MILAN — Italian designers spooned out the right fashion medicine for turbulent economic times: colorful and upbeat collections loaded with great accessories, retailers said.

“I feel that Milan put on a very optimistic season,” said Sarah Rutson, fashion director at Hong Kong-based Lane Crawford. “Everyone is mindful of the economic situation that we are all facing. In Asia, our last economic crisis is still very fresh in our memories, and in those years, we found that spending was really on special pieces, strong statements, glamour and feel-good items.”

While allowing that Milan Fashion Week, which wrapped up over the weekend, offered few runway fireworks, no dramatic new fashion directions and far too many extreme platform shoes, many buyers said they were satisfied with the offerings.

“We’re very pleased with Milan,” said Ken Downing, senior vice president and fashion director at Neiman Marcus. “There are a lot of beautiful clothes in Milan and there’s nothing wrong with that.”

“I thought Milan was very safe this season with the ‘power brands’ turning out very commercial collections,” added Marigay McKee, fashion and beauty director at Harrods, noting that Italian brands represent a large part of the store’s business that performs “exceedingly” well. “While the commerciality means that shows didn’t create as much excitement as they often do, it means we don’t need to worry about them being difficult to buy — or sell.”

Buyers cited a preponderance of bold, chunky jewelry, belts, flashy prints, shiny fabrics and a sludgy color palette of cocoas and okras with metallic hues providing the highlights.

“Milan also showed us flashes of flesh through cutout effects and transparency. The female body is being celebrated and shown off to full effect,” said Averyl Oates, buying director of the U.K.’s Harvey Nichols. Among standout collections mentioned by retailers were Aquilano.Rimondi, Giorgio Armani, Bottega Veneta, Burberry, Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci, Jil Sander, Marni, Prada and Versace.

The following is a rundown of what buyers had to say.

Linda Fargo, senior vice president and fashion director, Bergdorf Goodman: “Italy embraced the many moods of women. There was a strong presence of more or less sexy offerings, translated into shorter lengths, shapely hourglass belted silhouettes, skin-baring cutaways, transparency and close-to-the-body shapes. In another mood was soft dressing, which was languid and breezy and best expressed in the fabric of the season — satin charmeuse. Black as a summer color was still important here, though we were relieved to see a lot of neutrals, as well. We loved Milan’s obsession with fringe, and think our clients will, too. Must-haves will be the strong platform statement shoe and both the skinny-legging pant and collapsed narrow pantaloon. Most designers are offering bold unconventional jewelry as an add-on of growing importance. Collections of special note: Jil Sander for its innovative ways of dressing; Bottega Veneta for luxurious and delicious leather in all categories; Gucci for taking us away from it all; Marni for the relief of exuberant, artistic color and pattern; Versace for the sharpest sexiness, and Fendi for its uberfuture femininity.”

Michael Fink, vice president and women’s fashion director, Saks Fifth Avenue: “I love that the designers in Milan have returned to doing what they each do best, instead of competing to see who can be most clever, or ridiculous. This has been a week of selective luxury. Special, luxurious items for real women — well, for women who can afford them. The jackets and fluid layering ideas at Armani were just fantastic. Christopher Bailey’s nostalgic and romantic collection for Burberry, all gauzy and looking like best-old-friends, was even more ethereal in the showroom. Raf Simons at Jil Sander set the standard for the fringe trend in what was a collection full of silhouette surprises, especially when seen from the backside. Aquilano and Rimondi’s sophisticated, fluid collection of separates really wowed me. And their debut for Ferré exploded the icons of the house into an important new direction. Overall, a softer, more sophisticated, romantic mood is the tone of the week, with touches of the tropics thrown in for color and print. Transparent layers actually look plausible this season.”


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