THE MILAN CHRONICLES
THE MILAN COLLECTIONS GOT MOVING AT THE WEEKEND WITH GIORGIO ARMANI’S CHIC EMPORIO ARMANI COLLECTION AND MIUCCIA PRADA’S MIU MIU COLLECTION INSPIRED, IMPROBABLY, BY HOME SEWING.

MIU MIU: All hail the teen-age home sewer! Miuccia Prada, fashion’s greatest patroness of anti-chic, has added yet another unlikely suspect to her list of charming misfits now elevated to fashion icons — bad girls, nerds, those die-hard scavengers of vintage haunts.
In the Miu Miu collection she showed on Friday, Prada turned her attention to a home ec zealot with a can-do attitude, a well-stocked crafts drawer and a Saint Laurent fixation. Along the way, she’s dug up tear sheets of his peasants, cross-referenced them with all the Simplicity Pattern book has to offer, and voila! — prom night perfection, in dazzling satin with off-the-shoulder, elasticized puffed sleeves.
And how far you can take a single pattern! As the package shows, version one is that prom dress, two, the mini, and three, the Anna Magnani top, just right over clam-digger length sailor pants. Why not whip up all three?
But a girl can’t live in satins. In a Tyrolean moment, she also stitches up terrific loden skirts which she decorates with jumbo bric-a-brac; stenciled-on naive images — hands, hearts, animals — or lots of sparkles from her trusty old De-Dazzler glue gun. Giving in to her wild side — no teen this side of a sweatshop spends her life at the sewing machine — she wears lots of racy corsets made from sturdy sailor cotton and shoes with a range from vamp (neon sequined strappy spikes) to tramp (iridescent Else Anita platforms, the ones RuPaul just loves).
Sometimes those cottons look more than a little clunky, but then, that’s the point. Here, Prada takes the playful imperfection which has become a Miu Miu hallmark in a different direction. Forget edge, forget angst — they’re as passe as heroin chic. Suddenly, the catchword of the moment, at least as far as Miu Miu is concerned, is one even more shocking in fashion circles. It’s cute.
EMPORIO ARMANI: The fashion world watches designers like Giorgio Armani the way Sovietologists used to watch the May Day lineup at the Kremlin. Every gesture carries meaning; every new face represents an emerging power. And so it was on Sunday afternoon when Armani took his usual bow at the end of the Emporio Armani collection, and then — for the very first time in his career — he pulled another designer out from the wings to stand beside him, his niece Silvana Armani.
Silvana, who has headed the design team at Emporio for several years, has been well taught by Zio Giorgio. And she is dedicated to preserving that unmistakable Armani style. Emporio doesn’t have any of the trendy bells and whistles that most other designers give to their secondary lines, but it does have something most of them don’t: a thriving, vibrant commercial life. Emporio represents 12 percent of the Armani empire and in 1996 racked up $81 million in sales.
There should be no letup for spring. This is a chicly soothing collection filled with impeccable pantsuits that have just enough of a hip slouch, fragile blouses and skirts in filmy layers of printed chiffon, pastel crinkled silk tunics and embroidered sheer minidresses that are definitely bound for Upper East Side parties.
And for those young women who love to show off their well-toned bods, Giorgio’s side-slit microminis wrapped over briefs should do the trick. They were downright sexy, as were this season’s racy little sandals. He did manage, however, to come up with a clunker or two — those wide belts that were ungainly and simply too heavy for Giorgio’s delicate clothes. But what’s a little misstep now and then? Armani’s sweet confections have that sweet smell of success.

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