MILAN: MASCULINE-FEMININE

MILAN — The flurry of whispery dresses, dreamy floral prints and dainty accoutrements that filled both the catwalks and the showroom presentations, were a breath of fresh air in a climate of doubt and fear.
At Maska, designer Istvan Francer took the gentle approach. “I wanted to do a feminine collection,” said the Hungarian-born designer, who showed in an old palazzo with stuccoed ceilings and elaborate parquet floors. “I did structure before, so now I wanted to ease it all up.” His customer is a career woman who favors soft, versatile clothes. For spring, she can slip into man-tailored shirts in wool jersey and silk georgette tucked into pants; breezy shirtdresses and rich camel suede skirts, and for evening, bugle-beaded dresses that show just the right amount of skin.
Francer unveiled his new signature collection, too, which also is produced by Fin.Part., and the rarefied atmosphere set off his sophisticated collection with its hand-finished details to perfection. Tailored looks took center stage, and Francer’s standouts were a snug jacket in linen and horsehair blend and a floor-grazing, camel-toned suede redingote. A crisp laser-cut blouse with a triple-tier collar over slim pants mixed modern techniques with classic shapes. The collection already has caught the attention of American retailers, and Bergdorf Goodman has signed it up exclusively for spring.
Luisa Beccaria stuck to what she does best: fairy-tale looks that will make you dream of Prince Charming. The most ethereal came in yards of chiffon, cut in off-the-shoulder peasant blouses, accordion-pleated skirts and dresses with trumpet sleeves. Most of the time, Beccaria stayed with solids, mainly sherbet pastels, but she also tossed in a handful of floral patterns, with the Impressionist-inspired ones being the most eye-catching.
If details are everything, then Maurizio Pecoraro is on the right track. For spring, he showed elaborate embroidered motifs that ranged from gypsy princess to Seventies roller-derby queen on everything from terry cloth to vintage-looking silk and tulle. It may sound dizzying, but Pecoraro kept control with pared-down shapes, best represented by a beautiful drop-waist silk dress with lace cutouts.
You shouldn’t have let Antonio Berardi’s treasure-trove attic set — complete with old trunks, dressers and armoires — fool you. It was hard to discover any real finds here. While Berardi has flirted with several looks in the recent past — including an uncharacteristic attempt at severe, minimal clothes — this season, he returned to his roots, with the fun, whimsical touches that made him so popular. But from the first distressed, lingerie-inspired outfit — a pink cropped jacket with sleeves dangling in back, worn with a bra and shorts — to his finale of glittery, diamante dresses, Berardi didn’t manage to ignite much excitement, save with the odd pantsuit or bias-cut chiffon dress. For Exte, Berardi headed to electric ladyland with a rocking collection a la Jimi Hendrix. Sexy, fierce getups — like a white trench with a studded collar and belt, worn with low-slung pants and hot pink and black patchwork lace stilettos — had steam and edge. Sultry and focused, these girls are more than just groupies waiting at the back door. Dressed in a whitewashed denim pantsuit or a short, black lace dress, Exte’s woman could knock out a guitar riff with the boys or seduce them with her sexy magnetism.
A tailor at heart, Alberto Biani did boy-meets-girl looks once again for spring, softening tailored silhouettes with delicate details. His floral-printed blouses over cuffed pants, sheer ruched skirts under tailored jackets and off-the-shoulder peasant shirts detailed with cufflinks and pinstriped pants were a neat, urbane alternative to the more bucolic peasants that abound.
Victor Victoria held a Twenties revival, complete with cropped jackets, knee-length flounced skirts and wide-brimmed hats. Part whimsical, part proper, these girls work the social scene wearing sorbet-colored skirts and cream knits and, for a modern sportswear touch, top them with navy-and-cream, windowpane check blouson jackets.
When he’s conceiving his new collections, Cesare Fabbri divides his time between sketching and looking for quirky fabrics and materials that will ignite his imagination. This time around, he came up with paper-thin napa etched with an oxford-cloth motif. The material looked particularly appealing in the form of a shrunken men’s shirt or a cropped zip-front jacket, both paired with midcalf cotton pants and high-heeled espadrilles. Fabbri also borrows other ideas from haberdashery, showing fitted jackets in regimental stripes, shirts with oversized cuffs and tuxedo shirts cut into bustiers.
Nicola Del Verme, who’s in his second season, went in three directions this time: soft, tailored and artsy. He alternated a relaxed attitude with soft silhouettes in silk chiffon, often side-draped, buckled or pleated with tailored looks like bias-cut trenchcoats and razor-sharp jackets, made more ladylike with satin ribbons tied around the waist. The long dresses, with appliqued triangular panels in different sizes, instead, had an artsy undercurrent.

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