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Essay

Essay: A Return to Refinement

by Joe Bobowicz on 7 November 2018

Joe Bobowicz rounds-up the Milan S/S 19 Womenswear shows, looking to the push for craft and refinement.

Joe Bobowicz rounds-up the Milan S/S 19 Womenswear shows, looking to the push for craft and refinement.

With Gucci off the Milan schedule - the brand’s spectacle and showmanship having consumed many viewers in the past – designers used this season to re-calibrate, renew and re-energise. House codes were there but in a newly interpreted guise. Little twists in craft reminded one that the houses are always innovating, albeit in a way that doesn’t need to revolutionise a brand, rather refine it.

Prada was assured in its message. These were clothes for women who dress for themselves. All the Prada tropes were present. It was simultaneously ugly, chic, cute and functional. Wrap around skirts in lurid tones were fastened with pressure release buckles, an asset of utility. Tie-dye dresses were embellished with crystals and a single bow sat atop the collars of tunic shirts. Through these juxtapositions in formality the collection acted as a rapport between more conservative dressing and Miuccia’s quirks. With friction she was addressing the increasingly disparate political climates and the reduction of protest to a hashtag.

Unlike Prada, Risso’s Marni has been subject to critique for a lack of identity in recent past. This collection felt like a consolidation of codes it had slowly been building. Placing craft with the unconventional, this Marni collection portrayed class and originality. There were silk dresses printed with art, abstract dashes and statues. Cuts were simple. Topped off with double-sided bags, tops darted at the breast and statement neckpieces, the collection was distinguished, all while being amenable to a more classic lady.

Prada Womenswear S/S 19

While Risso demarcated the codes of Marni, MaxMara sought to amplify its already established shapes and colours. The collection was expectedly outerwear-heavy, mostly in house shades of caramel, brown and swamp green. MaxMara’s power dressing was enhanced with feminine nuance. Lacquered dresses traced the body drawing attention to curves and contours. Knotting at the torso, dresses contrasted the heavy coats that encased them, the silhouette fluctuating from imposing to pinched. The show was far from avant-garde but staunchly technical. Nothing was surprising, however it was gratifying to see a brand delve deeper into its heritage with new materials and details.

In tones of beige and cream, Fendi’s collection was a reminder of its key tropes. Figures drawn in at the waist, luxury leathers and signature accessories held the fort. Whether this was the return of the 'Baguette' or the introduction of belt bags, this was the Fendi as we had known it in the nineties, and the Fendi as we know it now. Mac coats were reimagined in transparent PVC, and the double F monogram was embossed into leather. This collection was about grace and luxury innovated in an understated focus on detail. Where last season’s logomania was overt, the tonally incorporated branding this season felt slick.

Key players continued to enhance or build their legacies with contemporary relevance. Nothing stood out as sudden; everything felt like a natural progression for the houses.

Versace took a different tone, embracing its ornate concept of luxury. It was indulgent. Floral dresses were patch-worked or layered with bricolage, asymmetrical shoulder drops and cuts across the thigh felt liberating and passionately Italian. Donatella’s adoration for strong women was seen in the bodycon dresses and baroque print jeans, each piece enhancing form and decorating the wearer. This was audacious fashion! Black satin was used for blazer, dress and trousers – gold buttons and medusa studded belts affirming Versace’s unabashed appreciation for the garish. The previous year’s Greatest Hits collection to commemorate Gianni’s death was a hard act to follow. Using scantier and more haphazard construction this was sufficiently revitalised.

Where Versace was brash, Missoni was tranquil and whimsical. The collection further established its passion for knitwear but did so with a lighter approach. Clothes hung, swung and swayed on models, the fine weaving of unseen patterns and unfathomable figures teetering between clothing and tapestry. The 'Fiammoto' print was left in the archive this season, this move embodying Missoni’s ability to create a collection that was firmly rooted in its specialty craft, but visually subtler and geometrically softer. Comfort and skill.

It is fair to say Milan is still a contender. Key players continued to enhance or build their legacies with contemporary relevance. Nothing stood out as sudden; everything felt like a natural progression for the houses. Whether loud or subdued, the collections were refined and sharply attentive to detail. Gucci had put out spectacle and reinvention in the preceding collections; this season, Milan returned to craft and refinement.

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