COLORFUL CHARACTERS
IN MILAN THIS SEASON, SOME DESIGNERS ARE GOING MINIMALIST, WHILE OTHERS ARE CONSIDERABLY MORE COLORFUL, EITHER LITERALLY OR FIGURATIVELY. THEY LIKE TO JAZZ THEIR COLLECTIONS UP WITH UNEXPECTED — EVEN INCONGRUOUS — THEMES OR SIMPLY CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT VIVID SHADES.

Victor Alfaro: When you cross Bill Blass with Mad Max, some strange and interesting things can happen. Just ask Victor Alfaro, who brought those big boys together in his fall collection. A big barbaric fur countered a neat tweed suit, while a gray flannel sheath dress and a matching coat faced off against a jagged dress in asymmetric chiffon. Of course, in the end, Alfaro’s luxe-lovin’ Uptown girl won out. Doesn’t she always? She’ll love the tiny fur jackets paired with perfectly faded jeans, a waxy coat in brown leather and his slim suede pants. Sometimes, however, Alfaro’s attempts to merge the two worlds just didn’t fly. After all, while his ladies might get a kick out of the rough-hewn stuff, it’s his classics that they really crave.

Marni: Though places from Guatemala to China have laid claim to the title, this season, Chez Marni is certifiably the Land of Eternal Spring, a place where the flora and fauna are always in bloom and the days are invariably sunny. There were fantastic young furs, a soft, layered pale pink tulle skirt and matching top that shimmered with dime-sized silver sequins, along with Biba-esque dresses in navy, printed with daisies. And designer Consuelo Castiglione’s scenic drive pressed on through fields of tiny Marimekko poppies, which were scattered across the border of a skirt, and on past the shadow-print fluffy dandelions.
Though fall isn’t the gorgeous collection its predecessor was, Castiglione packed in plenty of looks that will give those quirky, sweethearted girls everywhere one more reason to pay homage at Marni’s altar.

Pucci: Expectations were high for Julio Espada, who in his varied career, has been somewhat of an underground cult figure for fashionistas. He toyed with his own collection in the Seventies and early Eighties, and has collaborated over the years with Marc Jacobs, who, incidentally, was instrumental in Espada’s appointment. But pre-show hype can be a dangerous thing, and poor Espada fell victim to it at his premier show for Pucci Monday morning. While the clothes were perfectly lovely — such terms as simple, elegant and chic come to mind — they lacked the creative spark his audience, especially those who remember his early collections, were hoping for.
In this first foray, he kept things simple. There were the all those signature Pucci prints, this time in fiery reds or rich blues, workedinto a series of dresses Espada dug out of the archives: a mini shirtdress, a Sixties shift, a billowy one belted low on the hips. Sixties icon Jackie Kennedy, also made an appearance in pretty ladylike suits or princess coats in double-faced cashmere banded at the hem with the familiar Pucci swirl.
Espada has a difficult task at this established, very specific fashion house: to give it a contemporary spin and an identity that goes beyond flash-in-the-pan fads. He’s got the talent and the experience to do it. Just give him another season or two to make it happen.

New York Industrie: An ode to rockabilly — that’s how Kostas Murkudis described his first collection for New York Industrie before the show. Well, he didn’t mean some rootin’ tootin’ retro girl of either the pin-up or bobbysoxer type. Murkudis’s Western wear touches were so subtle — leather trim around a jacket’s pocket or leather patches set into the shoulders of a black cashmere coat — that most people probably missed them. What couldn’t have escaped their notice, however, were his well-cut shirts, black leather priest’s coat or clever smoking dressed down in denim. And there’s plenty more where that came from back in the showroom, as they say. If the promise of simple, cool clothes in every color is not enough to lure you, it’s probably worth the trip just to take a peek at the designer’s double-dyed corduroy that changes color as it’s stretched and distressed. Murkudis came into this season late in the game, but he’s off to a solid start.