Milan fashion week kicks off with a bang
Gucci, Ferretti, Fendi shine at women's winter 2014 collections24 February, 18:22
And if the focus for the winter 2014 women's shows was on the abundance of new talent, Milan also showed that inspiration from a glorious past can deliver a cutting-edge future. The chic rebel Gucci women swinging down the Milan catwalk last week was an ode to the glorious days in the 1960s, when movie stars and socialites donned the Florence-born label to make a statement.
Perhaps footage on the brand's heyday in the new documentary The Director, produced by Hollywood star James Franco about its creative director Frida Giannini, inspired a collection that was part Swinging London and part contemporary Dolce Vita.
And the chic side of this Gucci rock rebel marched last Wednesday to the beat of Hey Joe by Jimi Hendrix to celebrate a comeback of the clean and rigorous shapes that originally set the label in a class of its own.
Tapping into the casual side and tailoring rigour of the label's heritage, Giannini used precious fabrics, leather and fur to take glamour a step forward for a Gucci essence appreciated by a woman "who wants to please herself more than to others" and more prone to "self-complacency than exhibitionism", said Giannini. The palette of tans and pastels - soft pink and brown, baby blue, sage green and saffron yellow - echoed the men's collection shown last month.
So did the slim silhouettes - the complementary style of men's and women's wear is, after all, no longer a trend but a contemporary fashion must. Manly trousers were mixed with silk blouses worn under a sage green goat-hair fur and the fashion house's trademark horsebit loafers hybridized with a Chelsea boot. The boots, a collection staple, have already gone viral online and are likely to become a bestseller next winter in both low and high heels as well as a variety of skins ranging from python to pony-skin and plain leather.
Short, tunic dresses were sharply tailored in leather, shown in shades of soft pink and saffron yellow, either with a ruched neckline or closed by a row of silver buttons.
Snug angora wool peacoats enveloped pullovers and button-downs in nappa leather or jeans.
The luxury factor in furs - shearling, goat, beaver and mink - was downplayed by silhouettes including youthful short jackets and sweatshirts which gave them a contemporary appeal.
Evening mini tunic dresses had a minimalistic line, with deluxe detailing including hand-painted crystals on leather A-line dresses or horsebit patterns on little black dresses.
And the icing on the cake, bringing Gucci full circle this season, was the reissue of the iconic Jackie bag, an homage to Jackie Kennedy Onassis and the undying appeal of her style.
Presenting her collection on the first day of shows, Alberta Ferretti said "nature dresses the female body" next fall.
Indeed, geometric designs of feathers handmade in Florence were a key component of the collection, along with fabrics replicating tree bark, reminiscent of a lush forest.
Nature took over as fall tweeds were illuminated by gold, like sun filtering through trees, and bits of sequins shaped Ferretti's forest with sublime all-Italian craftsmanship in soft autumn off-shades of brown, green and orange.
Ferretti's trademark ethereal woman took on the earthy appeal of a contemporary Dryad - a nymph who presided over forests in Greek mythology - with gowns made of feathers embroidered over tulle and ballerina shoes decorated in feathers covering calves.
The luxury of materials and sublime handiwork infused the simple silhouettes of the collection with fairylike charisma.
A sophisticated loden coat had flashes of sequins on lapels and lambskin in the front; a woollen and silk parka jacket also duplicated tree bark; dresses were strewn with rose petals while beads illuminated a T-shirt embroidered with animals. Coats, in shades of green and gold, had hemlines decorated with feathers with an alpaca model featuring flower appliqués worked to have a three-dimensional effect. For evening, bustier dresses were again textured like tree bark while a black ballet-like dress had the dark appeal of Darren Aronowsky's Hollywood film Black Swan.
The 1958 tune Violets for your furs by Billie Holliday was the song behind Karl Lagerfeld's ode to Italian-made craftsmanship at Fendi as the Roman fashion house returned to its core origins in a virtuoso performance which had one star - fur.
A luscious spray of orchids on a fur stole, orchids pinned on the lapels of a mink coat or the coloured fur patchwork motifs on a loden coat were the sophisticated and wild notes of a collection at once sporty, fresh and romantic.
The combination of different furs was unique, like the rough beaver mixed with soft mink and fox.
Mid-calf skirts were zipped in the front, shorts and casual coats gave off a fresh, sexy vibe in shades of green and orange which turned into black at night, illuminated by coloured dots like a starry sky - seen in a mink parka, as well as long tulle skirts and a mink dress.
Silvia Venturini Fendi's bags included the purse du jour By The Way and the label's cult accessory Karlito, funky, hairy bag bugs which Fendi model Cara Delevingne held in one hand as she opened the show in a voluptuous black fur hood as drone cameras zoomed over the catwalk - a vision of post-modern romance.