presented in Milan on 22 February
A model wears a creation as part of the Diesel women's Fall-Winter 2023-24 collection presented in Milan on 22 February (AP)

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Sexiness is in the air at Milan Fashion Week, where brands are encouraging people to show some skin next fall and winter.

Whether they have global warming in mind, warm outerwear or are just thinking skimpy dressing for crowded, overheated parties, because, yes, we are doing that again, the invitation to intimacy is on the table.

Here are some highlights from the first day of Milan Fashion Week mostly womenswear previews on Wednesday:

A party highlighting the new faces of multicultural Milan spilled out into a piazza as one of Milan's hippest boutiques celebrated 12 designers of colour living and working in Italy.\

Also read: Ukrainian designers 'escape reality' at London Fashion Week

"This is better than a runway show, because they are getting straight to buyers,'' said Edward Buchanan, an African American designer working in Italy for 26 years who has helped bring up the We Are Made in Italy (WAMI) project.

WAMI dropped off the official calendar this season when another founder, Italian-Haitian designer Stella Jean, also quit fashion week to protest what she sees as a lack of commitment to diversity and inclusion. But as fashion week got under way, everyone wanted to put the friction behind them and look to the next step.

In a show of good will, the president of Italy's National Chamber of Fashion, Carlo Capasa, showed up for the event at the Modes boutique, which featured 12 WAMI designers in the store windows.

They included raffia bags by Eileen Akbarahy's Made For A Woman brand, that works with more than 300 artisans, many from underprivileged backgrounds, in Madagascar.

"I'm just riding the new energy. In fashion, you always have to be flexible,'' said Akbarahy, whose brand is collaborating with French house Chloe on a raffia hat coming out next month.

The founder of the US publication Blanc Magazine launched a new project during Milan Fashion Week that she said aims to give "underrepresented, incredibly talented designers a place to be seen and heard. To sell. To sell.”

Called Blanc Spaces, the new project by Blanc Magazine founder Teneshia Carr, in partnership with Stefano Tonchi, intends to help creatives of color and across genders connect with major fashion brands and retailers, a sort of talent matchmaker. Carr showcased three at the CNMI's fashion Hub.

Milan-trained Rachel Scott works with artisans in her native Jamaica to create crocheted detailing on garments for her Diotima brand and she recalls the diaspora tradition of sending back European textiles by making them central to the looks.

"I want to show crocheting in a luxury context to show that luxury doesn't only come from Europe,'' she said. She also is helping to revive the tradition, with beautiful starched crocheted tops that spiral out of a central point, like a web, and panels sewn into jackets or dresses allowing skin to show.

Patience Torlowei moved her eponymous brand from Belgium, where she learned her trade, back to her native Nigeria because she wanted to bring both knowledge and technology back to Africa. Her luxury brand features custom lace detailing along with bursts of color, with a strong link to Torlowei's love of lingerie.

"We are an African brand, for a global market,'' Torlowei said.

Aaron Potts, who showed NYC-inspired glam and Detroit-inspired utilitarian looks from his A.Potts brand, said after working for other fashion houses he appreciates that he can now hire people who don’t fit into the classic fashion world mold.

“We are an incredibly diverse group. That’s how the magic happens,″ said Potts. “You cannot have a monolith of experiences and histories. It takes the magic of everyone’s experience to make something relevant in the modern world.″

Glenn Martens is promoting sex positivity with his new collection for denim-centric brand Diesel.

Models walked around a mound of 200,000 Durex condom boxes, underlining a safe-sex message but also a capsule collection with the condom brand that is set to drop in April. As part of the campaign, Diesel plans to give away 300,000 boxes of condoms in stores around the world.

Martens has had fun and success while redefining Diesel. The Diesel handbag with an elongated D motif has become a Gen-Z must-have.

Denim drove the collection previewed in Milan, which had a furtive, run-for-cover feel and included garments that were torn, distressed, shredded, and seemingly torched. The treatments speak to survival, making it through some scrapes and living to tell the tale.

Denim was interspersed with sheer panels, some in risque positions, worn with fading Diesel T-shirts. On the feminine side, there were slinky, silken looks fastened with sexy chains. On the masculine, there were oversized hoodies, or a well-worn gray pinstripe jacket and trousers, permanently showing their creases. This season's motto could be: Wear-and-tear included.

The mismatched boss and assistant from Season 2 or the TV series “White Lotus” made a front-row appearance, with Haley Lu Richardson, who played the assistant, Portia, sitting next to drag queen Alexis Stone, dressed to impersonate Jennifer Coolidge.

“Nothing beats the original,’’ Stone quipped.

Richardson’s Portia, assistant to Coolidge’s Tanya McQuoid, ignited the internet with her off-beat wardrobe choices.

“I think they loved to hate it,’’ said Richardson, swathed in a stretch Diesel sheer dress she described as comfy, sexy pajamas. “You know what, if it gets people talking …”

Alessandro Dell’Acqua’s No. 21 collection looked pulled from an attic chest, treasures that recall a sultry past, re-imagined for a sexy present.

That gray cardigan is worn backwards, left open at the top to show some skin and fastened with a scorpion pin. The silhouette is tight, pencil skirts with sequins or in gold brocade, or silky slip dresses worn invitingly unadorned, with just a set of pearls.

The looks are simple, with a whiff of nostalgia that is quickly dispersed by the ultra-modern touches: the bodices of dresses hang down, revealing a slip top; zippers of dressers are left slightly undone, to reveal a tattoo.

"I wanted to take cliches, and transform them,'' the designer said back stage.

Breaking with tradition, Dell’Acqua closed the show without playing his traditional Pat Benatar battle hymn “Love is a Battlefield,” instead allowing the models to walk only to the sound of applause. Benatar's “Love is a Battlefield,'' however, blasted for the designer’s final bow.

Deep in the northern Alaska wilderness blooms the sunburst lichen that stands at the heart of Daniel Del Core’s latest collection for his eponymous brand, a tightly edited streamlined mix of ready-to-wear and couture that play neatly off each other.

"Its as if an explorer entered a forest and allowed himself to be contaminated by nature,'' Del Core said backstage.

The collection has an air of mystery. Jacket shoulders can be unfastened, to reveal shoulders; garters over shoes suggest the explorer; dresses drape and reveal; puffy coats are worn off the shoulder, like a wrap; sheer ribbed knits cross cross over the body, revealing the shape.

Finally, the disciplined black and white color palette bursts with the sunburst lichen, recreated with embroidered fabric in mossy green with pinks and rusts.

Seven of the looks were couture pieces, including a an off-shoulder floor length dress in the lichen burst fabric, contrasted with a latex shoulders, for a slightly fetish flourish, and a intricately woven body-wrapping plisse gown.

Fendi models walked down a tunnel of blue light, which cast a spectrum on metallic heels and along garment hems, creating little rainbows to go.

The collection by Kim Jones took classic pieces and gave them literal or figurative twists. Cardigans twisted around the neck. A knit scarf functioned as a half sweater over a lacey top or dress. Garments appeared doubled, vests had another built over top, thrown off as if a cape; skirts were built in over trousers, and jackets into skirts.

Fendi called it “the lens of subtle subversions.”

Baby blue knits contrast with dark leather skirts or jumpers, laced boots that hitch at the knee — combinations that Jones said were inspired by Delfina Delettrez Fendi, the brand's jewelry designer. Nowhere was the Fendi craftsmanship more on display than in leather dresses that were tailored with the softness of silk, hugging the body along a sweeping curves.

Donatella Versace was an unexpected guest in the first row, giving the collection a standing ovation.

Also read: The mood was after-rave state of mind: Kanika Goyal on NYFW collection

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