In contrast with New York, Paris, and certainly the bubbling hot-bed of London, a new star emerges on the Milan fashion scene at the rate of one every decade or so. That's because Milan builds brands rather than designers: they're looking for someone, first and foremost, with the ability to pull a profit. That's why Francesco Scognamiglio warrants such attention - even though he's been designing under his own label for a decade, it still registers as something new on the Italian fashion scene.
A caveat: during that first decade Scognamiglio has focused on high octane, high profile and, frankly, highly OTT dressing. His mainstream champion was Lady Gaga, his fashion fairy Godmother Anna Dello Russo: the sort of people who pull on the first giant bedazzled eel belt or inverted lace crinoline that fall out of their wardrobe before flouncing out, and think nothing of it. For the rest of us, Scognamiglio offered very little in terms of real clothes until a few seasons ago, when he suddenly grasped the power of the fitted little suit and silky blouse, and began churning them out to international acclaim.
Scognamiglio opened his Autumn/Winter 2012 show with a coat. It was big - oversized, rather than gargantuan - it was black - wool, not latex, or laminated lace or chainmail - and it buttoned, rather normally, with four brass buttons. It was also rather fabulous. As was the majority of this collection, a further refinement of Scognamiglio's aesthetic. Despite the sombre opener, and a few pleat-peplum grey wool suits that were exceptionally tailored, albeit quite tame, Scognamiglio decided to allow himself to go a little wild. Leatherette was his material of choice - something half-a-dozen designers across the world have picked up on thusfar, hence something of an emergent trend. Scognamiglio folded it into fetishistic pleated mini-dresses and slit pencil skirts, used it to trim chaste white shirts, and cut a rubbery rerun of the opening coat. He also played a little with placement print, and got slightly knotted up in some ruched peach jersey and padded girdle-pink numbers at the end. They can be excused: it was Scognamiglio's continuing sophistication in his daywear - albeit daywear generally dressy enough for evening - that was the solidly excellent take-away from this evolution of his style. Indeed, that seems to be what the retailers are buying, and what he's really building that new Italian brand of his from.