Milan Fashion Week: Gucci extends news cycle with Rocket Man

A model wears a creation part of Gucci's women Fall/Winter 2018/19 fashion collection, presented in Milan, Italy, Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

Green has been declared the color of Milan Fashion Week, with the fashion chamber promoting sustainability in the trend-driven world of ready-to-wear.

MILAN — Green has been declared the color of Milan Fashion Week, with the fashion chamber promoting sustainability in the trend-driven world of ready-to-wear.

Eleven awards will be handed out Sunday evening to honor Italian designers, fashion houses and suppliers that "champion community and social justice, traditional craftsmanship, responsible supply chain management and innovation and technological transformation."

Milan Fashion Week previews for womenswear looks for next spring and summer, the highlight of the annual fashion calendar, feature 159 collections. The weeklong fashion celebration kicked off with Gucci, No. 21 and Fausto Puglisi and Angel Chen.

Some highlights from Wednesday's first day of shows:

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GREEN FASHION AWARDS

Livia Firth, the wife of actor Colin Firth, is presiding over the first Green Fashion Awards, fittingly dubbed the Fashion Oscars, later in the week at the La Scala opera house. Asked what consumers can do to promote sustainability in fashion, she candidly said: "Buy less," short for eschew fast-fashion for quality.

Italian Fashion Chamber president Carlo Capasa has been promoting sustainability, urging fashion houses to adopt a code that addresses such issues as water use and green investments.

He acknowledged that the industry in general is "not at all" sustainable at the moment. "That is why we are promoting this," he said.

The uphill image battle was evident at a protest outside the city's main Duomo Cathedral, where animal rights activists demonstrated against the use of animal fur in Milan collections.

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GUCCI'S ROCKET MAN

In a news cycle dominated by U.S. President Donald Trump's threats against North Korea and references to its leader as "Rocket Man," it was certainly prescient that Alessandro Michele not only included a suit fitting of a rocket man for his latest Gucci collection, but dedicated a capsule collection to Elton John, whose hits include the pop song of the same name.

For the rocket man, there were oversized teardrop-shaped shoulders on a pink jumpsuit with yellow stars.

Since his Gucci solo debut in 2015, Michele has maintained a profile as the Milan fashion world's darling and innovator. Marco Bizzarri, the brand's towering CEO, said backstage that "Alessandro has the capacity to evolve while always maintaining a very clear line."

"There is a lot of joy. A lot of energy. That is the best part," he said.

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MICHELE'S 'DISSENTING SPIRIT'

Michele's collections have had in common a growing element of self-consciousness. The designer inserts alienating elements in the same way that the German poet and playwright Bertolt Brecht sought to remind audiences that they were witnessing a stage production and not be swept away by fantasy.

Judging by the crowd in attendance, the philosophy is winning not just fans but adherents. One male fashionista wore a golden mask echoing a previous season's masked alien.

The collection, combining both men's and women's looks, was shown under strobe lights and amid copies of classic statuary including from ancient Egypt, the Mayans and the Greeks. Michele says he wanted to underline that his view of the contemporary derives from myriad stories of the past.

The strobe lights helped narrowed the focus to shapes and sparkles: A disco-inspired handkerchief skirt with a golden and silvery sequin top, and red-white-and-blue satiny jumpsuit that could help power an Evel Knievel-wannabe

It's a collection, as the notes assert, for "the dissenting spirit."

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AUSPICIOUS 21 AT No. 21

Alessandro Dell'Acqua celebrated his 21 years in the fashion business with 21 sheer opening looks for his No. 21 fashion brand.

Dell'Acqua gorgeously combined sheers, feather elements and athletically accented knitwear to project a feminine strength, underlining the mood by closing to the sound of Pat Benatar's "Love is a Battlefield."

The designer characteristically included masculine elements such as the checked patterns on skirts, jackets and slim knee-length trousers. The accessory of choice: An unattached hood for all occasions.

A range of neatly gathered, draped and tiered dresses and skirts accented with sheer sequins or feathery wisps — and done up in a color palette of sheer pinks, nudes and yellows — underlined the prettiness of the collection.

Cropped sweaters lent an edge, as did stronger color combos of light blue, red and black with some leopard accents on sleeker silhouettes, including pencil skirts and bra tops.

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TWO BY TWO FOR ANGEL CHEN

Shanghai-based designer Angel Chen combines Asian storytelling with technical prowess and materials in her latest collection.

It was the 25-year-old designer's second collection for her unisex brand to preview during Milan Fashion Week. This time, it was part of the main lineup with the support of the Italian fashion chamber.

"We want to break boundaries," the designer said backstage.

Inspired by a futuristic Noah's Ark tale, Chen's masterful two-by-two pairings included a women's suit with flared cropped trousers alongside a man's trench — both made out of bespoke Korean technical fabric that gave the impression of a shiny baby pink but on closer inspection was a combination of tones.

The designer referenced a host of animals destined for the ark, including tigers, cranes and insects that appeared in the shape of large backpacks. Many of the looks were sporty — black and red body suits — or technical, as in the diaphanous floor-length anoraks. Prints that featured tigers and crocodiles among other animals represented Asian allegories, Chen said.

"I would say the shape is contemporary, but the meaning is more cultural," she said.

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FEMININITY REFUGE AT PUGLISI

Fausto Puglisi took a nostalgic view of femininity for his latest collection, showing black and white lace and linen combinations that harkened back to another era.

Puglisi's focus was less on seduction and more on an intimate fragility.

"She doesn't need to show off her strength with her look," the designer said. "Because she thinks true strength is to take refuge in a book."

The collection was strong on white with black and floral accents, including long linen dresses with lace inserts, or shorter slip dresses with long, ruffle cuffs. Silky robe dresses finished in trailing fringe, while pale tulle skirts created a feminine silhouette.

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