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SPRING COLLECTIONS / MILAN : What Could Top Grunge? A Punk Revival

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TIMES FASHION EDITOR

Pushed to its safety-pin-pointed limit, one strong theme pricks Italian fashion for spring. And it can be described in a word-- punk.

Not everyone remembers the punk look from last time around. That was about 10 years ago, after all. Ripped, shredded, burned full of holes and fastened back together with diaper pins, it gave us clothing ground down to raw edges.

Gianni Versace yanked punk out of the past on Sunday, during a week of spring ’94 fashion previews here. Micro-minis and ankle-length dresses were slashed and safety-pinned in strategic places. But unlike the prototype, Versace’s punk had hints of whimsy and humor. Electric-blue evening dresses glimmered with oversize gold pins and tiny charms. Motorcycle jackets had holes artfully embroidered around the rims.

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From a designer’s perspective, punk once again relates to our times--if not to our tastes. It seems a logical next step after the “deconstructed” creations of the past few seasons, in which jacket lapels, shirt tails and even skirt backs were torn away in a reaction against ‘80s glibness and glitz. While the original punk mirrored financial depression in London, its progeny reflects the violence that now straps American cities.

Raw edges finished some looks in the Dolce & Gabbana collection too. For these designers, who never seem to tire of lingerie-inspired evening wear, dresses resembled nightgowns made from tiers of shredded chiffon. In a newer direction, butter-suede cardigans had zigzag edges suggesting natural skins. They went over long knit skirts for a snuggly sophistication.

Ankle socks worn with spa sandals, the sort you slip on after a shower, completed this and other outfits in the spring collections. The look could be the best cheap-chic pick-me-up of the season.

Pantsuits with vests that serve as blouses dotted this and other shows as a theme for office wear. Skirt lengths settled just above the knee, or the ankle, always with flared hems.

Another type of primitive rippled through the previews--one with castaways and Robinson Crusoe in mind. Byblos unveiled sarongs, off-the-shoulder tops and jackets that laced up the back to give them their shape, worn by models in frayed, straw hats.

Giorgio Armani thought of uninhabited islands when he created long, gauze skirts held up with strips of leather for his Emporio Armani line. Exotic cultures called from the designer’s Ikat-print jackets in pale yellow and blue, and Indonesian-print vests worn with sea-flower jewelry, in one of the season’s prettiest collections.

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In his signature line, Armani lifted the exotic, ethnic theme to higher ground. While punk’s idea is to mirror the worst of modern society, Armani’s exploration of ethnic dress seems to be a reaction against it, a search for simpler living.

Navy silk gazar evening tunics flowed to the ankles over narrow pants. Some had navy beaded yokes. Armani applied the same idea to a number of day and evening looks.

Pantsuits had jackets as supple and subtly structured as long cardigan sweaters. One burlap linen suit with a Nehru-like jacket conjured treks through steamy India. Satchel purses of crochet or macrame were worn backward over suits, to suggest backpacks. Gauze-like ankle-length skirts and dresses were as strong an option for day as pants.

The Gianfranco Ferre show was a real winner, like so many in the past. Accessories made all the difference. Ten-gallon fedoras over short A-line dresses were a study in contrasts. Memorable, too, were the navy swimsuits in sheer and opaque fabric mixes. One model wore hers with a diver’s knife strapped to her calf. Classic Ferre basics such as ivory-colored leather jeans and a big sheer white blouse were an especially welcome sight this season.

Jil Sander showed her collections in Milan to an ever-growing crowd of admirers. (The German designer’s new boutique will open at the Los Angeles I. Magnin next month, and her spring line will arrive soon after.) Along with narrow pantsuits cut from fluid navy glen plaid or nubby ivory silk, Sander made a very convincing case for ankle-length skirts. Hers were narrow and subtly A-line, in opaque navy or white, with seldom as much as a button for decoration. Worn with loafers or oxfords and no socks, the look was clean, cool and young.

Looking back at this week in years ahead, one memory will stand apart. Franco Moschino celebrated his 10th anniversary in fashion with a runway show and museum exhibit, “X Years of Kaos!,” that left audiences misty-eyed.

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Throughout the ‘80s, Moschino took potshots at conspicuous consumption, and he did it with irresistible humor. This season’s collection consists largely of revivals from past lines, many of them included in the museum exhibit. A red jacket was embroidered in gold letters around the middle: “Waist of Money.” A black evening dress was appliqued in gold: “Holy Chic.” Advertising posters asked the ultimate question, “Ready to Where?”

The runway show ended with a stage filled by children in the arms of men and women, all dressed in angelic white, with red AIDS awareness ribbons. They waved goodby to the audience through a veil of clouds.

In an interview later, Moschino--whose office has denied persistent industry rumors that he is in poor health--described his plans to establish a center for children suffering from immune deficiencies. He explained that he will design clown suits for the doctors to wear and paint the walls to resemble blue skies.

“In the past 10 years I have done so much, with such intensity,” he said. “Now I will do other things with the same intensity.”

Moschino also said he will support the environmental movement and scientific research with donations. “If my business gives me money to help those I can, I will continue to do collections.”

Next: The Paris collections of Issey Miyake, Comme des Garcons and Christian Lacroix.

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