The ski lift is giving Milan its big fashion lift for fall in a style slalom that begins and ends in luxury.
While the shapes come from the mountains, the fabrics are from another elevation--somewhere just this side of fashion heaven.
Ski pants, for example, come in everything from fur to lace. Shearling parkas are studded with rhinestones. Sweaters are ribbed in fur. Mufflers come in gold lame. And the St. Bernard's barrel gets translated into a bandolier of red fox.
Gianni Versace's idea of a ski parka begins in black velvet lined in fur and ends in black leather collared in black bugle beads. His black velvet ski pants have rhinestone-dotted legs, and his black lace ski pants are totally see-through. His black cashmere ski sweaters have sequinned lace yokes. And his one-piece downhill racer's jumpsuit gets its own gold lame muffler. You could say that Versace has iced the slopes with a red hot collection that out-St. Moritzes St. Moritz.
Mariucca Mandelli of Krizia says the Arctic cold inspired her fur and satin anoraks and her ribbed fur sweaters. And, like Versace, she lifts the slopes to new fashion highs with fox-lined leather parkas, save-the-skier bandoliers made of red fox and ski sweaters knitted with this season's animal pet--Mr. Fox himself.
Mario Valentino's salute to the slopes includes big anoraks made of shearling worn fur side out. One knockout in Air Force blue is won over an Air Force blue leather jacket and Air Force blue suede ski pants. And in an even more luxurious vein, there are jewel-flecked hooded parkas that reverse from Persian lamb to leather.
Now here comes the snow job: None of these ski things is skiworthy. They're all meant to be worn to the office, the cocktail party, the theater, the dance floor--almost anywhere but the snow trails.
The most essential ingredient in all this schuss stuff for the super sport is the ski pant. This narrow pant, with or without stirrups, is definitely the fashion pant of the season to date, and it looks best with the big top--and big parka, the big sweater, the big tunic or the big fur shirt. It's the same silhouette that will soon fill summer sportswear racks by way of big linen shirts over skinny cotton knit tights but it's now been translated into fabrics and furs so incredibly luxurious that prices are up about 15% over last fall. And last fall was already a record high, with Milanese sweaters selling for as much as $1,400 and blouses going for $1,200.
Life After the Slopes
For those who can't quite see themselves as snow bunnies, there is fashion life after the slopes.
Gianfranco Ferre's super sophisticated collection is teaming with sleek, long-jacketed suits and jumpsuits with built-in, welt-seamed curves. A designer known for his hip-focused fit, Ferre introduces a new proportion for all based on the high-rise skirt or high-rise pant that begins just under the bustline and is shown with tuck-in blouses or sweaters.
Credit Ferre with the most inventive daytime dress of the season--a purple wool crepe design that's a chemise in front and a loose, hip-grazing tunic in back, and it's worn with black stockings and black patent leather heels. As if to reenforce the long, lean look of the collection, Ferre closed it with a series of ankle-length black knit sweater dresses with bold necklaces that segue around the throat and shoulders like jeweled embroidery. Each dress is a jewel in itself.
For those who've followed the Missoni success story, there's a new chapter ahead--this one a thriller. In a collection teaming with ideas in both fabric and shape, the Missonis prove once more that they are fashion's most gifted knitwear team. Their latest knits are called Lana Cotta (cooked wool), and they are achieved by a secret felting process that involves boiling. The result is a new knitted fabric that is at once strong and light--strong enough to make this the shapeliest Missoni collection on record.
A Russian Feeling
While there is no one overall theme, there are many flared peplum jackets with defined waistlines and wide dirndl skirts that reach almost to the floor. There's a Russian feeling to the collection--part peasant, part Czarist. Remember the floor-sweeping Dr. Zhivago coats of later '60s memory? The Missonis bring back the length in amazing chenilles and velvets that look like Axminister carpets. They are wall-to-wall fabulous. While most of the collection is long, there are some knee-hovering lengths and even a few sequinned minis in the lineup.
Like the Missonis, most Milanese designers seem to be going out of their way to offer many lengths, many looks. You'll see high-heeled, knee-high boots at Versace, as well as flats. You'll see rather widelegged pants at Ferre as well as some in a more narrow mood. And in a season filled with contradictions you'll see this city's sports-wear-minded designers producing more evening clothes than ever before in history.
If lace parkas come, can down-filled ball gowns be far behind? Stay tuned.