MILAN: THE PACE QUICKENS
BEYOND MORE THAN A FEW EIGHTIES REFERENCES, THERE WAS LOTS OF OTHER NEWS IN THIS FASHION CAPITAL, FROM COOL COATS AND SWEATERS AT JIL SANDER TO MARIUCCIA MANDELLI’S SOFT, FLOATING DRESSES AT KRIZIA.

Jil Sander: Not bad. But at Jil Sander, not bad just isn’t good enough. Sander the woman set the bar sky high for herself and her company, so the design team she left behind had a tough task in its first outing of the post-Sander era. Both the emotion of Jil’s absence and the practical matters of toiling on a ship with no captain couldn’t have been easy. In fairness, this was an interim collection, even if the current team stays in place. This was a “let’s get this one over with without any major mistakes and then figure out what to do next” effort, and it felt just that way.
One also felt the strength of Patrizio Bertelli’s opinions at work. Some time ago, he proclaimed that “a brand that’s as strong as Jil Sander doesn’t need to rely on the name of a designer,” and on Tuesday, he displayed similar chutzpah with his seating plan: The man who talks so vociferously about controlling his distribution sat the retail big shots — from Saks, Barneys, Bergdorf’s and Neiman’s — in the second row.
From there, they saw a collection in flux, if not turmoil. Clearly the design team wanted to keep close to Sander’s precepts and chose to focus on the austerity and cleanliness of her vision. The problem is, they messed it up. They added in all kinds of tricks — bunched plackets, blousy backs, Gigli-esque extra-long sleeves, waistbands that stood away from the body. Surely, these were attempts to replicate what Sander did so magnificently over the years — take simple clothes and tweak them, ever so subtly, for distinction. But, she also represented the ultimate in luxury, and these clothes looked anything but luxurious, perhaps because of the too-rumpled flourishes.
Yet, some good things stood out — the coats, some shirts, sweaters and relaxed pants — and, as Eighties mania becomes exhausting, seeing something that referenced Sander’s cool grace, however imperfectly, offered relief. But this team has a long way to go, if it is to maintain the current luster of the Jil Sander name. Who knows? It may get there. Then again, perhaps Bertelli is wrong. Maybe designer brands that are strong are strong because they have strong designers.

Krizia: Mariuccia Mandelli opened her show on a quiet note — literally. No music played as a model with blown-out crimped hair, dressed in a sober black jacket over wide pants, took to the runway. A Kawakubo moment? A collection of artsy introspection?
Luckily, it proved to be only a stab at a high-drama opener, because what followed was quite classic — in a Seventies sportswear, Butch-Chic kind of way. Mandelli played to the season’s volume trend with lots of wide-cuffed pants, jackets and tunics; much of it looked strong, although sometimes too much fabric made for sloppy fare.
The designer, who in other seasons has often embraced an overtly aggressive attitude, showed her gentler side this time. And it was particularly effective in airy, delicate knits as well as pastel dresses that floated about in a pretty, witchy way. On the other hand, her wild panther sweaters were just too untamed for the civilized woman.

Moschino: Imagine the Moschino show experience as a theme park. You get your seasonal admission — gold hoop earrings this time — queue up with other ticket holders, and then embark on a journey filled with the unexpected, the witty and sometimes the absolutely insane. This season’s ride zoomed south — way south — to the land of Zorro and senoritas. Frills, thrills — they were all there, decorating everything from bustiers and capri pants to floral-embroidered slip dresses and bikinis. But just to keep things hyper-lively, and definitely unexpected, Moschino threw in some unusual suspects, with a little boudoir here, a little cowboy there. Fringed suede duster coats and black lacy slips were fetching, especially when tossed between a Frida Kahlo and a bullfighter. There was the usual Moschino humor, too: matador pants, bolero jackets and for his finale, a flamenco paper dress made out of Hola magazine tearsheets. Cha! Cha! Cha!

Salvatore Ferragamo: To take the fashion crowd out to the boondocks first thing in the morning and then have them scramble madly for seats — well, you better be able to deliver the goods. Marc Audibet’s second collection for Ferragamo stumbled in that process. There was plenty of the luxurious sportswear the company has built its business on, namely silk jersey blouses, which were tucked into circle skirts, sexy strapless jersey dresses, bloused on the hips with low-slung leather belts and a handful of beautiful tailored suits that fit perfectly into a season packed with Eighties power suits.
But when real life strayed into fantasy, things got wild. Wildly bizarre, in fact, with Audibet’s design ideas overwhelming any sense one might have of this as a fashion house with a long, successful history of creating luxury classics. Take, for example, an A-line leather poncho — gathered at the shoulder but then left unfastened and flapping, it exposed virtually every part of the body. Or even some of the artsier shapes that opened the show: awkward caftan dresses, both long and short, that twisted on the body and stood stiffly in a balloon shape. Not very flattering, even for the toned and beautiful.

Cividini: Looking for clean, crisp sportswear? Then head on over to Cividini, where for spring, Piero and Miriam Cividini have put together a collection of classic pieces that anyone would want to wear. Simple navy looked great for strapless bias-cut dresses, V-neck leather dresses and an Eighties-style jumpsuit. And if that’s too basic, the pair have also whipped up some cool numbers, especially the striped georgette ruffle dress, halter tops and even a boy-cut bikini. While most of the clothes were appealing, the psychedelic sequin patterns, bottle green crinkle pieces and patent items looked out of sync.

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