The inextricable bond that once linked Milan to an image of glitzy, brash design has been fading for several seasons. For autumn 07, designers continued to move away from the bling, but instead of building upon spring's ultra-feminine story, there was a much darker aesthetic at work.
At Burberry Prorsum - the brand that put pretty retro styling back on the map - design director Christopher Bailey cast aside last season's oversized gem embellishments and pretty watercolour colour palette. In their place he introduced harder, armour-style metalwork constructed from rivet-like discs in moody swatches of charcoal grey and black. When Bailey changes direction, it is a sure sign that the industry is on the brink of a design reappraisal.
The warrior-princess theme was also seen at Dolce & Gabbana, where models paraded studded leather dresses or delicately woven floor-length gowns decorated with crystals and metal trimmings. Giorgio Armani's collection also referenced this new figure, with patent leather strap details on cocktail dresses and a red carpet gown reminiscent of jewel-encrusted chain mail.
Leather was the dominant fabric of the week, with every style from trench coats to voluminous biker jackets getting the tannery treatment. Alberta Ferretti, a designer traditionally known for her ultra-feminine fancies, showed riveted leather jackets and metallic leather trench coats. Prada also played with the fabric, with its plastic-effect leathers taking a more tongue-in-cheek approach.
Aside from Burberry Prorsum, Brit heritage stablemates Pringle and Daks also took turns on the Milanese catwalks. The Daks luxury line has been trying to find its feet for some time, and with new creative director Giles Deacon in the design seat for autumn 07 it seems finally to be on the right track. The collection mirrored Deacon's own line, with simple silhouettes and luxury detailing at the fore. Pringle, on the other hand, hit its stride by reworking knitwear into wearable designs that mixed masculine and feminine influences.
Of the collections that played to their own tune, Gucci paid homage to 1940s screen sirens, with the va-va-voom provided by Roberto Cavalli, the only designer still doffing his cap to bling. He lavished his glitzy clientele with extra helpings of flashy glamour.
SHOW OF THE WEEK
Designer Christopher Bailey turned to the dark side for autumn 07 with a collection grounded in shades of black, aubergine, army green and slate grey. Markedly different from his light, feminine spring offer, this season's high-collared dresses were embellished with armour-like discs from the waist up. Elsewhere, trench coats came in shiny crocodile leather. Patent leather biker-style jackets had quilted panels and chunky cable knitwear was worked into oversized dresses, while a drawstring parka in tech fabric provided a sportier option.
DOLCE & GABBANA
Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana cracked their design whips to the sound of jangling padlocked belts and metal waist-cinching wasps in a collection championing the rise of a futuristic dominatrix. Dresses featured crunched leather in gold, pewter, bronze and scarlet, or were skin tight with studded warrior detailing, while chain mail-inspired designs gave eveningwear a warrior-like edge. Nestled among the aggressive pieces were more commercial knee-length leather coats, pussy bow blouses and chic parkas.
Donatella Versace kept sway with the season's harder edge with a daywear-heavy collection of trapeze-line coats and body-skimming dresses. Knee-length dresses with cutaway shoulders and geometric seams exaggerated the hips, while cigarette pants and long-line cardigans nodded to 1940s French Resistance in a palette that veered from black, white and metallics through to tomato and azure. The pared-down silhouette was also prevalent on eveningwear, featuring punk-inspired chains, fluttering chiffon and silver lurex sheaths.
With his couture line providing another design outlet, Giorgio Armani trialled a more youthful mainline collection for autumn 07. Although still elegant and chic, a feminine quality came across on silk-skirted prom dresses with contoured strapless bodices, crocodile leather jackets with asymmetric zips and tulip-shaped skirts. A taffeta trench ticked trend boxes, as did a classic-looking jewel-encrusted cocktail dress, reworked with punk-inspired patent leather straps that swept under the empire line.
While Pringle's knitwear heritage remained at the fore, this was designer Clare Waight Keller's first success at showing a comprehensive collection. On the knitwear front, chunky ribbed bubble-hem dresses sat alongside long-length fitted cardigans with textured panelling, funnel-neck coats in a magnified plaid and cropped cable jumpers. Patchwork-style intarsias on layered two-piece top-and-dress designs provided effortless luxury, while organza smock-style dresses stood out with knitted yokes and chunky hems.
Giles Deacon stamped his design personality all over this first outing for British heritage brand Daks - albeit in watered-down forms for a less fashion-forward customer. Luxury fabrics and couture-worthy silhouettes were in abundance. Subtle volume swept seductively over hips, while exaggerated funnel necks enhanced a strict tailoring aesthetic. Luxurious fabric combinations sat rich velvet alongside taffeta ruffles, while demure tone-on-tone detailing put spherical beading, ruff necks and quilting in the limelight.
In her most hard-edged collection yet, Alberta Ferretti swapped her traditionally floaty, feminine styles for sleek coats, cap-sleeved tops and slim-fit flood-length trousers. Landscape-print dresses and belted coats stood out in a parade dominated by graduating smoky grey, dense black and neutral taupe, while riveted leather coats and metallic trenches had a futuristic influence. Ferretti used subtle 1960s silhouettes throughout, and deployed her signature surface texture detailing in swirling ruched panels on dresses.
Miuccia Prada's collection had a twin focus on colour and fabric. While some silhouettes echoed early 1990s minimalism, the palette was fresh, lurching from pitch black and charcoal grey to emerald green, sky blue, dusky pink and toxic orange. Texture and fabric treatments underpinned the collection. Lightweight leather was used on boxy db suiting or long sleeveless gilets; uneven quilting on taffeta skirts and jackets; and vibrant orange shaggy sheepskin on skirts and coats.
King of bling Roberto Cavalli was on top form this season with a predictably eveningwear-heavy collection perfectly suited to his jet-set customers. Trans-seasonal winter-white safari suits had a touch of 1940s glamour, while jodhpurs and boxy blousons reinforced the Out of Africa vibe. For red carpet starlets, slashed cape-sleeve wrap dresses dripped with gold sequins, while fluttering floor-length styles in cobalt blue, pistachio or winter-white silk were draped into whipped cream folds or fell into sunray pleats.