Veronica Etro’s memories of being a coed at Central Saint Martins in London from 1993-97 came out to play for Fall 2019, which started at home with her family’s collection of antique 18th-century paisley shawls and ended with The Clash.

Coming off Etro’s 50th anniversary exhibition at MUDEC last fall, the designer’s thought was to take all that paisley-covered history and mess with it a bit. So there was a new venue for the runway show, the Conservatorio Giuseppe Verdi, Italy’s largest music academy, where the colonnade seating offered an intimate vantage point for seeing the lush fabrics at the heart of the brand.

The collection flowed easily from aristocratic seat to Nineties street, from a dandy’s smoking robe over ruffled  paisley blouse and trim pants to bejeweled Chelsea boots with an edge. An ankle-sweeping paisley wool skirt, complete with gold tassel trim, could have been borrowed from that antique shawl archive — or the drawing room. “It’s all about how you mix things up and wear them, that’s life I guess,” said the designer backstage.

There was an air of the New Romantics in the crisp white men’s wear shirts (worn with brooches at the neck, natch) layered under baroque-looking minidresses, and plenty of prep in a striped rugby with Etro crest tucked into men’s wear check trousers. Oversize patchwork sweaters over swishy long skirts and tough boots were on trend for Nineties-obsessed 2019.

“I wanted everything to feel lived in,” Etro explained of the historicism laced with grunge, also noting that the use of black was new for the pattern-happy brand. Of note? A black taffeta puff-sleeve dress, cinched with a chunky belt, and left open over shorts, and also a super-chic, black lace-and-frills blouse over cigarette pants.

What makes Etro like the Ralph Lauren of Italy is that it offers something for everyone; this season, the show was cast that way, too, with supermodels Farida Khelfa, Alek Wek, Tatjana Patiz and Gemma Ward setting an inclusive tone.

“Everything started from a paisley robe my grandmother used to wear that my grandfather fell in love with,” the designer said, waxing nostalgic about Etro’s origin story. “It was tough then to think of paisley for men’s wear..but then there was Mick Jagger.” London was calling even then.

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