Even more than what's happening on the runways at these spring-summer fashion collections, Japanese spending power is the focus of conversation.
At Gianfranco Ferre's secondary line, Studio 0001, a Japanese retail group reportedly left an order for $1 million at first cost.
A team from Sonia Rykiel is in town seeking a manufacturer to produce a projected lower-priced Rykiel line. Without one article of clothing to look at, another Japanese group has already bought the line for more than 100 boutiques in Japan.
After the Krizia show Tuesday morning, owner Aldo Pinto accepted congratulations on his collection and told reporters about a licensing deal that will have Krizia in 302 outlets in Japan in five years. "It's a big deal," Pinto said.
On the fashion front, the Milanese are giving the Japanese, not to mention the rest of the world, a lot for their money. As Kal Ruttenstein, Bloomingdale's senior vice president, put it: "Designers here are exploring new ways to get out of the doldrums of the classics."
Gianfranco Ferre had a triumph Tuesday with a strong collection, more body-conscious than anything he has ever done. He continued his familiar big jacket shapes and impeccably tailored trousers.
But newer-looking were the snug little jackets, often shown with bandeau bras and the ankle-cropped, wide-leg pants that are everywhere for next summer.
His best looks were the sportswear pieces, the drawstring long parka and the baseball blouson in an unexpected sheer navy organza over strapless sweaters and those easy pants.
Sporting a Glamorous Look
Ferre's evening wear was stronger than ever. Again, his talent is in a pure sportswear approach, which in his hands, turns into drop-dead glamour.
Among the knockouts here: a beaded tank top in midnight blue over wide-leg, midnight blue crepe trousers with a beaded sweater knotted around the neck. And a lapis satin waiter's jacket piped in black, over those great-looking satin pants.
Pants were definitely the major theme. Skirt lengths were mainly above the knee, with longer ones always in sheer fabrics.
One of the happiest surprises, so far, was the strength of Karl Lagerfeld's Fendi ready-to-wear, which, without furs in a summer season, often looks as if it's in a holding position. Not this time.
Joan Kaner, vice president and fashion director of Macy's Northeast and fashion counselor to I. Magnin and Bullocks Wilshire, called it "a charming collection. It had a spirit and a mood all its own."
The mood was one of naive "Gigi" charm. Shaped-to-the-body jackets were shown with big-collar white shirts and saucy bow ties. The bottom half could be anything from bike shorts with knee socks to full, swinging skirts.
More charm in the tucked, pleated white linen blouses paired with full skirts ruched around the waist; the Byronic oversized white linen shirts with their Lord Byron ties, and the black linen pantsuits with narrow pants shown with bigger-than-cartwheel-size black straw hats.
Leading the cheering section as designer Karl Lagerfeld and Anna Fendi rushed down the runway after the show was Catherine Deneuve in a loden green Saint Laurent suit.
Mariuccia Mandelli was at her best for Krizia with the casual looks she loves and does so well. Her version of the easy trouser, in gabardine or suede, was shown with a bandeau bra and blouson. It had a fresh authority lacking in some suits with long, narrow, droopy-looking skirts.
Laura Biagiotti, just back from the first Italian fashion show in the People's Republic of China, brought a group of Chinese models to show off her summer specials: oversized white linen smock dresses, alone or over trousers, and beautiful big-sleeve linen blouses with cut-work embroidery in white and brilliant colors.