A sense of history permeated the Uma Wang show, and it wasn’t just the grand setting of Milan’s Palazzo Reale: The fabrics themselves often looked like they came from a different century, with crinkled silks in combinations of earth tones and deep Sienna red that appeared to roll off an ancient loom.
Patterned linens brought to mind the faded tapestries of a ruined palazzo, with motifs that gradually dissolved at the back. A robelike red tapestry coat, for example, was slung over a floor-length pajama-striped silk dress in gray and red. A washed pink silk T-shirt dress and a crinkled top both had a weathered look.
If some of the outfits suggested aristocrats wandering amid the vestiges of their lost splendor, others had a thoroughly modern appeal, in particular the roomy, floor-length silk dresses — one of which came with graphic black vertical stripes, the other in a patchwork of blue pajama stripes.
The show notes alluded to the passage of time, albeit cryptically: “Wind is formless, clouds, impermanent.” Wang herself had a more pragmatic explanation. “The meaning is that fashion is always changing,” she said backstage. “You have to believe in yourself to stay strong.”
The irony is that by reflecting on the impermanence of clothing, the designer ended up making a case for its lasting power — her elegantly sober designs are anything but a one-season wonder.