THE MILAN MIX
IT WAS FASHION ON THE MILD SIDE IN MILAN ON MONDAY, BUT MARIUCCIA MANDELLI’S CHINA DOLLS AT KRIZIA AND ANNA MOLINARI’S CHEEKY FLIRTS HELPED TO LIVEN UP THE MIX.

KRIZIA: All aboard the Orient Express. Mariuccia Mandelli has, as her program notes indicated, “a subtle yearning” for the mysterious East. Well, maybe subtle isn’t exactly the right word. Mandelli went wild with an Asian leitmotif, serving it up in countless kimonos, tunics, obi sashes and even Mongolian lamb breastplates. There were references to the somber palette, fabrics and deconstructed effects of Japanese fashion that were so shocking back in the early Eighties, but these were countered by smart pinstripes, earth-toned suits and millions of evening spangles. Oddly enough, Mariuccia didn’t show many sweaters, save for some woeful tattered numbers and a few with her beloved wild beasts recreated to look as if they had leapt off a silk screen at the Asia Society. It was a big continent to cover, and, like the Great Wall of China, the collection went on and on.
ANNA MOLINARI: Much of Molinari’s collection bordered on propriety, in a cheeky sort of way. Her shapes were flirtatious minus the tart factor, often shown in wonderfully girly shades of lilac, raspberry and green. On the demure side, there were suits in colorful, meaty tweeds — the kind grandma wore, only cut short and curvy. But Anna’s really a sweater girl at heart, and hers were simply fab. Printed, cabled, chunky or lean, they’re perfect with everything from those granny tweeds to racy red leather.
MARNI: This house showed once again that furs can look hip. The news, however, is that Marni is trying to expand beyond fur with a more complete collection. And it’s on the right track, with coats and sportswear that often looked good — even if the shapes and prints rang a few bells. SHOP TALK: Rebecca Moses hasn’t had a signature collection since 1991, but now she’s back with a new line of knitwear — minimalist shapes in wool, cashmere and silk. Bergdorf Goodman has already committed to a third-floor shop, and Moses says Neiman Marcus, Janet Brown, Linda Dresner and Fred Segal are interested. Bergdorf’s has also promised a shop to Marina Spadafora, who this season focused on jersey and flannel combinations.
EYES ON AMERICA: Tailored basics are the bread-and-butter of Italian fashion, and producers of such collections are always trying to make inroads into the United States. Piazza Sempione and Victor Victoria are two with solid, consistent collections that appear to be on the right track. One quarter of Sempione’s $21 million volume is done at U.S. stores such as Neiman Marcus, Janet Brown and Linda Dresner. And at Barneys New York, the line has a 92 percent sell-through, according to Roberto Monti, co-owner of the company. Victor Victoria, a $25 million company, has also built a strong specialty store business, and for spring, opened corners at Saks Fifth Avenue in New York, Palm Beach and Beverly Hills.

PUTTING THE BUZZ BACK IN GENNY: Gruppo Genny, a fashion powerhouse during the Eighties with its Genny, Byblos and Complice labels, is looking to put a new charge into its business, which over the last few years has felt the effects of a rough and competitive market. Commercial director Roberto Stranieri, a veteran of Giorgio Armani and of designer label giant Gruppo GFT, was brought in three months ago to get Genny back in gear. Stranieri, who admitted that the group has lost some ground in the U.S., said he’s heading to New York next month, where the company is considering opening a Genny boutique, to talk with leading retailers about establishing long-term partnerships. Stranieri also said the group is solidly behind Rebecca Moses, the design consultant on Genny, and Byblos designers Alan Cleaver and Keith Varty — “There’s a lot more we can do as a company to support them as designers.”
Meanwhile, the collection Genny showed Monday seemed to be getting back on track with its commercial approach to trends. The diverse lineup touched on prints, languid knits and military looks. But the dominant mood had an undercurrent of Eighties Power Chic in, for example, vibrant glazed mock croc coats over natty gray separates and in sleek black ski looks. Byblos started strong with bright colors and tweeds in a ladylike mode. But Varty and Cleaver have had a problem with focus in recent seasons — a problem that wasn’t resolved in this collection.

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