Backstage at Gucci Fall/Winter 2017

MILAN — The opulent designs, rich textures, strong colors and embellishments seen on the Milan runways wowed retailers — and they’re proving it by upping their spending for fall.

Riccardo Tortato, fashion director of Tsum.com, said he is increasing budgets by 30 percent compared to last season. “We are buying more across all the categories,” he said.

Likewise, Coco Chan, head of women’s wear at Stylebop.com, said, “Milan is particularly strong for its outerwear — a key sector that performs consistently well. Given previous strong performance over the last few seasons and with the amazing assortment of standout pieces, we will definitely be bolstering our buy and trust that the response is as enthusiastic as it’s been in the past.”

To be sure, outerwear, in particular puffer jackets and maxi furs, was cited as among the most salable category. Layering, cropped tops, bright and bold prints and power dressing were strong trends, as were chinoiserie influences and feather details. Soft and cozy materials were recurring, ranging from velvet and chenille to mohair and shearling. Red was one of the strongest colors. Logo-mania was still present for fall.

Retailers said Gucci and Prada continued to be the most influential brands, and they highlighted Fendi’s momentum.

“Milan Fashion Week really stood out on so many levels. It was a powerful, moving and emotional week. The creativity and vision that was reflected on and off the runways really speaks to the times that we are in,” said Roopal Patel, senior vice president, fashion director at Saks Fifth Avenue. “Designers were using the runways to speak to the world through the power of fashion, creativity and design. There was a human connection and global message that fashion is for everyone and all are welcome in our community. We saw this at Gucci, Prada, Dolce & Gabbana, Missoni and Etro.”

Patel said Gucci was a “visual feast for the senses. The message was loud and clear that Gucci is for every personality, every type and every background. Welcome to Alessandro’s world. That is the magic of Gucci.”

She praised Prada, defining it as a “very emotional collection” and looks that “touched upon what a modern day women is in today’s society.” Patel also mentioned Attico, Sara Battaglia and the La Double J and Larusmiani collaboration, emphasizing the evolution of a “new guard of female designers in Milan.”

Charlotte Tasset, general merchandise manager of women’s apparel, beauty, lingerie and children at Printemps, said it was “a strong and creative season that confirmed the big comeback of the Milan fashion scene with exuberant, spectacular shows with a strong identity, both in terms of the scale and in the construction of products and mastery of silhouettes.” She singled out as her favorite collections Gucci and Prada, and said promising younger brands include Philosophy di Lorenzo Serafini and Attico.

“Over the last two or three seasons, Italian brands have once again become very directional with a renewed and interesting offer. No doubt this will be reflected in sales,” said Tasset. “Customers look to Italian brands for a bling, fun, glamour, visual, ultrafeminine image. It’s all about the opulence and a certain art of living à la Dolce Vita. These brands are also very much in demand because the products are very visible and recognizable, far beyond the logo.”

Jennifer Sunwoo, executive vice president, chief merchandising officer at Barneys New York, highlighted the “extras. It was a season of eclectic maximalism with feathers, embroideries, sequins, bright prints — from Fendi’s intricate, intarsia fur; the colorful, beaded sweaters and feather-trim pieces at Prada, to the mélange of tulle, lace, Swiss dot and ruffles at Philosophy, the Milanese designers are embracing femininity, empowering women to be brilliant and unique.”

Her favorites were Philosophy di Lorenzo Serafini, Prada, Fendi, Fontana, Walter de Silva and Gianvito Rossi.

Helen David, chief merchant at Harrods, said the standout shows in her opinion were Gucci and Fendi. “Alessandro [Michele] has proven that he is one that marches to the beat of his own drum, and his drum is an enchanted, fun, quirky, eccentric and fashion loving one. We saw all measure of daywear, eveningwear, outerwear and accessories, all heavily embellished, decorated, color saturated and most of all — unique. A mesmerizing collection that took over Milan Fashion Week.”

Fendi was “chic, polished and sophisticated, with tweed and caramel fur as a highlight, and red boots on every girl.” David believes this was “the strongest Fendi show in years,” defining it “rich, luxe and desirable.” David also pointed to Dolce & Gabbana’s show, “relevant through their use of influencers that spanned the globe” and celebration of the family.

“I don’t think we’re in a moment of revolution, though there were many people wanting to create a revolution on the runway,” said Ken Downing, senior vice president and fashion director at Neiman Marcus. “I think we’re in a moment of evolution, which is right for the customer. There are a lot of new ideas, but nothing that’s not understandable.”

Among his top collections were Gucci, which he praised for its over-the-top spectacle of a runway show that was broken down into covetable, emotional fashion pieces in the show room. He said the Prada show was one of the best of Miuccia Prada’s career, loving the swagger of some of the Seventies silhouettes, the scarves with feathers and beads that looked like granny had been knitting on the porch, and the carryover of ostrich plumes from spring to fall. Fendi was another favorite, particularly its red boots.

“A red shoe is obviously a must-have,” said Downing, noting that red was a big color in ready-to-wear and accessories.

As for Versace, he loved the change of direction and felt it was indicative of what’s in the air behind the scenes at the house, where Riccardo Tisci is expected to join.

Selfridges’ women’s wear buying manager Jeannie Lee also singled out Versace as a highlight of the week, given the “exciting new direction” it has taken. The optimistic energy at Missoni was another highlight.

“There was a real emphasis on craftsmanship, but interestingly, at the same time an influence from streetwear, which has continued for a few seasons now,” added Lee.

Linda Fargo, senior vice president of the fashion office and the director of women’s fashion and store presentation at Bergdorf Goodman, also called out the abundance of political messaging on the runway, calling it “interesting.”

“The only problem is, it requires great mastery and inspired discrimination to pull it off,” she said. So who did?  “Miuccia Prada comes to the very top of mind as the original counterintuitive genius mix master herself. This season’s collection proved once again how inspiring and influential she is — period. Alessandro Michele is a newer but no less potent young magician. His ideas are clearly endless and unconstrained and still a fantasy we want to dive into. Another absolutely joyous and visually raucous collection came down the runway at Dolce & Gabbana, the first show in three cities that successfully walked versus just talked about inclusiveness and the beauty of differences.”

She also gave high marks to Bottega Veneta, Fendi and Gianvito Rossi, and noted velvet, red, roses and rich textures and fur, especially fur details in accessories, as incoming trends.

Mario Grauso, president of Holt Renfrew, said highlights from the week were Fendi, Prada and Versace. “These designers offered a new approach to personal style offering a wide variety of statement pieces that our customer will mix and match into their wardrobe. We loved the way Fendi played with accessories and brought back the original double FF insignia. Prada went back to its original codes of the house with her Fifties and Seventies inspired collection. Here we also saw a great offering of outerwear and Prada’s signature cocktail dresses. We will launch Versace in our stores in fall ’17 and with the [expected] announcement of Riccardo Tisci teaming up with Donatella Versace we are very excited to see their new take on the collection. We loved the energy and casting for this season’s show that featured an array of sexy dresses and powerful clothes.”

Grauso also pointed to Bottega Veneta’s joint men’s and women show as “another highlight.”

“I saw two different fronts in Milan,” said Tiziana Cardini, fashion director at La Rinascente. “One includes those brands, like Fendi, which delivered realistic, urban collections showing the desire to return to a certain simplicity, yet always rooted in the luxury Italian tradition. The other features designers, such as Alberta Ferretti, who are facing the current uncertain social climate by looking at dreamy inspirations. I think that Gucci and Prada are in between these two categories, since Alessandro Michele and Miuccia Prada delivered lineups which are extremely creative but filled with wearable pieces.”

His favorite collections were Prada, Gucci, Marco Zanini for Santoni, For Restless Sleepers, Attico and Roberto Cavalli.

Stylebop.com’s Chan said “the wrapped-up mood of London continued strong in Milan, where it gained depth and texture. The phrase ‘feel-good fashion’ comes to my mind as these were clothes designed to be worn and interact with the body. Enveloping rich textures like shearling, velvetlike corduroy and fuzzy knits all had the hallmark of things you want to touch and just sink into. There is definitely a Gucci effect reverberating across the Milan runways with many riffs on the label’s quirky maximalism. When spun right, the effect attests to the influence and importance of the house. However, when it doesn’t feel true, it can feel a little confused. So I would note: approach with caution.”

Chan’s favorite collections included Max Mara, Fendi and Jil Sander.

Tortato of Tsum.com said Milan Fashion Week “resulted a bit less exciting” than he expected. “I think that it’s crucial that smaller brands stop copying major labels because their collections look already old on the catwalk. I also think that this season we had more impressing fashion shows than beautiful collections.…It was more about the event than the product itself.”

The retailer’s favorite collections included Versace, Dolce & Gabbana, Prada, Salvatore Ferragamo and Bottega Veneta. His one concern was the lightness of fabrics. “Except for the fur coats, designers focused on light weights, probably too light, with collections looking more spring than fall.”

Jennifer Cuvillier, director of the retailer’s style office at Le Bon Marché Rive Gauche, said, “Milan provides a really creative season; as always Italian designers bring a fresh, happy and colorful vision of fashion, the silhouettes are feminine, printed and colorful. A real success this season was with a lot of up-and-coming exciting young designers.”

Cuvillier’s favorite collections included Stella Jean, Marco de Vincenzo, Attico and MSGM. She also pointed to promising collections by Brognano, Coliac, Vivetta, Arthur Arbesser and La Double J.

Lisa Aiken, retail fashion director at Net-a-porter, said, “Milan opened with an incredible Gucci show. While there has been discussion around the sustainability of Alessandro’s vision in the long term, we have yet to see any indication of this at retail. With a stand-out collection like the one presented this week, I don’t believe we will.”

She also praised “Prada’s exuberant, retro-inflected show. It was a visual feast on the runway and even more exciting in the showroom. Feathers, floral prints, embellished scarves, shearling and poster prints will all be special emotional purchases for our woman next season.”

Other highlights from Milan included Etro, Philosophy and Attico.

“They all successfully evolved their signature aesthetic this season which we were excited to see,” said Aiken.”In the accessory world, Gianvito Rossi, Alexander Birman and Jimmy Choo solidified emerging footwear trends. We loved seeing patent leather, kitten heels, the combination of red and white, and the continuation of velvet.”

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