Christopher Bailey's splendidly confident fall collection for Burberry Prorsum celebrated Brit "It" girls, while Alessandra Facchinetti showed a certain self-assurance for Gucci. And at Missoni, Angela Missoni created a put-together womanly look.

Burberry Prorsum: So many shows. So little news. So why isn’t Christopher Bailey the toast of Milan? One can argue reasonably against the merits of powerhouse basics on the runway, and Milan sprouts new designers about as often as Giorgio Armani shows real pants. Burberry Prorsum bucks the trend, an honest-to-goodness fashion collection from a top commercial firm, the work of a still-young designer with something to say that’s neither redundant nor dull, yet plenty wearable. Bailey came to Burberry intent on merging two disparate elements of Brit style — old-house spiffiness and young-hipster élan. Suffice it to say, the union is thriving. For fall, it played like a dream — which, ironically, may be the reason Bailey’s work doesn’t incite more frenzy. Unlike his onetime boss, Tom Ford, whose wow factor is woefully in absentia this season, Bailey’s strength in his work lies in subtlety, girlish but antipriss, street smart sans aggression. He celebrates the pop Sixties overtly but avoids retro camp like a bad trip. So, while he saluted Ossie Clark and David Bailey and offered molto meters of dusty-toned homage to William Morris (even curtaining the courtyard of his venue in an ocher print), he did it with an unprecious footing in the here-and-now.

Bailey’s Brit “It” girl works her wiles via a quite specific mix: flower-child dresses (the show’s biggest news in prints and pleated velvet); skirts in lightened-up but veddy proper English tweeds; layered shirts, sweaters and pom-pom scarves; an urchin’s nod to nautical; a newsboy cap perched to casual perfection. A limited look, yes, and young to boot. But when the ship sails on the baby-doll frock, as for every woman it must, the collection stays happily in port. 

Appropriate currency — perhaps the toughest challenge of the powerhouse fashion contingent. Despite his youth-culture motif, Bailey delivered much more than a cute runway romp at odds with his house’s retail reality. Women of multiple generations who approach Burberry with very different mind-sets can break out the plastic with equal confidence, as many of these clothes are ageless: trenchcoats with kilt-like pleating in back; an admiral’s coat hemmed with a wide satin band; a dark cardigan with a printed flounce at the wrist. It’s a lineup to thrill fashion-lovers young and then-some, and one that solidifies Bailey’s spot among the top tier of designers showing in Milan — an elite group, indeed.

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