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.
“Azzedine has been one of the biggest influences in my life. He has always been such a strong, loving, fatherly figure to me. I call him Papa. His designs are indescribably unique, they are pieces of art. He knew how to make the female form look its loveliest. I have so many memories of him; my favorite might be during my first show with him in Paris. He liked me and he wanted to help me get more work. He called all his friends at Kenzo and Comme des Garcons, and asked them to book me. They said, ‘But she can’t walk!’ And he said, ‘but she has such a great ass!' His friendship and support has been the great privilege of my career. I can't imagine life without him. Repose en paix mon Papa.” - @stephanieseymour tells @wwd. #wwdfashion (📷: @steveeichner) #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa, flanked by two of his closest friends, models Stephanie Seymour and Naomi Campbell.
He designed Seymour’s dress for her 1995 wedding to Peter Brant, and treated Campbell (who famously called him Papa), like a daughter. For more on the legendary designer, tap the link in bio. #wwdfashion #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa's “I-did-it-my-way” ethos stood out starkly at a time when brands are experimenting with consumer-facing fashion shows, coed formats and trans-seasonal collections – anything to perk up lackluster sales of ready-to-wear in an age of Insta-everything. “It’s not creation anymore. This becomes a purely industrial approach,” the late designer told WWD in an interview last year. “But anyway, the rhythm of collections is so stupid. It’s unsustainable. There are too many collections.” Read more about the iconic designer’s life and work on wwd.com, link in bio. #wwdfashion #azzedinealaia (📷: @WWD Archive, 1986) #alaia
Sneaker reselling app @goat’s latest exhibit, "The Greatest: New York," tells the story of New York's sneaker culture. To celebrate the exhibit, an intimate crowd gathered on Thursday night at the pop-up gallery space, located at Platform in Culver City, to hear guest speaker and illustrator @esymai talk about her own rise in streetwear and women in the business. "For me I'm just someone who is creative. I like to create things," said Chang. #wwdfashion
Azzedine Alaïa, one of the most iconic couturiers of the modern era whose body-con designs defined Eighties fashion, has died in Paris. The diminutive Tunisian-born designer, known for his structured knitted dresses with fitted waists and impeccably cut, figure-hugging second skin silhouettes was deeply admired by his peers, and counted supermodel Naomi Campbell - his adoptive daughter - among his inner circle, one of a gang of glamazons including Farida Khelfa, Carla Bruni and Stephanie Seymour who became ambassadors of his style. (📷: Alexandre Guirkinger) #wwdblast