Paris has traditionally been the city where international designers – from Australia and England to Beirut and Japan – opt to unveil their collections. However, Karen Ruimy, who is behind the Kalmar label, chose the runways of Milan Fashion Week for her debut showcase in September.
The Morocco-born, London- based designer hosted an intimate al fresco event in a private palazzo to launch her holiday line of fine cotton and silk jumpsuits, breezy kaftans, long skirts, playsuits and off-the-shoulder tops in tropical prints.
Ruimy had a career in finance before moving into the arts – she owns a museum of photography in Marrakech – and has become increasingly involved in fashion and beauty, thanks to her personal interest in holistic therapies.
These are clothes, she explains, that marry luxury and wellness, and are the things she would wear when she wants quality time by herself. The fact that they are made in Italy, convinced her that Milan was the right place for her debut – where she showed alongside the likes of Gucci, Prada, Verscae and Marni.
On fashion calendars, Milan has conventionally been the place where the runways confirm the trends and themes hinted at earlier, in New York and London. However, this season, the Italian designers did not speak with one voice, making Milan Fashion Week all the more refreshing for it.
Often, there might be an era or style of design that dominates the runways during a particular season, but for spring/summer 2017 in Milan, there was a standout showing of techno sportswear and techno fabrics employed in updated classics such as coats and box-pleat skirts, or with references to north African and Native American themes.
The Italian designers sent looks that would appeal to everyone, from the haute bohemian and athletic woman, to the cool sophisticate and the art crowd, as well as – as in the case of Moschino – to the iPhone generation.
Only three seasons ago, Gucci’s creative director Alessandro Michele was lauded for his complicated maximalist styling. Yet in Milan, Gucci channelled a dreamlike vibe with Victoriana, denim, athletic apparel and oversized accessories, thrown together in delightful chaos, making it difficult to predict the direction Michele is taking Gucci in.
Currently he seems to be in a holding pattern, hovering at once over 1940s Hollywood glamour, 1970s flared pantsuits, and ruffled party dresses from the 1980s, in a cacophony of colours and fabrics.
The feeling of joyous madness continued at Dolce & Gabbana, where street dancers emerged from the audience to start the party in the designers’ tropical-themed show. The clothes used some of their familiar tropes, such as military jackets, corseted black-lace dresses miniskirts. New, however, were the baggy tapering trousers redolent of jodhpurs, and the lavish and detailed embellishment the designers used to sell their story.
Wanderlust dominated the moodboards at Roberto Cavalli – rich patterns, embroidery and patchworks inspired by Native Americans – and Etro with its tribal themes on kaftans, duster coats and Berber-style capes.
Giorgio Armani, Agnona Tod’s, Bottega Veneta and Salvatore Ferragamo – with its stylish twisted leather dresses and crisp athletic sportswear designed by newcomer Fulvio Rigoni – all answered the call of women who want stylish but undemanding clothes.
Marni would appeal to the art world for its graceful, pioneering ideas. The label’s finely pleated dresses displayed a life of their own, and its micro-printed dresses were gathered, folded and distorted to walk the line between stylish and quirky.
In contrast, the sportswear at MaxMara and Donatella Versace targeted the dynamic generation of athletic women, with sleek leggings, belted jackets, power suits and anoraks. Versace has made it clear that she thinks this is the only way forward. She may be right, but there’s always room for the myriad styles displayed at Milan Fashion Week in all our wardrobes.
Highlights from Milan
It was feathers with everything at Prada. Silk pyjamas, boldly coloured and mixed checks, cardigans and wrap skirts with Velcro fasteners show Miuccia Prada reinventing the classics. Most glamorous was the series of evening dresses and pyjamas with jewelled embroidery and feathers, worn with kitten heels that married sporty straps with heaps of crystals. Prada’s must-have bag of the season is a bold clutch with a long strap fastener, that comes in a multitude of geometric and daisy patterns.
Over the past three seasons, Donatella Versace has been carving out a new image for her brand – a shift from the luxe glam of red carpets and superyachts, although the inhabitants of that world will be sure to buy into the new Versace vibe. Donatella’s girls are both glamorous and empowered. The sporty look is tough, urban and energetic, judging by the billowing ultra-thin high-tech nylon parkas and blousons, stirrup trousers and dresses (the shapes of which are manipulated by drawstrings). Dresses, skirts and tops are spliced at angles and studded together. Swishy pleated dresses and silky slit skirts gave energy when in movement, and were as soft as the look got.
Model Gigi Hadid and veteran actress Lauren Hutton walked arm in arm down the Bottega Veneta runway, illustrating the breadth of the Italian maison in Tomas Maier’s hands. This was a double celebration of the Bottega’s 50th anniversary and Maier’s 15th as its creative director. Menswear and womenswear were combined, and the focus was on easy, elegant clothes in luxurious materials, such as ostrich, crocodile and lamb skin for coats; easy knits and cotton dresses worn with antique-style silver jewellery; and wedge heels. Fifteen handbag styles debuted along with 15 from the archive.
Silvia Venturini’s new Kan handbag was a star turn at Milan. The stud-lock bag dotted with candy-coloured studs, rosette embroidery and floral ribbons couldn’t help but charm every woman in the audience. It was the perfect joyful accessory for Karl Lagerfeld’s feminine vintage romp through the wardrobe of Marie Antoinette, with sugary colours, bows, big apron skirts and crisp white embroidery juxtaposed with sporty footballer-stripe tops – effectively updating a historical look.