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Flowers abloom at Milan Fashion Week

While it was trends galore at the fashion weeks in Europe, it is heartening to see designers celebrate inclusivity

Look at any photograph of a global fashion show and depicted is a sea of calm - a silent audience seated on either side while models strut down the runway.

The truth, however, as my recent experience at London and Milan fashion weeks showed, is that nothing about fashion is calm.

Inside each venue, journalists, buyers, clients and A-listers from the fashion and celebrity worlds rub shoulders - exchanging notes and taking selfies - until mere seconds before the shows begin.

Outside in the 8 deg C winter cold, it is even more frantic, with throngs of "street-style" photographers vying to capture that perfect outfit.

In this era of instantaneous messaging, it becomes apparent that what you wear matters just as much whether you are attending a show or waiting outside in the cold because social media now means one has to be committed to fashion 24/7.

But because what we wear in this era of social media speaks so much to who we are as individuals, it seems that fashion has evolved beyond just trendy clothes or bags.

In fact, much of the frivolity I had always associated with luxury fashion was turned on its head during the nine days last week when I was immersed in this world.


Dolce & Gabbana models PHOTOS: ALBERTA FERRETTI, BOTTEGA VENETA,
 DOLCE & GABBANA, FENDI, YANNIS VLAMOS

In an environment of social and political unrest, it was heartening to see so many designers committing to inclusivity with their collections.

I had assumed the extent of fashion shows to be one waif-like model after another, acting as walking hangers for coats and dresses.

Instead, at Dolce & Gabbana, models included real women and men of all ages, sizes, colours and races celebrating inclusivity. The Italian fashion house's mix of models - which included mothers and daughters, social media stars and royalty - allowed it to shine through authentically.

At Versace, the message was uncompromising, with words such as Unity and Courage emblazoned on beanies, scarves and T-shirts.

Angela Missoni, creative director and heir to the Missoni empire, at the end of her show - which featured models wearing pink pussy-cat hats in the brand's signature zigzag knit - said: "In a time of uncertainty, there is a bond between us that can keep us strong and safe, the bond that unites those that respect the human rights of all. Let's show the world that the fashion community is united and fearless."


Gucci's whimsical mixed flower prints PHOTOS: ALBERTA FERRETTI, BOTTEGA VENETA,
 DOLCE & GABBANA, FENDI, YANNIS VLAMOS

It may be too much to ask of fashion to be an effective and consistent platform to voice politics or opinions. After all, it is largely tied to fleeting trends. But despite this, it was still heartening to see designers pushing the envelope to reflect the social issues of our time.

Once upon a time, luxury fashion used to be about skinny models with limp ponytails. But, today, that idea seems to have come from a much less open-minded and liberal time - and for that, we should be thankful.


Flowers

The streets of Milan may have been foggy and grey, but it was florals abloom on the runways - with everyone from Fendi to Alberta Ferretti embracing the vibe.

At Gucci's first combined show, whimsical mixed flower prints (pictured) were the centrepiece of looks from both the men and women's collections - with floral prints from last season's women's collection reworked in the pieces for men.

Meanwhile, keeping true to their feminine and floral signature, the Dolce & Gabbana models not only had roses on their dresses, but fresh blooms tucked into the curls of their dreamy hairdos (pictured).



PHOTOS: ALBERTA FERRETTI, BOTTEGA VENETA,
 DOLCE & GABBANA, FENDI, YANNIS VLAMOS

Reds

Autumn might bring to mind drab and dark monotones, but designers defied convention this season with key pieces in fiery hues - everything from deep blood reds to burnt orange and lemon yellows.

At Bottega Veneta, immaculately tailored vermillion suits and coats gave a pop of colour to an otherwise dark and elegant collection.

Jil Sander, Versace, Fendi (pictured) and Max Mara also followed suit, varying between accessorising with subtle red accents and sending down looks that were head-to-toe crimson.


Exaggerated shoulders

Bottega Veneta's collection paid homage to the strong shoulder looks of the 1940s, with creative director Tomas Maier presenting looks that had immaculately tailored and polished shoulder shapes.


PHOTOS: ALBERTA FERRETTI, BOTTEGA VENETA,
 DOLCE & GABBANA, FENDI, YANNIS VLAMOS

The bold Bottega look (pictured) - complete with rounded hips and nipped waists - created an incredibly effective visual presentation of a woman who is feminine and sharp, with a highly covetable wardrobe to boost.

Also playing with bold shoulders were looks from Jil Sander and Tod's - both houses showcasing exaggerated shoulders on coats and shirts in loosely tailored and slouchy fits.

Though Rodolfo Paglialunga's voluminous Jil Sander collection was not as flattering, given its propensity to bulk up the wearer, his use of exaggerated shoulders worked well for his tailored coats, which looked polished and practical despite their bold shape.


Embroidery

Bling and beading were everywhere on the runway this season, with designers looking to embellishment to make a bold statement.


PHOTOS: ALBERTA FERRETTI, BOTTEGA VENETA,
DOLCE & GABBANA, FENDI, YANNIS VLAMOS

Embracing the trend fully was Gucci's Alessandro Michele, who took it to the next level with colourful patches and diamante for a bold twist to statement gowns, blazers, capes and coats.

Also upping the ante were Prada and Alberta Ferretti. Prada had beaded mohair skirts, tops and cardigans, while Alberta Ferretti channelled Venetian charm with regal animal motif embroidery emblazoned on sweaters and sheer dresses (pictured).

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 02, 2017, with the headline 'United in fashion'. Print Edition | Subscribe