Milan Fashion Week highlights: Karl Lagerfeld, lace and dark romance

From Karl Lagerfeld's final Fendi collection to Versace's grungy offering, we present highlights from Italy's sartorial capital

Model Gigi Hadid presents a creation by Versace during the Milan Fashion Week in Milan, Italy February 22, 2019. REUTERS/Alessandro Garofalo
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There are moody days ahead if Milan Fashion Week is anything to go by, with the top labels presenting collections rich in severe tailoring and rebellious details. Emma Day examines what five of the city's most talked-about shows had to offer, including Karl Lagerfeld's final collection for Fendi.


“I think a little bit of imperfection is perfection,” said Donatella Versace before her show began, teasing what the 1990s-inspired collection would hold. The result was a glamorously grungy line-up, marking a departure from the Italian label’s more lavish designs of recent seasons. Lace-trimmed slip dresses were layered over distressed tees, while leather harnesses, oversized safety pins and lashings of moody black abounded, channelling the ethos of the Nirvana era – but with a touch of luxury in expertly woven tweeds and jewel-toned silks. Marrying an eclectic sensibility with a moody drama, the collection will likely win over the street-style and Instagram stars of Generation Z.


Creative director Alessandro Michele is renowned for his theatrical, almost dreamlike approach to design. However, this season felt somewhat restrained – by Gucci’s standards that is, meaning no severed doll heads as props, but still a dizzying array of eccentric prints, unpredictable details and a smorgasbord of  influences. Punk-laced spikes, exaggerated shoulders and nostalgic tailoring were all present, as were a splash of snakeskin across trousers and blazers, classic houndstooth across contemporary one-pieces and whimsical knits. It was a collection still worthy of showman Michele, but more wearable than previous lines.


Dark romance is the theme of next season, according to Miuccia Prada, who took style notes from Wednesday Addams, sending out models in sombre braids and gothic colour palettes at her Milan show. While combat boots, generous splashes of black lace, and prints of Frankenstein’s monster and his bride gave the proceedings an eerie air, there was still a  fanciful lightness, with vibrant blooms cast across separates and severe suiting softened with sashes of pink and red. Bucolic embellishments also tempered utilitarian silhouettes for a compellingly sinister collection that was, Prada said, “about romance, but romance and fear”.


It was an emotional affair both backstage and in the front row for the Roman label’s show, comprising Karl Lagerfeld’s final collection for the brand. The catwalk display took place just two days after the creative director’s death, although his spirit was woven into proceedings, with his sketches featuring on show notes and David Bowie’s Heroes serenading models during the finale. Lagerfeld’s legacy – he spent 54 years with Fendi – was immortalised in a demure series of ultra- feminine suiting, with exaggeratedly bowed shirts, ladylike pleated skirts and razor-sharp tailoring. A neutral palette and splashes of translucent fabrics delivered a certain lightness, although slices of dandelion and ginger tones anchored the collection to the winter months. Closing the show in a buttercup-yellow midi, a visibly moved Gigi Hadid ambled down the catwalk to a standing ovation.

Emporio Armani 

Treading an altogether bolder path than the season’s more gothic offerings, Armani brought decadent prints, spirited colour  choices and charismatic flourishes to the table for autumn. While there was a darkly hued section of patent leggings, black velvet blazers and satin-trimmed tailoring, the collection was bookmarked with rich russets, fiery scarlets and vermilions. Delicate plaids in chiffon and silk brought an ethereal finish to the heritage print, while jewel- encrusted outerwear and beaded, fringed jackets provided a symphony of textures and  finishes. The label aimed to explore the harmony of opposites: long shorts under cropped blazers, voluminous dresses over skintight trousers, and wide-leg trousers against tightly constructed tops.