Milano is the word on everyone’s lips these days, and not just the late night cookie addicts among us. Lately, all things chic, sophisticated and sexy seem to be flowing to the far reaches of the known world from the tiny city in the north of Italy. In general, the Italians have long been known for expert tailoring, sizzling sexiness and more than just a touch of sparkle. Now, Swedish retailer H&M has put the name of one of the most respected of the relatively “new” guard on absolutely everyone’s lips. The history of the house of Versace can be easily divided into the Gianni and Donatella eras and fans of one are rarely fans of the other. Say what you will about her personally – and believe me people do – but no one disputes that she took a huge company with a really strong brand identity, steered it though a potentially fatal transition and brought the brand forward into a new century.
For Spring 2012, Versace offers a sort of Greatest Hits mixed with a fresh take on essential elements of the brand. The now classic gold studs are there but the pattern isn’t the iconic Greek Key. Instead it’s a whole new pattern that is a decidedly feminine take on what makes women look – and feel – sexy. The pale pastels are there but in fabrics that look very “now” – or rather will in the spring. Next season’s bare shoulders and midriffs seem the antithesis of the strong shouldered tough girl supermodels of the 80s runways. The thigh high slit seems to have not lost any steam as Versace moves into a new era. Undoubtedly, we’ll see a little bit of next spring’s runways on the sidewalks soon.
Dolce & Gabbana is another purveyor of Italian sexiness that has imprinted itself on mainstream consciousness. The design duo behind the brand always seem to have tongues wagging whether they’re designing green scarves for Confessions of a Shopaholic (under the pseudonym Denny & George), buying twin penthouses with en suite “Sky Garages” at 200 Eleventh Avenue in New York, or publishing coffee table books that feature – ahem – very little clothing. For Spring 2012, the designers played to the American “idea” of Italy in the 1950s. Corset topped day dresses feature fully flared skirts that Lucy would have loved. Fitted day suits with pencil skirts would have looked equally at home on Sophia Loren or Gina Lollobrigida in their glory days. The prints couldn’t be more Italian, featuring tomatoes, eggplants, and chili peppers! If you want to put a little humor in your ladylike dressing, then you’ll need to sport this brand in the spring.
Miuccia Prada, the woman who singlehandedly brought us Italian minimalism in the Post-Gianni Versace era of fashion history, brings us more ladylike dressing – with an edge. Think equal parts Marilyn Monroe and Grace Kelly. Sheer-on-sheer twin sets meet accordion pleated skirts and the overall effect is proper without being prim! My absolute favorite look of the show is the pale pink day dress with the bracelet sleeves that Edith Head could have easily designed for the actress Grace Kelly’s trousseau – had she decided to elope to Vegas with a Hell’s Angel instead of setting sail to Monaco to wed His Serene Highness.
New York is abuzz with chatter about the new Bottega Veneta boutique, the one that was personally edited by Thomas Meier for New Yorkers and our lifestyle. This is not to be confused with the Fifth Avenue flagship which is strictly tourist land. It’s like having a super chic corner bodega where we can get “needful things” whenever we need a little something to freshen our wardrobes. Meier fused his own love of color blocking with the sophisticated vibe of the brand to create an effortlessly stylish collection.
Anyone who has ever entered the Jil Sander boutique in New York can tell you that the shop is a metaphor for the brand. You approach it like a museum where you are confronted by flawless mannequins standing impossibly tall on pedestals like Soviet era monoliths, but eventually you find yourself upstairs trying things on and realize that utilitarianism is something that you can introduce into your wardrobe without going all the way into a lifestyle. Raf Simon’s collection for spring is a study in design. Yes, of course, there is black and fuschia and even prints but the real genius of the designs shows best in the all white looks. Yes, Virginia, even minimalists can go ladylike next season!
Yes, dear reader, I know that every month you come to my column to see the latest and greatest of fashion, but you and I both know that you also enjoy a little dish – and knowing who is in and who is out. Well, at the venerable house of Gianfranco Ferre, Tommaso Aquilano and Roberto Raimondi are decidedly “fouri”! It wouldn’t be Italy without the drama, after all. What’s “in” at Ferre are the classic staples of the brand – the white blouse, the sharply tailored suit, and the asymmetric day dress – sleeveless on one side and draped on the other. Stefano Citron and Federico Piaggi have brought the DNA of the brand into the new millennium with their interpretation of the Ferre woman who doesn’t’ need a shoulder pad to show herself or the world that she is strong, self possessed and powerful.
I hope that you have enjoyed my little treatise on the best that Milano has to offer for Spring 2012. Keep these trim and unforgiving ladylike looks in mind as we enter the carb fest that is the American holiday season. Commit to the spring fashions now before you indulge and you won’t have to make (and try to keep) a bunch of New Year’s resolutions about dieting and working out. Stay strong!
– Joseph Ungoco
Photos: Milan Spring 2012 RTW, Style.comSee the Top Ten Summer 2016 Trends for Women Over 40
Tags: Bottega Veneta SS12 RTW, Dolce & Gabbana SS12 RTW, Gianfranco Ferre SS12 RTW, JIil Sander SS12 RTW, male persepctive on Milan Spring 2012, male perspective on fashion, Milan Spring 2012 RTW, Prada SS12 RTW, Versace SS12 RTW