Milan fashion week: bold colour, exaggerated simplicity

If the theme of bold colours was trailed in London, it has been confirmed and sealed in Milan by Miuccia Prada.

There were pops of it in London at Christopher Kane and Giles, but it takes a designer of Miuccia Prada's standing to confirm, as the Milan summer 2011 collections start, that vibrant colour is a hot trend for next season. Shocking pink, DayGlo orange and bright green, worked into bold graphic stripes and pictorial prints across loose, minimalist clothing, are summed up by Prada as "exaggerated simplicity".

Such vivid jolts of colour are not a familiar part of her repertoire, which is why it seems all the more shocking when it appears. Miuccia Prada's modus operandi is to find something unfamiliar and rework and refine it to make it her own, so now she is claiming new territory as a colourist. She kept her fashion shapes clean and simple, but used a flourish of baroque pattern with flora and fauna cotton prints (the banana patterns and monkeys swinging around on a baroque frame of greenery are a particularly playful touch), Carmen Miranda-embroidered figures and jaunty Mexican sombrero hats to convey her upbeat message.

There were stiff T-shirt-and-skirt combos to open the show, followed by a new jacket-and-dress silhouette. She has redrawn her jackets, making them longer and full on the shoulders over slender, knee-length skirts and finishing in a flirty peplum hem and some ever-so-sensible platform sneakers, all colourful and playful. The final flourish: the impossible-to-ignore DayGlo-stripe fur stoles (not an obvious summer accessory), and a bright mix of terrific bags that were equally bold and graphic.

Prada, however, cannot claim colour as all her own, for on the opening day of the Milan season Frida Giannini at Gucci mixed gorgeous jewel colours with the deftness of Yves Saint Laurent. Perhaps the recent retrospective of Saint Laurent's work in Paris was a source of inspiration: Giannini opened her show with a series of colour-blocked pieces that daringly teamed purple and burnt orange for a dress, and a combination of jade jacket, turquoise shirt and purple trousers.

The colourful message was all the more striking when the rest of the show was a subtle mix of safari colours and ever-so luxuriously crafted leather and suede pieces. A jacket draped and fringed with ribbons of nude-coloured suede, a leather macramé top with tassel hem or a dress of exotic, coloured feathers and Perspex, demonstrate the Gucci artisans' craftwork at its best. And all this was before Giannini got down to the elaborate Moroccan detailing on the Gucci bags.

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