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The legs have it. So does the waist. Those were among the observations of retailers who attended the Milan shows during the past week. WWD asked them to pinpoint the key fashion message, trend, item or outstanding collection of the Italian season — some couldn’t help but wax on a bit. Here’s the short take on Italy for fall 2003:

Robert Burke, vice president and senior fashion director, Bergdorf Goodman: “Gucci and Versace celebrated the feminine body in a modern and sexy way, which was refreshing and inspiring.”Jaqui Lividini, senior vice president of fashion merchandising and communication, Saks Fifth Avenue: “Prada’s silk print blouses mixed with men’s wear fabrics. The proportions were perfect.”

Joan Kaner, senior vice president and fashion director, Neiman Marcus: “All eyes will be on the waist and legs, with the mini for the contemporary customer or the legging and drainpipe pants, worn with cropped jackets or tunics and blouson sweaters for women. Also the pencil skirt and the sheath dress with curved anatomical seaming and detailing to define the woman: sleek, sophisticated and seductive.”

Carla Sozzani, owner of 10 Corso Como, Milan: “The quintessence of Prada is exactly what we want at this moment. It had color and movement.”

Jeffrey Kalinsky, owner, Jeffrey: “It wasn’t all about sex, it wasn’t all about retro beauty, it wasn’t all about fur. I’m reaching out to things that are very passionate. The things that will sell this fall, despite an economic downturn and a possible war, are special things. A yellow peacoat from Marni is as beautiful as any fur I’ve seen.”

Kal Ruttenstein, senior vice president of fashion direction, Bloomingdale’s: “Giorgio Armani took a new stand — and stuck with it. His A-line dresses and skirts were short, sweet and to the point. I thought Tom Ford did an amazing collection at Gucci. The corsetry was unbelievable. I think it was one of his best collections to date.”

Sue Patneaude, vice president of designer apparel, Nordstrom: “My takeaway is what I’m calling a pop-retro movement. A hybrid of the prints of the Sixties, the optimism and spirit of the Seventies and the strong femininity of the Eighties all tied together. There’s a real absence of traditional fall colors.” She said key pieces included a green suede jacket at Marni, a red fringed dress at Dolce & Gabbana and leather trousers at Roberto Cavalli adorned with a painted eagle.

Barbara Atkin, fashion director, Holt Renfrew: “For me, Gucci was a highlight. It was by a far a sexy, hot, fantastic line and we are really happy. It’s something our customers will love.”

Yoko Nomoto, Luxury Brand Division, Onward Kashiyama Co. Ltd.: “The dress is very important this season. We loved all the sexy dresses from Antonio Berardi, Missoni and Marni.”

Linda Dresner, owner, Linda Dresner, New York and Birmingham, Mich.: “The thing that struck us was the very slim sheath dress for late day or evening. Over this goes a smart-looking coat. It’s kind of a vintage look, but it’s very new because we haven’t seen smart-looking dresses like this that are very ladylike, but sexy and glamorous at the same time. We saw them at Luisa Beccaria and also at Alberta Ferretti.”

Anna Garner, fashion director, Henri Bendel: “We saw a return to elegance this season. There was the return of fur and of the long glove. The long glove is the new accessory and part of the reason is the fact that coats have shorter sleeves this season.” Garner named Missoni, Anna Molinari, Gucci and Prada as the collections that embody the new trend.

Hiroshi Teruuchi, general manager, women’s boutique department, Isetan: “I see lots of luxurious fur, not just in real fur coats, but interpreted in a sporty way. We’re ready to see what comes after fur.”

Julie Gilhart, vice president of fashion merchandising, Barneys New York: “Prada was so amazing for me. I thought it really delivered a direction. When you see something so close to perfection, it serves as a standard for everything else.”

Rosy Biffi, owner of the Biffi and Banner boutiques, Milan: “Cigarette-tailored pants and everything luxurious and couture-style, but very young.”

Majed Al-Sabah, owner, Villa Moda, Kuwait: “Milan was about the coat, in every proportion, in every color, in fur, in leather, in tweed, with the focus on the sleeves or the waistline. It’s the item of the season, whether it’s the crocodile coat of Prada, the big white coat with the great collar at Gucci, the mink with colorful swirls at Pucci or the Macintoshes with hardware at Miu Miu.”

Joan Burstein, owner of Browns, London: “It was a very mixed week so it’s difficult to pinpoint one trend. There was really no direction. There was really no freshness or originality.”

Bonnie Brooks, group general manager for merchandise, Dickson Concepts: “The thing I got out of Milan is color, and it all started with the green pigskin coat with three-quarter sleeves at Prada with the shiny, crocodile gloves. That’s a Milan moment. It was a little retro, but a lot looking forward. It made me want to buy a colored coat for the first time in my life.”

Kouhei Yanagisawa, director and executive officer, Hankyu Department Stores Inc., Japan: “The shows that interested us the most were Prada, Giorgio Armani, Moschino, Jil Sander and Just Cavalli because they [were] original. Many of the others were very similar.”

Alla Verber, vice president, Mercury Group, Moscow: “It was very enthusiastic in Milan. I liked very much the Prada collection. And I loved Miu Miu, too. I think they’ve done a wonderful job this season. Gucci was fantastic and I was impressed with Fendi. I think it’s a new beginning for Fendi. And I always like Dolce & Gabbana. They’re like plastic surgeons the way their clothes fit.”

Photos by Giovanni Giannoni, Davide Maestri and Mauricio Miranda

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