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Milan Collections, a Happy Ending : Missonis and Armani Among the Best of the Season

The showing of the spring/summer collections ended here Thursday with some fashion surprises: the happiest being the comeback of the Missonis with one of their best collections in seasons, and from Giorgio Armani, the strongest statement he has ever done for evening.

As Ellin Saltzman, senior vice president and fashion director of Saks Fifth Avenue, commented: “It’s been a very interesting season with a total shift from structured day clothes to soft evening wear. But do stores really come to Milan for evening clothes? I was surprised by the amount of long skirts and the lack of good executive wear-to-work clothes that the Italians used to do so well.”

Ankle-Length Skirts

Everyone expected prices to be high, which they are, but these are increases that stores call “manageable.” More worrisome is the insistence on ankle-length skirts when the streets of Milan are filled with women wearing mid-thigh ones and the plethora of high-waisted, wide-leg pants, a silhouette that dominated almost every major collection to the exclusion of viable alternatives. But back to the Missonis, who founded their business 35 years ago and in many ways are among the pioneers of Milanese ready-to-wear.

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For the past few seasons, the Missonis tried to adapt their special talents to currents in fashion that just didn’t work with what they do best. For spring/summer, they are back in stride with patterned sweaters, coats and jackets over solid color pants, fresh looking above-the-knee skirts or contrast pattern separates in pastel kilim rug colors, sun-bleached pastels or even the crisp contrast of navy and white. Everything looked easy and effortless in the well-paced show, with some of the standouts being the abstract argyle patterns, the herringbone knits in ivory rayon boucle, the striped twin sets in navy and white with easy-but-not-sloppily-so pants, and for evening, the dark ground mosaic pattern V-neck cardigans bordered with a wide band of flowers over floor-length black matte jersey skirts.

The show won Rosita and Tai Missoni the week’s only standing ovation.

Equally individualistic was Giorgio Armani’s presentation, where his subtle use of color by day almost made color disappear in hints of beige, smoke, ivory and cream. Soft fabrics, such as washed silk and linen blends, chiffon and georgette, toned down the non-colors even more for short-jacketed one-button suits on rounded-hip linen skirts that just covered the knees or drooped to the ankles, where they were caught in with a banded hem then slit up the back to mid-knee.

Models Have a Sleekness

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Armani’s models usually have a unique sleekness with hair either Brylcreamed back like a young boy’s or pulled into a low-knotted chignon. This time around, their hair had been set in spring-ended pin curls with the pins left in--a casual effect Armani wanted, to detract from the seriousness of the clothes.

For several seasons now, his suit jackets have been getting snugger and smaller, always paired with a mismatched fabric or patterned skirt. For spring, he returns to a longer, looser mannish jacket worn with matching skirts or pants, his version of the paratrooper pant caught in loosely at the ankle.

After the show, it was the evening segment everyone was talking about, whether it was the cornflower silk blouson or ombre chiffon trousers or the simplicity of the black tuxedo jackets on long white crepe skirts, or the gold guipure lace T-shirt worn on a black georgette floor-length skirt with a paper bag waist.

There were rich embroideries and prints in Indian Tree crewel work motifs, long wisps of chiffon that bared the shoulders and arms, and, for the finale, exotic black and white appliques on a bell-skirted dress, and a jacket with a slim black skirt, the pattern inspired, Armani said, by the pre-World War I couturier Paul Poiret.

Drop Earrings

The Armani accessories were ethnic-looking drop earrings, necklaces with the same folkloric feeling, flat suede shoes, mile-long chiffon scarfs trailed over everything, and pale stockings, solid or printed in the Indian Tree pattern.

More exotica on the runways at Callaghan, which is designed by Romeo Gigli. To Gigli goes the credit for the ethnic jewelry, the rich hippie fabrics and wispy hairdos that are now all over Milan, looks he started in his first collection for Callaghan four seasons ago. For spring, the exotica here sometimes got out of hand and became almost costume-y, but when it worked, it had that delicate charm and magic peculiar to Gigli.

Among his best looks were the coat-length gauze cardigans deeply bordered in gold brocade over navel-revealing narrow pants in a Burgundy Fortuny brocade, or the oversize striped cotton shirts layered with shrunken beaded vests on side-wrap crunchy lace sarongs in muted vegetable-dye colors.

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Add a ribbon-wrapped turban, tuck a rose behind one ear, drape the midriff with several beaded belts, screw on dangling filigree earrings and throw on a necklace or two for the total look.

‘Sell Like Crazy’

Genny, designed by Gianni Versace, is yet another facet of Milanese fashion: Ladies Who Lunch clothes, which, as Saltzman said: “sell like crazy.”

Versace covered all the high points of the spring season in this collection: the high-waisted, wide-leg pants, the mixes of sheer with crisper fabrics, the vests under suit jackets, the beautiful Far Eastern-inspired embroideries for evening--for this collection, done with a restrained hand for the Genny Lady.


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