MILAN (AP) — A transition is underway in the Milan fashion scene, with new designers taking over traditional brands and younger creatives breaking out with their own labels.
The changes are invigorating the runways with fresh ideas as the fashion world posts the perennial question: What will be remembered of this era's fashion in decades to come?
Dolce & Gabbana, Marni, Ferragamo, Stella Jean and Arthur Arbesser were among those with shows on Sunday.
FAMILY TIES AT DOLCE & GABBANA
American actors Pamela Anderson and Jamie Foxx hobnobbed in the front-row of the Dolce & Gabbana show, invited not only for their fame and fashion-sense, but as proud parents.
Anderson's son Dylan Lee and Foxx's daughter Corrine were among more than 100 "influencers" — be they budding actors, models, musicians, dancers, socialites, social media mavens or just plain cool — who walked the runway for designers Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana.
And with one deft move, plus plenty of air miles, the designers tapped into two of their favorite themes: family and Millennials.
Dylan Lee looked dapper in a pink suit, while actor Andy Garcia's daughters — Dominik, Daniella and Alessandra — wore black lace or floral print dresses.
Model Amanda Harwey and her husband, Jason Harwey, appeared with their two children, Noah and Rose, dressed in matching kitten prints; his a robe, hers a dress under a leopard print coat, and the kids in pajamas.
Thai model and actress Praya Lundberg donned a dark double-breasted coat superimposed with a fur relief of a leopard's head and spots.
"It is one of the key pieces. It's got a beautiful fur detail, it is gorgeous," Lundberg said after the show. "I think Dolce is so creative. It is always ahead of its time and very innovative and very brave."
The show was a testament to the diversity of the brand's reach across generations and geographies, as well as its ability to dress all shapes and sizes for any occasion.
The looks included everything from tuxedos with sequined outer-space icons to whimsical animal print jackets with an animal face hood and matching backpack and matching slippers.
The whole show had the feeling of a big family gathering, with some of the amateur models casting knowing grins at loved ones as they walked the runway to a live performance by pop star Austin Mahone.
The genuineness of the event came through in a few awkward near-collisions on the runway.
COLD WAR NOSTALGIA AT STELLA JEAN
Stella Jean seems to wax nostalgic for the Cold War in her latest collection.
The Haitian-Italian designer stuck to her winning formula of combining Italian tailoring with cultural inspirations. This round, the United States and Russia faced off, with an army jacket standing in for Team USA and the humble head scarf, otherwise known as babushka, for Team Russia.
The reinterpreted military jackets included a long eco-mink and an army green waist coat with medals embroidered into the garment. The scarves were worn wrapped tightly around the head and topped with a woolen cap. Rural Russian scenes were printed on the front of mini-cape dresses cinched across the chest or on the front of a long A-line skirt transformed into a strapless dress.
"Maybe it is more pop," Jean said of the headgear backstage. "It is a representative of a culture but not in a folkloric way," which she said would risk coming off as parody.
"I can put a little irony on it, but not a parody," she said.
Hand-knitting is definitely a trend for the upcoming fall/winter season, an assertion of women's power through creation. Stella Jean included sweaters, some with rural scenes or Russian iconography, knitted by women in quake-struck central Italy.
"It shows the resilience of these women," she said.
FROM SYRIA WITH LOVE
Stella Jean's search for craftsmanship was not deterred by warzones.
The collection included handbags created from inlaid wood backgammon boards made in Damascus and shipped by taxi to Beirut for the journey to Milan and onto the fashion runway.
The bags are the creation of Syrian couture designer Assad Khalaf, whose mother in Damascus made the small backgammon boards for him. Khalaf, 29, left Syria four years ago to study fashion, first in Milan and then Rome, where he completed a master's degree in haute couture.
"It was actually a dream to do. It is the first thing that comes to mind to remember Syria, because wherever you go, you find these boards," he said.
Jean said in her show notes that the goal of the project is to establish business "to disengage the pointless aid-dependent system," and promote connections between Italy and Syria.
She called the bags "the megaphone of a culture that does not want to succumb."
Marni's new creative director, Francesco Risso, is keeping the kooky in the brand with bubble-wrap effects and balloon volumes.
Risso said backstage that his aim is to infuse the brand with "fun and love, and allowing people to really enjoy themselves when they wear these clothes."
In his first womenswear collection as creative director, Risso varied the silhouettes from straight lines to balloon shapes, from simple sheaths to fluffy furs, with less of the architectural construction that defined the brand under founder Consuelo Castiglioni, who stepped down last fall.
The collection was richly textured. Japanese fabrics were treated with heat, creating floral bubbles, while silken nylon had the appearance of bubble wrap. Padded waxed cotton puffer jackets were both feathery light and sculptural.
More conventional silhouettes, like nubby sweaters with straight skirts, were dressed up with colorful furry wraps and shiny black caps with matching fur accents. Sequins covered straight dresses. Wisps of fur peeked out of the top of boots.
Risso titled the collection "Being," short for "the infinite ways of being," and said his work is about freeing women from stereotypes.
"Marni has always been such a passion for me, always. I have been a client for so many years. I am embracing that passion that I have from the beginning," Risso said.
SENSUAL ELEGANCE AT FERRAGAMO
Salvatore Ferragamo's woman for next fall and winter is dramatically framed by raised collars and hoods on outerwear.
Beneath the coats, the silhouette is defined by sheath or slip dresses, stretch pants or high-waist skirts or trousers.
Womenswear creative director Fulvio Rigoni, who made his runway debut at the brand last September, said his focus was on mixing materials and using patchwork techniques explored by the brand's founder.
So a dress combined panels of mixed devore velvet stitched together with a silk and double-bonded leather. Short, even truncated, puffer coats add volume to the slim looks.
"I tried to change the way of standing on the body, the way of creating volumes, never restrictive," he said.
Rigoni said the aesthetic was inspired by short films by French photographer and designer Serge Lutens, and that his aim was to make something "luxurious, comfortable and sensual."
ARTHUR ARBESSER'S ROMANTICISM
Arthur Arbesser drew the fashion crowd to a disused paramilitary police bakery to preview his latest collection with the raw concrete walls and bare fixtures creating an eerie mood.
And yet, the industrial architecture was a fitting backdrop for looks inspired by Wim Wender's 1987 film "Wings of Desire," which contrasts, in the words of the designer, romance with the cruelty of reality.
Arbesser's romantic looks included a rose-gold-colored pleated skirts with a pale silken checked shirt with a ruffled neck, a quilted skirto define tiers, and sheath dresses mixing graphic elements and a shiny pink suit with shorts worn under a transparent skirt. Footwear included sock booties with thick colored rubber soles in collaboration with Vibram.
Colleen Barry on Twitter: https://twitter.com/collbarry