STATE OF PLAY

MILAN — This isn’t your usual high-wattage fashion season, and consumer spending may be in free-fall, but designers here are still displaying some bravado. Some pack their runways with breezy chiffon dresses, all tiered, ruched and laced, others stick to a tried-and-true formula of updated classics, while still others champion hard-glam rocker sizzle.
At Moschino Cheap and Chic, the design team let their imaginations run free, and no theme was too wacky or reference too far-flung. Tiered gypsy skirts followed a ballerina group; cocktail dresses worn with pearls preceded cargo pants and flight jackets. But it was an oversized T-shirt dress with “Peace” printed across the front that won a round of applause.
Lawrence Steele’s theme-driven fashion vision was in the Fifties this season, with a fashion rerun through Laverne and Shirley’s closet. Out came a smattering of dresses, from bouncy silks in brash prints to apron and shirtwaist versions in shiny fabrics, some with cardigans tossed over the shoulders. To prove the sitcom stars were his inspiration, Steele embroidered the letters LS — ironically, his initials, too — with paillettes on cardigans and tank tops, while a banana yellow poodle glowed on a black crewneck.
By now one expects the expected at Alessandro Dell’Acqua. There was the usual flurry of sex kittens in head-turning itty-bitty looks, embroidered tissue-thin silks and sky-high strappy sandals. But he took an ethnic detour with paillette-sprinkled caftan necklines, beaded macrame borders or insets and thick Moroccan-looking leather belts with whip stitching.
Two years ago, Trend Les Copains tapped Antonio Marras to forge a designer identity for the brand, but so far that goal has yet to be realized. For spring, he threw in everything but the kitchen sink in a collection that hopped from schoolgirl garb — berets, white shirts, ties et al — to an artsy take on classics with ruffle-front jackets, jumpsuits and knickers. Marras does have a talent for giving tailored looks in traditional fabrics a modern spin, so why didn’t he use those ideas to enhance the sweet preppy attitude that built the company’s solid reputation?
At the presentation of his debut fashion collection, Stephen Fairchild came straight to the point. “I’m not pretending to be the new rising star. I design price-conscious clothes for real women because luxury shouldn’t be too costly,” he said. Fairchild focused on versatile pieces that can be mixed or matched au plaisir. A tank dress, appliqued with shells, slips just as easily over a pair of tight jeans as over drawstring khakis, while the perfect black halter dress or dapper beige car coat make a good balance for wacky accessories. Fairchild said this first season’s distribution would focus on Italy alone, where he is in 60 doors. Once his base is established, he will set his sights on the U.S. It was back to the heyday of Studio 54 at New York Industrie, and the models looked like they were headed straight for the dance floor. Out they came with a shake-shake-shake in versions of John Travolta’s famous white suit with a fitted vest and flared legs, sharing the runway with similar silhouettes in pinstripes, polkadots and gold-on-white brocades. This mostly-tailored collection, however, never went over-the-top, and will no doubt appeal to more than just the mirror-ball crowd.