It’s easy to compare Milan Fashion Week to the theatrical competition that comes after it in Paris, but this week something happened in the Italian collections that will give this autumn’s arrival of these clothing, bags, and shoes a new kind of drama.
The week had a subtle thread of gender fluidity running through it, one might have missed its significance. It wasn’t the overt gender-bending strategy of Gucci seven years ago or other up-and-coming New York designers who clothed male models in frilly evening gowns. No, Harry Styles wasn’t wearing a frilly silk blouse.
It’s actually not that progressive for fashion firms to broaden their views of what constitutes appropriate attire at an age when even major airlines permit staff to wear whatever uniform they like, regardless of gender. When the clothing is delivered to stores, the pudding will be proven. Are they going to be sized for long torsos and broad shoulders? When Roberto Cavalli of Fausto Puglisi sent a male model down the runway wearing an open-neck top, was it a runway stunt or a coed collection? No longer able to discern. The main issue is whether men’s stores will order Prada’s architectural cocoon jackets or Jil Sander’s tunics and pants.
Retailers and e-tailers who have long divided their floors and websites into binary gender categories should pay attention to this subject. People have already begun to reconsider. I asked Linda Fargo, fashion director of Bergdorf Goodman and something of a cult figure when it comes to premium women’s fashion in America, how the retailer is handling gender-fluid looks as we entered Gucci’s presentation on the outskirts of Milan on Saturday.
Fargo answered, “Oh, we have a men’s store and a women’s store. We’re trying to figure it out because it’s crucial to us.
Beyond the gender fluidity, Milan met the social media expectations, with Diesel’s condom mountain and Sunnei’s crowd-surfing models, among other things.
Yet, overall, the Milan Autumn/Winter 2023 fashion shows featured somber clothing with flashes of color. It’s possible that Italian designers were thinking about the European conflict while they were designing. Or maybe their CEOs were hushedly pleading for sellable clothing after a challenging year.
When Fendi’s creative director Kim Jones abandoned his attractive streetwear aesthetic in favor of wearable, commercial clothes, much of it in sharply fitted grey, the brand set the tone for the rest of the week. Jones claimed that the business attire worn by Fendi scion Delfina Delettrez served as inspiration. As a result, those who can afford Fendi, where the tailoring has traditionally been exquisite, may have access to additional clothing without the Fendi insignia.
Legacy brand designers kept shattering the traditional traits. Huge paisley was created by Etro and taken from the archives. The Intrecciato weave by Bottega Veneta may be found in elongated, structural purses and shoppable basketry.
Missoni struggled to live up to its design-focused name, which was surprising considering one might have expected the brand to question its past under the control of new investors. Instead of enhancing the brand’s sophisticated knit technique, it stooped to see-through gimmicks. According to those who are aware with the company, it has cut more than 100 jobs at its Sumirago headquarters and factory in order to improve its financial situation while shifting the design studio to Milan, which is far from the hub of the technology that produced the label.
Gucci unveiled a stand-in collection put together by its studio team after firing Alessandro Michele, who is perhaps the most significant designer of the twenty-first century thus far. With Gucci’s power, it might not have mattered that the line was aimless while waiting for its new designer, Sabato de Sarno, a former Valentino employee who is only known to select individuals.
The expressions revealed that Tom Ford is still a source of longing for the studio staff, many of whom have worked there for more than 20 years. On the nape of her neck, one model had a single “G” covered in rhinestones. Numerous models strolled around in nothing more than bralets and panties with the GG logo, some of which had some netting added as a cover. The collection had a lot of Tom Ford sparkle and a lot of Michele in its off-kilter pastel hues. Between the two, Frida Giannini seemed to be forgotten or disregarded.
The star-studded entourage of Gucci arrived on time: Before settling into their seats close to Marco Bizzarri, the CEO of Gucci, A$AP Rocky, Julia Garner, and Florence Welch socialized in the green room. When he made his way to his seat, the towering, bespectacled Bizzarri—who was also a celebrity—was surrounded by cameras that were flashing and a crowd of people wishing him luck.
The brand and the designer to keep an eye on at the moment are Bottega Veneta and Matthieu Blazy, who has worked primarily in the background. The days of well-known creative directors might be coming to an end.