By  on February 28, 2005

MILAN — Like the unusually frigid weather in this fashion capital last week, the fall-winter collections here left many retailers cold — with a few exceptions.

Buyers praised Prada, Burberry, Miu Miu, Marni and Missoni among the standouts after a week of runway shows that were often described as flat and lacking newness. But some retailers were reassured when they visited showrooms to see the product up close, detecting innovation and a new direction, albeit a subtle one. “It wasn’t shouting out at you in terms of a new look,” said Anna Garner, head of fashion at Selfridges.

As Michael Fink, senior fashion director at Saks Fifth Avenue, put it: “Even though the runways weren’t ‘wow’ and high voltage, in the showroom the clothing is incredibly nuanced.”

Still, some lamented that designers played it too safe this season with a sea of black, brown and gray clothes. “If business in general is challenging, I’m not sure that pulling back is the right strategy,” said Robert Burke, vice president and senior fashion director at Bergdorf Goodman.

Retailers mentioned subtle embroidery, voluminous coats, egg-shaped skirts as well as blouson jackets as key trends and most often credited Miuccia Prada as the directional visionary of the season.

“Milan had some excitement, but many of the collections were uneven,” said Kal Ruttenstein, senior vice president of fashion direction for Bloomingdale’s. “There’s an importance of black for fall. We like the shorter skirts and great coats. There’s less reliance on bling and a lot less glitter in the clothes,” he said, praising Prada’s elegance, Giorgio Armani’s jackets, flat furs at Fendi and cleaned-up, more wearable collections from Versace and Dolce & Gabbana.

“It’s a much more grown up, sophisticated mood,” agreed Joan Kaner, senior vice president and fashion director at Neiman Marcus.

Fink of Saks said Milan forged ahead with new proportions and a “refined elegance” at houses like Prada, Marni, Gucci and Dolce & Gabbana. His only concern is that some collections were too black-driven. “It [will] be hard on the floor to make the collections pop,” he said.

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