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Fancy Free – Max Mara, Moschino Cheap & Chic, Anna Molinari, Antonio Marras

All sorts of themes were in play as the Milan collections continued, from a mix of grunge with classic suits to charmingly campy looks to poetic, sepia-colored pieces.

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All sorts of themes were in play as the Milan collections continued, from a mix of grunge with classic suits to charmingly campy looks to poetic, sepia-colored pieces.

Max Mara: Merging two disparate moods, workaday and rebellious, Max Mara’s fall collection could be called Grunge Lite, an office-safe look that gave sway to the trappings of modest rockerdom but without any suggestion of aggressiveness or sloppiness. All manner of oversized anoraks formed the base of the collection with coats done up in sober tartans and monastic black or cut as capes. Bright shiny tops sequined in sporty stripes were paired with slouchy skirts cut in men’s suitings, and these versatile pieces, as well as jackets, oversized knits and full-cut pants, were combined and recombined throughout. Formal pairings made plays on the classic suit. More adventurous mixing meant a tailored tuxedo jacket worn over a minidress. The overall affect was refreshingly realistic, and made a quietly confident statement that looked just right.

Moschino Cheap & Chic: Who better to open the Cheap & Chic show than Dita Von Teese? Yes, she’s a little cheap and a little chic herself, that one, and she flaunts those attributes, as well as everything else, with admirable shimmy-shaking camp. Honoring such an haute flirt, the fall collection was full of cheeky, good-time clothes. There were cardigans decked out with covered buttons, puff-sleeve blouses and circle skirts galore, as well as a heart-print dress for the swing-dancing set. The season’s range of novelty prints included one that looked like a collage of old-time lingerie ads clipped from a newspaper. It was just as subtle as a dress printed with the word “naughty” across its front. At a Cheap & Chic show, there is no such thing as taking things too far. And that’s part of the fun.

Anna Molinari: Rosella Tarabini staged her fall Anna Molinari show in the Sala delle Cariatidi of Milan’s dignified Palazzo Reale. The graceful environment was sullied by Tarabini’s awkward collection of black satin strapless minidresses bunched up in the back, shredded chiffon gowns and metallic leather HotPant overalls. The disjointed collection vacillated from faux femininity, in the form of snug angora minidresses, to distressed rocker, courtesy of slim, metallic pinstriped pants and skinny transparent Ts. A moment of clarity emerged in sassy tiered tulle dresses and slinky fox stoles. Tarabini has used Molinari as her experimental canvas, putting down artsy strokes one season, only to start with a new genre the next. It’s time for the designer to hunker down and find a little discipline.

This story first appeared in the February 24, 2006 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Antonio Marras: There’s always something slightly melancholic about Antonio Marras’ collections, as though he has funneled the sepia tones of a Depression-era film onto his languid, poetic pieces. For fall, the Sardinian designer based his stoic and sober collection on Anton Chekov’s play “The Three Sisters.” A single mirror hanging from the back reflected the fluidity of Marras’ sweeping opera coats with chiffon insets, sturdy gray wool circle skirts and intricately beaded sweaters. He kept the palette dark and steely, adding flourishes with puckered full sleeves and cinched waists. For the finale, the curtain rose, revealing a stage covered in gilt mirrors. At that moment, the sorrow lifted, and a beautiful reflection of strong women came in.

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