Like on the streets of New York, Milan Fashion Week took advantage of its unique position on the global front page to exhibit subtle protest calling for resistance, female power, and the importance of unity.
Miuccia Prada, known otherwise as “the Queen of Milano”, presented a powerful collection influenced by the Federico Fellini film City of Women. Influenced not so much by the plot, but it was the title which sparked a collection merging femininity with masculinity with Italian 1970’s psychedelic styling. At the surface, we saw raw delicacy. Bubbly intelligent girls -dreamers – perhaps naive on real world demands and struggles of the everyday, but girls who viewed life with fresh youthful idealism.
Their uncompromising inner strength was the meeting of multi-coloured ostrich plumes, crystal fringes and swaying hemlines paired with coats of strong masculine tailoring and prints often found on a man’s business suit. Together, irresistible glamour provided a feminist message of resistance and a calling to speak out against inequalities.
The models strutted down a mock college dorm room with illustrated posters of ’50s and ’60s femmes fatales tacked to the walls. Beautiful Barberellas with guns implying- “No funny business here!” Prada AW17 was a plea for girls growing up in an uncertain world, where more and more “Common Sense is not That Common” (A reference from the Gucci show), to celebrate strength and femininity.
Emerging from the seeds of Miuccia is the new head-designer at Marni, Francesco Risso who also presented a collection of ‘70s flair. While too early to judge his efforts and the overall direction for the house, Risso presented a confident collection in line with the overarching feeling of Milan – over the top maximalism and modesty.
Who to point the finger to regarding Milan’s maximalism? Surely Alessandro Michele and his geek-chic vintage fantasia of Gucci. However, the trend is regarded as more of a backlash from norm-core and austere design reflecting the troublesome financial environment post 2008. What do we have today? Now the DOW Jones index has hit a record breaking +20,000 placing confidence and optimism in the financial markets. The distant sounds of Cha-CHING! encourages the flashy, the glitzy, and the more is more.
Consequently, brands are pushing out more product to satisfy rising demand. Therefore, it is almost impossible to discern trends anymore as each collection is extreme in its brand’s styling. Styling efforts are starting to overshadow actual design in an effort to morph new identities and communicate the marketing message but that somehow generates chaos even if out of uncensored/unedited creativity. The more is more mantra is not only in styling, but also in textile usage.
The trend of modest fashion is on the rise, covering up the body head to toe – maybe showing a bit of skin at the ankles- but also the introduction of a Hijab on the Max Mara runway. While some may argue this is an antithesis of women’s liberation, these efforts do promote choice, inclusion and acceptance. A woman with choice in itself leads to equality.
Equality played a huge role in Donatella Versace’s collection which focused on ultra glam female power. Top models including Kendall Jenner, Gigi Hadid and Bella Hadid meant business with fire in their soul and determination in their eyes. Eyes painted in punk rock cat-eye makeup and hair sword straight with streaks of neon coloured hair extensions. Down the runway they glided with a forceful march. Sadly rumoured to be Donatella’s Swan Song for her house she would never go out without a bang. Her statement was loud and clear reflected in a press release calling for “unity and the strength that comes from positivity and hope.” Like Miuccia, her refusal to sit back quietly with a safe, pretty collection reminded me of the frustration and drive captured in the viral image of an older woman at a Woman’s March in October.
La resistenza continued with Missoni, which implemented the brand’s signature zigzag into pink pussy hats – placed on every seat in the house and worn by the models during the finale. Obviously, the accessories of the season are all political statements:
I have to ask – is today’s resistance and protest simply en vogue or are these fashionable items actual tools for change?
The Missoni finale also brought out the entire family of multiple generations with Angela Missoni voicing a heartfelt speech:
“In a time of uncertainty, there is a bond between us that can keep us strong and safe: the bond that unites those that respect the human rights of all. Let’s show the world that the fashion community is united and fearless.”
Milan Fashion Week could not have ended on a more unified note. Firstly, thanks to Dolce and Gabbana the runway was filled with real people, diverse people celebrating women and men of all shapes, sizes and backgrounds. It was happy, fun and dedicated to the dazed and confused Millennial generation #blessed. Secondly, and most importantly the farewell to Franca Sozzani at the Duomo unified an entire industry and a city. People coming together to pay tribute to one spectacular individual.