Looks from Giorgio Armani‘s spring/summer 2012 ready-to-wear collection at Milan Fashion Week.
Looks from Giorgio Armani‘s spring/summer 2012 ready-to-wear collection at Milan Fashion Week.

Delicious prints and cool sophistication are featured at Milan Fashion Week

The spotlights have dimmed, the catwalks dismantled, the Italians are back to worrying about their ailing economy and the fashion pack has headed to Paris to see what delicious offerings Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Lanvin, et al, have planned for next spring.

Meanwhile, one is left with an overwhelming feeling that the Italian designers are having a reality check this season. Their financial figures are still buoyant, but who can predict how many customers will be flexing their credit cards next year? Designers are being pragmatic, presenting beautiful, desirable, but safe clothes. Even Miuccia Prada, renowned for her directional design, produced a collection that, while lovely, was also among her most commercial.

Looking back, there were plenty of upbeat moments at the shows, such as Sophia Loren singing Mambo Italiano on the soundtrack at Dolce & Gabbana, where the designers presented a menu of delicious fruit and veg-stall prints for their 1950s plate of southern Italian fashion. Onions, aubergines and tomato prints presented a guilt-free diet for vibrant sundresses, bustiers, full skirts and bloomers. It was all about the fun of the village festival, but should fruit prints not be part of your sartorial diet, the dresses and the bustier and skirt combos reappeared in glamorous black lace cocktail styles. This, however, was not for the pasta-loving mamas, but for their slim-waist flirtatious daughters.

Dolce & Gabbana's shows have a very different aesthetic and presentation to Giorgio Armani's. The former design duo's are upbeat, sexy and cheeky, whereas Armani's are cool, sophisticated and almost stately, particularly the signature line, which is suffused with a couture spirit.

The Emporio collection was a parade of sweet retro-sporty looks that will sell, graphically drawn up in black and white in a way that fits in so well with this season's Art Deco theme. Airy white dresses predominated, some bisected with lines of black piping and others with hooped hems so light that they bounced gracefully as the model moved. Armani also played on the masculine/feminine idea of showing a loose boyish blazer, shirt and cropped pants and then showing a softer feminine version, both topped off with boaters.

With the sounds of the ocean on the soundtrack at his signature show, Armani presented a simple, serene message in Mediterranean blues, greens, grey and pearly white. Everything was in satin and shimmered like shells or glistened with watery crystals. Elegant dresses were wrapped around the body like conch shells and cinched at the waist and inky trousers were cut to curve open at the hem like a mussel. For his finale, three sea nymphs dripping in crystal droplets appeared, clinging to each other as they swept down the catwalk.

Armani's collection with its polished finish and grown-up fashion endorses a point made at several shows during the past week including Fendi, Prada, Scervino, Marni and Jil Sander: fashion is aimed at the adult customer, who appreciates quality and style. It is "Alta Moda", what the Italians call haute couture. Clothes are not directional, nor youthful, but are refined and elegant for next spring.

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