Some one-liners grab your attention. For example: “If Ettore Sottsass and Laura Ingalls worked together,” which Veronica Etro mused backstage before her show on Friday. If the thought of that imaginary union didn’t grab you, you could ponder the series of foot-high, tabletop paper-sculpture dresses and tops with major graphics that could have resulted from collaboration between, well, Ettore Sottsass and Laura Ingalls — assuming she was crafty. Do we know for sure?
Despite her gentle demeanor, Etro’s penchant for pattern runs deep — it’s in the genes — and she is bullish, sometimes to the point of overstatement, in its ebullient invocation. For fall, she boasted, everything was plotted out with mathematical precision — yet slyly so. The range never turned clinical as Etro invoked an amalgam of references, ticking off Art Deco, Memphis, arts-and-crafts, the “wild western land of endless horizons” (or maybe Patagonia or Peru), “handmade earthiness and rigorous post-modernism.” If you studied the array of optics in play, you could pull out allusions to each, none literal, all zesty, with the prevailing mood a non-specific American Southwest vibe with a touch of boho.
As the models walked out, one after another — crafty collage-print dress under multi-striped coat after engineered striped-and-checkerboard fringed knit ensemble after fringed, tasseled, zigzagged, folkloric patterned coat — their pile-on patterns turned a bit dizzying, even though Etro injected moments of calm with some beautiful, relatively simple coats. Yet overall, the collection worked, on two levels. Individually, most of the looks appealed — fresh, pretty and workable, though not always exactly as shown. In total, the takeaway was one of warmth and comfort. In this Milan season of deep, often dark intellectual posturing, Etro’s lineup reminded that clothes can do more than telegraph angst over the culture’s frightening dystopian inclinations. Clothes can also help us feel good, about ourselves and, maybe, even the world. Imagine that.
Etro ended the show with what she called “a surprise.” Just before the finale, the Chinese actress Yao Chen, brand ambassador and KOL, or key opinion leader, hit the runway. Her solo walk felt like a teaser of bigger brand involvement to come. Stay tuned.