Super in Milan

MILAN — A global bazaar of 146 fashion talents plucked from six continents displayed their creative spring collections at the 10th edition of the Super talent scouting and research trade fair at The Mall in Milan’s Porta Nuova area, running Sept. 23 to 25. Fair organizer Pitti Immagine and its collaborators increasingly vet prospective exhibitors for original stories, creativity, culture, craft and social content to fertilize the roots of the fashion system.

“This trade show was born of the idea of doing real scouting,” said Raffaello Napoleone, chief executive officer of Pitti Immagine, the Florentine group that organizes the fair. In his mind, that meant not only connecting promising labels to buyers but also showcasing a pool of talent for recruitment. Many Super exhibitors have already been asked to do special lines for notable brands, Napoleone reported.

Turnover in the women’s fashion sector in Italy grew 1.3 percent in 2016 to 12.95 billion euros, marking the third year of consecutive growth, according to figures by the Italian fashion federation Sistema Moda Italia. Italian women’s fashions continue to increase dependence on export growth as the Italian domestic market remains in contraction. In 2016, exports accounted for 61.3 percent of women’s fashion industry turnover compared to 54.3 percent in 2011.

Stark white-beaded and metallic jewelry crafted by Tanzanian Maasai women were displayed under an edgy editorial shoot of the pieces by the fashion photographer Philippe de Gagoue.

“We call it culture to wear,” said Elisabeta Tudor, one of the partners behind Alama, a label that distributes traditional tribal jewelry unadulterated by Western or pop cultural influences, now beginning to wend its way into fashion vanguard distribution channels.

The sparingly colored pieces with beaded crosses and dangling metallic discs are being taken on by Faith Connexion’s showroom and New York store, and by LuisaViaRoma, a leading high-end Italian multibrand boutique, according to Tudor.

Conducted under the aegis of the NGO Africa Amini Alama, the jewelry offers means to empower Maasai women with paid work in a tribal culture dominated by men, Tudor explained. It is also a way to reinforce traditional craft. Alama’s slick online shop retails necklaces and bracelets at roughly 200 euros to 300 euros and earrings at 150 euros to 230 euros.

Soft, voluminous denim pieces echoed the traditional boxy, indigo blue robes and dresses of the Bedouin people at JO!, a Jordanian start-up label by Creative Jordan, a group working under a UN- and EU-supported initiative to cultivate creativity-based economic activity in conflict-ridden zones in the Mediterranean. Distinctive diamond-stitched embroidery decorated casually sophisticated pieces for a range of bodies and global cultures.

“We are using traditional and tribal embroidery,” said Dina Maqdah, one of the designers at JO!, now on its second collection. “So far we have exhibited in London, twice in Milan, Dubai, Vienna, Amman, Paris.” Maqdah said she aims to sell out the 1,300 pieces under production this season, which retail for 60 euros to 180 euros, allowing for a 20 percent markup over cost.

Olivier Bernoux, veteran former designer for LVMH’s label Loewe, launched a capsule collection of fans and clutches to benefit the foundation Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights along with his rock-inspired spring collection. “Fashion is full of provocation. Why not do provocation with good values?” he asked. Capsule collection accessories mirrored Bernoux’s spring collection like a motivational alter ego to a naughty mind. Fans delicately carved to resemble the sunrise unfurled words like “Hope,” “Dream” and “Why Not?” whereas spring collection fans declared, “I am Hot,” “Sex Toy” and “Wild.” Bernoux is on a mission to reintroduce fans as a “weapon of seduction,” designing elegant, exquisitely embroidered and embellished models for modern times and against forces he believes are spoiling fashion. “I was sick of fast fashion killing craft magic,” Bernoux explained. Celebrities such as Rossy de Palma, Pamela Anderson, Penélope Cruz, Monica Bellucci and Pia Getty are responding to his call. So, too, are Kerry and Kathleen Kennedy with Bernoux’s altruistic capsule collection.

Scottish-Italian illustrator and painter, Marco Kinloch, and his Sicilian wife, Antea Alliata, expanded their home-lifestyle label Roi du Lac beyond wallpaper, textiles, and design objects to launch a capsule collection of loungewear, including silk pajamas and a kimono. “The theme is 19th-century Istanbul, from a time when kings were trying to become more European.” Detailed Victorian-era Turkish buildings and notables enlivened Roi du Lac’s china, wallpaper, tablecloth and loungewear.

But geographically speaking, the spotlight blazed conspicuously on Africa. Lagos Fashion Week brought talents from Nigeria, Ghana and the Ivory Coast.

Loza Maléombho took Ivory Coast school uniform fabrics — gingham and khaki — and crossed them with her version of New York urban life. Her tightly tailored garments emphasized playful, peplum-embellished silhouettes, retailing for 200 euros to 740 euros. “My collections are a melting pot of what I have learned,” said the ready-to-wear designer who studied computer animation in Philadelphia and apprenticed with designers fashion in New York. Maléombho said of her inspiration for spring, “It’s really synergies between schoolgirls and schoolboys in modern, contemporary silhouettes.”

Gozel Green, the Nigerian rtw label designed by twin sisters Sylvia Enekwe and Olivia Okoj, showed loosely hung dresses of panels of color-blocked fabric as a feminist statement on Nigeria’s male-dominated society. “The concept of the stitching is about the brokenness of womanhood,” explained Enekwe. “It’s about how you wriggle out and are who you want to be.” Hence the peekaboo slits between panels or “pieces” reunited in a coherent, alluring, strong statement. The sisters said they were finalists at Lagos Fashion Week, recognized by Vogue Talents.

Lagos Fashion Week also brought AAKS luxury raffia bags from Ghana and the Nigerian clothing label Grey.



New Romantic: Delicate flowers, pastoral scenes and vegetation bloomed across prints and hyper-feminine silhouettes. Joana Almagro’s haute couture explored vibrant colors and graphics inspired by the illustrations of Theodore Vero. Silversands aptly named its collection The Garden, while NUR Donatella Lucchi formed letters with flowers, stars and bees.

Earthy Chic: Lebanese jeweler Bookrah presented 22 pieces of handcrafted jewelry in silver, quartz and diamonds, each inspired by the topography of Bourj Hammoud. Cara Caroli showed espadrilles, T-shirts, skirts and dresses with hand-painted homages to southern Italy’s Apulia. Christophe Sauvat’s cruise collection echoed the relaxed, chic spirit of the French marines with prints inspired by Indonesian folklore.

Urban and Rock: Urban culture inspired collections from Freaky Nation’s riff on motocross wear to Little Rotters’ 3-D beasty jewelry. Clutches by Michele Chiocciolini echoed Eighties pop culture icons like Keith Haring and Madonna, while others by Alessandro Enriquez’s parodied Pop Art cartoons.

New Minimal: Alessandra Giannetti’s convertible, minimalist geometries offered unusual, sculptural volumes. Harris Wharf revisited the deconstructed blazer and outerwear in innovative jersey and technical fabrics. Woobag showed leather-lined bags enveloped in soft, flexible, tinted woods, like blue birch and green ash.

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