MILAN — Are Italy’s spring fashions too hot to handle?
All the microminis stalking Milan’s catwalks in the last week might be giving some retailers major pause, but most praised Milan fashion week’s steamy provocation — and creative variety. Retailers — clearly like the designers themselves — are hoping higher hemlines, brighter colors and snappier prints will energize luxury shoppers amid a sluggish market.
"We were very surprised to see Milan sizzling," said Kal Ruttenstein, senior vice president for fashion direction at Bloomingdale’s. "We’re delighted because it’s time to stop mourning."
Jacqui Lividini, senior vice president of fashion merchandising at Saks Fifth Avenue, agreed that sex will likely sell. "The message, ‘Make love not war,’ was loud and clear," she said.
There were dissenters, though.
"I think most of the strong sex appeal fell flat except for [Roberto] Cavalli, who did it in a very couture, sexpot way," said Robert Burke, vice president and senior fashion director at Bergdorf Goodman. "As a whole, I don’t think it was the best season for Milan."
But Burke did cite strong collections at Missoni and Prada, praising Prada’s silver ballet slippers and the Asian-influenced tailoring at Blumarine.
Many buyers expressed surprise at the racy, upbeat designs on Milan’s catwalks. April Glassborow, senior buyer of international collections for Harvey Nichols in London, said she anticipated more cautious fashions, based on the pre-collections she bought and the uncertain economic and political climate.
"I’ve been pleasantly surprised," she said. "There are very strong themes coming through the collections," including Oriental, sport and punk influences. "There’s quite a lot to appeal to different customers. We’ll be spending more than we planned to."
The Italian collections have a reputation for being single-minded vis-à-vis trends. Not so this season, which had Sue Patneaude, Nordstrom’s vice president of designer apparel, smiling.
"What I love is that there’s so much variety," she said. "I think it’s a particularly creative season. There’s not just one theme. I just got my fashion fix and I really needed it. We saw several outstanding collections."Among the standouts Patneaude mentioned: Roberto Cavalli, which she gave an 11 out of 10, Missoni, Moschino Cheap & Chic, Dolce & Gabbana and Blumarine.
Patneaude cited such details as tiered chiffon, crochet and macramé details, corsetry, short and flippy skirts and colors and prints as newsworthy. "Fashion is what’s selling now: nothing basic. And color is the natural evolution of all that," she said. "I think the customer is ready for color."
Lividini agreed. "The customer is always looking for something new," she said. "That’s why we like the Asian influence." She said she was able to find wide enough of a variety for the more demure customer and the more fashion-driven customer.
"Once upon a time, Milan was known for conservative, well-tailored clothes," Ruttenstein said "Now it is more exciting."
Ruttenstein warmed up to the sizzle from Gucci, Versace, Roberto Cavalli, Dolce & Gabbana and Voyage and at the same time embraced "a return to reality" from Armani and Burberry Prorsum. He said he thinks Bloomingdale’s can pick the best of both worlds for a well-rounded stock.
Despite those glowing fashion reviews, Ruttenstein said his budget probably won’t increase this year compared with last year’s, as business is still tough. Most retailers said budgets are not finalized, but suggested they were plotting larger allocations only for exceptional collections.
Beyond the racy hemlines, other ideas on the catwalk proved contentious. Some buyers had a cool reception for one recurring theme: an edgy Eighties look that verged on punk.
"A little bit of Eighties detailing goes a long way in retail," Burke noted. He said he wasn’t crazy about the zipper-laden Jil Sander line and punky tendencies in collections like Dolce & Gabbana, Moschino and Fendi. "I think the Asian theme has far more validity."
Joan Kaner, senior vice president and fashion director at Neiman Marcus, agreed that such harsh looks could alienate typical luxury goods customers. "Punk looks at designer prices might be difficult to sell," she said.
She expressed similar doubts about the widespread potential for minis. "Every woman will have to let her conscious be her guide," she said.Kaner suggested Oriental touches would be a surer bet. "The kimonos were standouts," she said. "We found lots of good things at Prada, Gucci, Armani and Blumarine. Other promising items include dresses, blouson jackets, pencil skirts, cargo pants and novelty pants.
Julie Gilhart, vice president and fashion director for women’s at Barneys New York, cited as key items: miniskirts, either taut or swingy; pencil skirts; cargo pants; trench coats; silver shoes; short jackets, and zippers as a key detail.
She also praised the Asian influence and a sporty spirit evident in racer backs, drawstrings and anorak shapes, for adding depth to the collections.
"Overall, I think it will be a great season," she concluded, listing Miu Miu, Prada, Jil Sander, Versace and Giorgio Armani among the standouts. "We’re going to stretch [our budgets] to include some of the surprises."
Kuwaiti retailer Majed Al-Sabah of Villa Moda said he "couldn’t resist" buying six of Prada’s white crocodile miniskirts, but described them as window dressing, since few Middle Eastern customers will accept micro-lengths. "It’s very risky," he said. "I’m hoping to see longer versions in the showroom."
Al-Sabah singled out Fendi, Marni, Roberto Cavalli, Dolce & Gabbana and Miu Miu among the standout collections, declaring that the latter took "true American sportswear and made it edgy and fashionable."
He said his only disappointment in Milan was the dearth of new designers. "I think Paris is going to take more of my budget, especially when it comes to new talents," he said. The runway shows in Paris start officially today and run until Oct. 11.
EXCLUSIVE: Two and half months after John Targon, cofounder and codesigner of Baja East, was hired as creative director of the contemporary division at Marc Jacobs, he has left the company, WWD has learned. Marc Jacobs International, which is owned by LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, confirmed Targon’s departure in a statement: “John Targon is a talented designer and we appreciate the work he has done here. Ultimately working together did not make sense for the brand and we wish him the best.” Read the story by @jessiredale, link in bio. #wwdnews
@theluxurycollection is officially launching a collection, tapping Sofia Sanchez de Betak for the capsule. Over 30 styles will be featured in the Chufy x The Luxury Collection, debuting next month at Bergdorf Goodman, The Webster, FiveStory and more. De Betak, known as “@chufy,” drew inspiration for the collection from her trips to Japan in the past year #wwdfashion
@lhd, founder and CEO of @thewebster, has teamed up with @lebonmarcherivegauche for the European launch of her ready-to-wear line, LHD. The launch will come with an exclusive pop-up opening today that’s set to run through May 20. Located on the second floor, it carries her debut Miami-themed resort collection, launched in November as see-now-buy-now. #wwdfashion
@longchamp, which marks its 70th anniversary this year, just opened its biggest U.S. store on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue. On the lower level there’s a floor-to-ceiling display of the brand’s iconic Le Pliage bag – in all of its different colors, shapes and sizes. Customers can also have their product personalized in-store by imprinting names, initials or emblems. #wwdfashion (📷: @ericmtownsend)
“Whenever I’m in that place of sound and music, I don’t have fear or nervousness…This album has a lot of themes of courage and boldness and I want to be the soundtrack for people’s lives. I’ll be so happy if [my songs] evoke strength in people, which I know music has done for me,” says @kimbramusic of her newest album “Primal Heart.” The New Zealand-born singer sat down with WWD to talk about her music, newest tour and connecting with hear fans — read more on WWD.com #wwdeye (📷: @jilliansollazzo)
Luxury handbag resale company @rebagofficial is planning to sell a rare collectible for $70,000: the @hermes White Crocodile Himalayan Birkin. The exclusive Birkin sold for about $100,000 in 2008, when @davidbeckham bought one for his wife @victoriabeckham to add to her collection. Read more about the rare Birkin on WWD.com #wwdaccessories
With her costume pearl necklace and what-you-see-is-what-you-get style, Barbara Bush, who died Tuesday at age 92, was a straight-shooter from start to finish.
Born Barbara Pierce in New York City, Bush served as the 37th first lady, as well as the country’s second lady from 1981 to 1989. In addition to being part of the longest presidential marriage — 73 years — Bush also had the unlikely distinction of having one son, George W., become the 43rd president and another son, Jeb, run unsuccessfully in 2016. Having served as second lady during the Reagan administration’s two terms and lived all over the world during her own husband’s ascending political career, Barbara Bush made it clear that literacy — not fashion — was her priority. Read more from Rosemary Feitelberg’s obituary on the late First Lady in WWD.com, link in bio. #barbarabush #wwdnews
Western and ’90s trends have influenced denim for fall 2018. Think raw, dark and coated jeans mixed with bold prints and tough leather. #trendtuesdays #wwdfashion (Styled by @thealexbadia;📷: @ryanplett)