Fashionable Milan opens with texture and colour

Fashion Week kicks off in Milan with autumn/winter 2011/12 collections from Gucci, Fendi and MaxMara.

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Glossy lips, a colourful palette and new streamlined handbags: the fashion circus has moved on to Milan where Gucci opened the autumn/winter collections.

The house, which is celebrating its 90th anniversary this year, turned out a slick 1940s-meets-1970s collection inspired by Faye Dunaway in The Eyes of Laura Mars. The designer, Frida Giannini, moved away from her 1970s rock-chick muse of recent seasons, instead creating a collection full of cinematic allure.

She gave her models an air of mystery, hiding their faces behind sunglasses and fedoras. Gucci is not a brand one would normally associate with below-the-knee culottes and pussycat-bow blouses, but Giannini managed to make the look, which owes something to Yves Saint Laurent, very glamorous. The palette of teal, cranberry, emerald and mauve, used on leathers, shearlings and silks, was saturated with drama.

Jackets hit the hipbone, slim and cinched, trousers were wide-legged and the stylish new handbags were smaller, neater and more structured - although there were larger "Jackie" shoulderbags (an ode to Jackie Onassis who wore the original in the mid 1970s) for those who can't fit their world into a clutch.

The temperature heated up for evening with provocative, sheer evening gowns in jewel colours festooned with cascades of silk flowers - millions of them, hand-painted and hand-sewn.

There is a definite ladylike mood appearing in the Milan shows this season with Karl Lagerfeld, who has designed for Fendi for more than 45 years, presenting flaring tweed coats and elegant, minimalist dresses with large tweed jabots pinned at the neck, which would look perfectly at home in an English country manor house. The Italians have a penchant for le style anglais and Lagerfeld's idea is that clothes can be feminine without being fussy.

You can't talk about Fendi without talking about fur, which is where its origins lie, making it a controversial brand. Yet beyond those skins was a subtle collection in a muted palette that combined manipulated wools, cashmeres and tweed with leather, while shagreen (stingray) leather clutches designed by Silvia Venturini Fendi were studded with semi-precious stones.

The idea of combining different textures (such as leather and wool) together in one outfit is a big story around the fashion capitals this season.

MaxMara (similarly tapping into the classic British country look) produced lean, belted coats with deep funnel collars, mixing fuzzy mohair, tartans, buttery leathers and glossy wools in pale, pure colours that are gorgeous enough to draw us out of the current winter's camel coats.