MILAN’S BABES: TOUGH OR TENDER
AT FENDI, KARL LAGERFELD’S GIRLS TOLD A GRIM FAIRYTALE, WHILE AT MISSONI, ANGELA MISSONI EXPLORED THE AQUARIAN AGE. MARC AUDIBET GAVE SALVATORE FERRAGAMO A DOSE OF FLOU, AND MIUCCIA PRADA TOOK TO THE HILLS WITH FRILLS FOR MIU MIU.

Fendi: We all know that Karl Lagerfeld is a man of many, often conflicting moods. “People play with war as long as war is not at their door,” he responded last week when asked about violent themes in fashion in the wake of the September 11 attacks. But on Tuesday, Lagerfeld showed a collection that worked an ironfist velvet-glove motif, “sort of a romantic version of ‘Mad Max,”‘ he said after the show. You remember Max — that post-Armageddon avenger who seeks bloody justice in a world already destroyed. But who said anything about war?
Lagerfeld turned Max into a Tough-Chic glamour-puss, and she is one complicated girl, thud to her step, unibrow on her forehead, and a penchant for ruffles softening her Tough-Chic attitude. She made for an odd heroine in a provocative show. And quite frankly, while not offensive, it was a downer; at this point, who wants to wax imaginative about life after nuclear disaster? On the other hand, Lagerfeld deserves credit for tackling the taboo of violence, even if in grim fairy-tale mode, daring to allow fashion thoughts that are not all sugar plums and sweet dreams. And wouldn’t you know, dark shadows and all, the clothes looked beautiful.
Lagerfeld has played with sheer and flowy before at Fendi, but here, he kept the palette dour and autumnal, working in earthy browns, russets and wines. There were loose dresses, little jackets and blouses, bed jackets with flounced sleeves. Sure, frills can get saccharine, but not when distressed, shredded and layered with pants and heavier pieces to keep the girly thing at bay. Fab Fendi suedes and leathers, warrior babes? To accessorize, Lagerfeld sent out the occasional leather breastplate and stiletto gladiator sandals, their straps reaching to the knees. And he gave new meaning to the term flower power, with subversively subdued floral prints and big, sturdy leather blossoms on cowboy boots and belts.
It was the kind of visual overload of which Lagerfeld is a master, this time, delivered through a dark lens; with less aggressive styling, these clothes could easily have gone gentle. But then, part of Lagerfeld’s genius lies in demanding that we question the way we look at things.

Missoni: What was it that turned folk rock to glam and soul to funk? Nothing more — or less — than a shot of sex appeal. Angela Missoni’s spring vibe came courtesy of the Aquarian Age with a look that was a little decadent and as bold as butterflies. A bright billowing caftan was audacious enough for Sharon Stone’s Vegas vixen in “Casino,” as were silky baby-doll dresses in swirling psychedelic prints cut with dramatic winged sleeves. For Pam Grier’s Foxy Brown: slinky halter tops, striped pants in brown and orange with a burlap nap and macrame belts.
But don’t think for a minute that Missoni skimped on the knits. She let the sun shine in with a few patchwork pieces, splicing together some of the family’s best and brightest knit works. This season, instead of going through contortions to force the house’s snappy signature patterns to do the impossible — a mistake Missoni has made in the past
— she let their merry zigs and zags speak for themselves.

Salvatore Ferragamo: Just like that, Marc Audibet turned it all around. No more stumbling. His project of rebuilding Salvatore Ferragamo’s ready-to-wear is well under way. This season, he paired white cropped jackets with a simple A-line skirt or pair of skinny pants. Trenchcoats reflected a dedication to the classics, while the scores of crisp cotton and voile dresses, in cream, pale green or lavender, were pure honey. The latter had a simple charm created with such details as a gently gathered bodice, satin lingerie straps, tone-on-tone embroidery or a modest flounce here and there. In longer lengths, the look harkened back to those muslin Empire numbers the Ingres set wore so well, but when cut to billow, they played to one of the season’s biggest trends — the nightie look. Come evening, however, any innocence was all but lost with a fleet of full flou black chiffon gowns — worn off the shoulder or wrapped with satin ribbons — that purred boudoir.

Miu Miu: Yodel-lay, yodel-lay, yodel-lay, hee-hoo! For those who missed her show, that’s the sound of a Miu Miu girl high on a hill yodeling back to the lonely goatherd. Miuccia Prada set out this season with enough swishing folkloric skirts bordered with bric-a-brac to outfit Maria, Liesl, Louisa, Brigitta, Marta, Gretl and all their doe-eyed friends. And did those skirts swish, all puffed out like filo by the layers underneath and paired with belted blazers, calico shirts or paper-thin knits of the perfectly dull and wonderful kind she does so well. The effect was wacky and wonderful. Just the thing if you are 16, going on 17, as many of her models were. But how it might look on an older girl like Maria is another question.
When Prada left the mountains, it was for the prairie, where she took up with grandma instead of the young’uns. Granny dresses of the sort Laurie Partridge would find groovy came puff-sleeved and tied around back with a bow, while single-ruffled prairie skirts were worn floor length. And Prada’s festival of flounces didn’t end there. Some of her freshest looks included a washed-out paisley sundress and blouses that made their Victorian heritage plain. Of course, the collection wasn’t entirely guileless. What gave it a little bit of cheek were Prada’s “Pretty Baby” platform heels and a couple of eyelet miniskirts cut shorter than Do Re Mi.

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