A round-up of everything we saw during the Fall-Winter 2023-24 Milan Fashion Week
Words: Gianmarco Gronchi and Domenico Costantini
With more than 50 live fashion shows, the Womenswear Fall-Winter 2023-24 Milan Fashion Week has been a hectic week, with no time to rest. Once finished, we can look at what went on during this crazy, dazzling seven-days run.
Antonio Marras is now a universe where we proceed by ancient, almost tribal, dyscrasias and impulses. A show that fuses and pays homage to the rhythms of Sardinia and the literature of Grazia Deledda, a native of those lands like the fashion designer, is staged at Circolo Nonostantemarras. The result is a performative act where the male sex regresses to bestial forms. Women, romantic champions of lost rhythms, parade among grotesque presences, in a suspended dimension where the sacred mixes with the profane, and traditions are rethought in the name of a fashion that aims at contemporaneity but does not forget its distinctive features. Antonio Marras now proceeds following rhythms and narratives that are his alone. In the Sardinian forest, among heart-shaped marzipan votive offerings and necklaces cn keys, and padlocks, a timeless vortex is consumed, holding together sweatshirts and t-shirts, with skirts, ruffles, laces, and heels. The winter 2023-24 collection is a succession of patchwork on oversize jackets and skirts, lace mingling with metallic appliqués, and gold embroidery. For Marras, printed leggings can safely coexist with bodices and skirts with trainers, organza sheath dresses with military boots, and fishnet stockings. The time element is essential. Antonio Marras’s fashion does not proceed linearly, but by afterthoughts, direction changes, deviations, and contradictions. For example, feathered hats for men and veils for women return but are combined with suits and dresses that fall apart in the gait of wild bodies. And it is no accident that the fashion show itself arrives and lasts far longer than the canonical fifteen minutes of a regular fashion show. The audience is forced to pay attention, stop, abstract from the frenzy of fashion week, and enter a lost world. Here primal chaos and creative energy reign: a little bit Vivienne, a little bit McQueen, but mostly Antonio Marras. An island of peace where poetry triumphs.
At Marco Rambaldi’s, the cosmogony of inclusivity, a theme the designer has been working on for several seasons, is staged. The audience is seated on a metal structure reminiscent of ziqqurats, while models parade around the base. This creates a degree of separation that becomes a metaphor for what the audience secretly and meanly desires versus what Rambaldi offers. Indeed, the fashion designer imposes a vision without space for intolerance. Everyone is included. Every kind of beauty is welcomed and highlighted by knit suits that twist like a warm embrace. The elitist fashion of dry physiques and heroin chic undoubtedly still exerts a strong appeal, but for Rambaldi, it is a cliché to be forgotten. Nowadays – and hopefully in the future – fashion cannot help but look to a broader and truer audience. Fishnet stockings, corsets, and gathers are but the objective correlative of a democratic fashion idea with a human face. Over everything lingers the heart motif, which returns embroidered jackets and sweatshirts. Because even – and perhaps especially – in the future, there is a need for love.
Alessandro dell’Acqua is good. In fact, very good. This is nothing new, but N21’s winter collection confirms it once again. Alessandro dell’Acqua’s woman is the epitome of 1990s sensuality, but updated to the contemporary. Organza blouses and stockings veil without covering. Lurex skirts reach just below the knee, allowing a glimpse of just enough skin to stimulate the imagination. There is something of Prada’s rigor, but also of Ann Demeulemester’s romanticism, enriched, however, by a personal inspiration that turns the collection into a song of modernity’s obsessions. It is all measured, all elegant, but incredibly seductive. The impression is that of a corporate after-party, libidinous and unrestrained, to be the envy of nineteenth-century boheme. What really makes the difference are the details. Blouses lose their buttons and are fastened with a ribbon down the center, revealing the navel. Coats and jackets, cinched tight to highlight the waist, close at the back and completely reverse the structure of the garment. Knitwear becomes a hybrid of turtleneck sweaters and bustiers with exposed seams, while lace dresses slip by allowing a glimpse of semi-transparent underwear. A sensual and erotic frisson pervades the entire collection, sparking sinful fantasies and imaginings. Now a symbolic object of N21’s fashion, it is the evening shoe, elegant and very high, but without a heel: a very fragile balance on which Alessandro dell’Acqua’s magical vertigo is held.
Ermanno Scervino’s fashion show is a tribute to actress Ava Gardner, a Hollywood diva of the 1940s. In this way, Scervino wants to pay tribute to a woman who revolutionized the perception of the female body. In fact, alongside oversized coats with abundant shoulders and micro shorts, the famous bullet bra, a true statement of female sensuality for the post-World War II generation, returns. As Scervino himself says, “talking to a costume designer at Cinecittà she told me that Ava was the best, as beautiful naked as she was dressed so I started to watch all her films again.” The result is a collection designed for a woman who makes sensuality her best weapon, with lace and transparencies invading every garment.
Somewhere between horsewoman and fencer, Maximilian David’s second collection for Ferragamo demonstrates the understanding reached between the very young British designer and the Italian fashion house. The collection shows a modern English tradition, however, declined according to Ferragamo’s hushed elegance. Technical jersey takes on a tailoring look, while classic garments such as the duffle coat are evoked through details. The mix of tailoring and sportswear is congenial to David, who proceeds by simplification, achieving a minimalist effect that will appeal to the younger generation. Minimalism, however, does not translate into anonymity. In fact, between asymmetrically heeled court shoes and enlarged archival shoulder bags, David has managed to give this new chapter with Ferragamo a personal touch that is extremely contemporary.
Tomo Koizumi supported by Dolce & Gabbana
Japanese designer Tomo Koizumi’s arrival in Milan is an explosion of color. Famous on social media for dressing Japanese performers at the last Olympic Games, Koizumi boasts collaborations with Bjork, Alber Elbaz, Marc Jacobs, and Emilio Pucci. With the support of Dolce & Gabbana, Tomo Koizumi brings to Milan his idea of fashion, made of endless square footage of fabric, explosive colors, organza, pleating and, above all, an irrepressible creative flair. In love with French couture, the Japanese fashion designer translates European tradition according to a personal vision that tends to mix tailoring with pop aesthetics. Besides reworking some typical Dolce & Gabbana motifs, for his Milan debut Tomo Koizumi chooses to stay true to himself. Cascades of colorful fabric, gigantic skirts and trainings certify that the Japanese fashion designer is not afraid to go against the grain. If his gowns seem more suitable for galas or some movie premiere complete with red carpet, the collection presented in Milan is a warning to all Western fashion capitals. Fashion can – and must – be biting, subversive, courageous. If we rest comfortably on the demands of a lazy public, there is no future.
‘The alchemy of the street,’ described French-Belgian designer Matthieu Blazy of the inspiration for his third collection for Bottega Veneta, the final part of a trilogy of shows titled ‘Italia’ celebrating the vibrancy and multiplicities of the country’s people, traditions and craft. A ‘cacophony’ of influences informed this latest outing, conjuring the idea of a ‘parade’ in the carpeted showspace – a place where ‘techniques, motifs, characters and creatures from the past travel through space and time to speak to the present and the future,’ the notes elucidated. The expansiveness of Blazy’s project was perhaps best symbolised in the statues which decorated the show space: a pair of Roman bronze runners from 1BC and a 1913 figure in movement by Italian futurist Umberto Boccioni titled ‘Unique Forms of Continuity in Space’. Just metres apart, there were nearly two millennia between them and a chasm in aesthetic style – yet both were symbolic of a feeling of dynamism and movement; figures on the march. A similar feeling of expansiveness and movement was encapsulated in the collection itself. Blazy said that he didn’t edit the collection but rather added a new ‘character’ when it came to mind; as such, the collection began with riffs on nightwear as if models were raising from bed at the start of a day – like a white chemise and socks, the latter appearing knitted but in fact crafted from intricately woven leather, or a ‘flannel’ pyjama set made entirely from napa leather. A multitude of garments followed – impossible to begin to summarise – spanning Blazy’s magical riffs on the quotidien (paper shopping bags recrafted in leather, a pair of men’s trousers which looped around the foot with stirrups, a broad array of exquisitely tailoring jackets and overcoats) and elegant takes on eveningwear, like one particularly arresting red dress with a padded neckline and the suggestion of panniers on the waist. Blazy likened it to ‘Exquisite Corpse’, a parlour game beloved by the surrealists whereby each participant draws on a piece of paper in turn, without seeing what has come before. When unfolded, a magical new figure emerges from the paper.
Massimo Giorgetti chose the title ‘The Ultimate Illusion’ for an A/W 2023 collection he described as ‘an infinite journey, a dream within a dream’ (a line from Edgar Allen Poe’s 1949 poem A Dream Within A Dream was quoted on the collection notes). Presented in an expansive white square space – something of a blank canvas, as the notes described – Giorgetti’s vision for the season was one of heady vibrancy, with broad strokes of colour interrupting the sparseness of the setting like a hallucination. Indeed, Giorgetti mentioned the influence of psychedelia, here figured in a mash-up of textures, and print – from faux-fur hats, handbags and jackets to an array of twisted floral and landscape motifs, as well as shimmering swathes of sequins that gave the appearance of a mirrorball (The Chemical Brothers, meanwhile, provided the soundtrack). ‘What the eyes can see, the mind believes,’ concluded the brand.
The collection itself – which continued his signature sensual, second-skin silhouettes while adding a series of expansive overcoats and raw-edge tailoring was an emotive tribute to his origins in Crotone, Calabria, where he grew up. ‘As a boy, holding my head high as I walked through the centre of Crotone as if I were in a district of a megalopolis, I was unconsciously beginning to fight against prejudice and common preconceptions in order to be who I wanted to,’ he said. ‘Recklessness is my weapon against fear and the moment of greatest insecurity is also the moment of greatest creativity.’ As such, the collection’s various garments contained traces of this formative period: a jacquard motif recalled the locale’s clay hills, as did cracked leather, while the use of yellow was a tribute to his grandmother Mariacarla, born from ‘thinking of the sunflowers she loved so much and which always remind me of her’.
Dolce & Gabbana
High-octane sensuality has been a defining facet of Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana’s collections since their eponymous brand’s inception in 1985, a mood continued with their latest offering which looked back to a 1992 ‘Belle du Jour’ collection (recent seasons have seen the designers return to their archives, in part due to the growing resurgence of the 1990s more widely in fashion). Transparent layers appeared throughout the primarily black collection – whether chiffon negligee-style gowns or the swathes of intricately crafted lace – which was titled ‘Sensuale’. ‘Sensuality is an important aspect of femininity that has nothing to do with being sexy,’ they said. ‘Sensuality is intrinsically connected to an inner experience that makes women spontaneous and natural… free of any fabrication.’
A BETTER MISTAKE
A BETTER MISTAKE presented the Fall Winter 2023 Collection with a live performance ALTER EGOS. The Latin locution ‘alter ego’ indicates a second self or a different version of oneself, and can be literally translated as ‘second self’. Building on this concept, the brand presents a preview of their genderless collection and their latest series of see-now-buy-now drops with a seven-act live performance that investigates how the presence of multiple identities in the individual itself is a powerful medium to express creativity. A Better Mistake encourages the visionary power that collectives can achieve and strongly believes in creative contamination, dialogue and shared visions. For this collection, the brand decided to co-design two unique dresses with Berlin-based label David William. Guided by the sound design of Berlin-based multidisciplinary artist Metaraph, performers choreographed by movement designer Macia Del Prete stand on a monolith of mirrors while colours, silhouettes and fabrics change dynamically over the course of the acts, embodying the conceptual direction of the collection: just as light bursting through a prism generates colours, the reflections of the dancers generated by the mirrors symbolise different identities. Starting from an industrial atmosphere with bass-free sounds, the choreography evolves energetically: distorted synths, laser lights and sharp percussion alternate to represent the dynamism of the creative process and the formation of personal identity.
The Moschino Women’s Fall/Winter 2023 collection encompasses aristo-punk glamour and Salvador Dalí-esque surrealism, creating an original reinterpretation of the house’s emblematic aesthetic canons. The show revolves around the spectacular distortion between oversized spikes, sparkling jewellery sets and liquid effect hemlines. Moschino’s must-haves, including biker jackets, classic suits, logo lettering necklaces and gold or pearl buttons seem to merge and alter in the same way as the dangling bodies and watches imagined by Dalí. A bag with a peace symbol melts with every step the model takes, pocket flaps drip, houndstooth liquefies and the buckles of bags and boots, gilded and glittering, are fancifully distorted. These altered codes embody creative director Jeremy Scott’s desire to challenge convention and define a new punk spirit that exudes decadence. A revolutionary verve emerges strongly in the collection: mega studs placed along shoulder seams and on the hems of skirts. A ball gown seems to have a jewellery box spilled over the endless layers of tulle given the quantity of embroidered stones and crystals. Cascades of sparkling 1920s-style fringes decorate a dazzling dress. It is a rebellion tinged with surrealism and infused with a hint of non-conformist royalty.
A surreal imagining of an office space or lobby provided the backdrop for Gucci’s latest collection, created by the house’s design team . It lent the collection an eclectic mood that was largely rooted in the sensual designs of Tom Ford’s tenure at the house, notably in the collection’s body-baring opening look – a model in a bejewelled double-G bra top and black satin skirt – but illuminated by the ‘electrically sumptuous’ colour palette of the 2010s. Sensual layers ran throughout – whether sheer mesh tops, coloured fishnet tights which rose beyond the waistband, or delicate trousers and tops covered in near-transparent paillettes – combined with moments of abundance, like a series of vast coats in colourful faux fur. A soundtrack by Yasmina Dexter, aka Pandora’s Jukebox, added to the electric mood, taking its thumping rhythm from Britney Spears’ hypnotic I’m a Slave 4 U.
Fausto Puglisi makes fashion with clothes, inspired this time by a trip to the American North West, with obvious references to Millicent Rogers and Georgia O’Keeffe, pruriently suspended between vulgar decorativism and asceticism. Prints, dévoré and patchwork enliven the surfaces, with lace cut into dresses that hug the figure without constricting it. The dresses, jackets and trousers are made for riding horses – or Mad Max motorbikes, for a change – and move wildly, even though Puglisi – like any good director – has absolute control of the material. Making the dear old mermaid dress interesting by ‘simply’ subverting the bias cut and using a psychedelic print is not for everyone. Not to mention the use of patchwork, as perversely sensual as the work of Leatherface – fashion is a second skin or not – in Romero’s masterpiece, somewhere in the desert, where the American dream becomes a nightmare.
The Prada Women’s Fall Winter 2023 collection by Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons reconceptualises and reconsiders the idea of beauty, rediscovering its various meanings. It is not aesthetics that determine beauty, but actions: clothes, like real gestures, represent the beauty of care, love and reality. Uniforms are transformed through the aesthetic language of evening dresses, becoming sartorial representations of care and responsibility. Wedding dresses, the quintessential symbol of love, become everyday garments, their skirts are combined with knitwear for a new form of everyday wear. Wrap-around volumes reshape classic tailored outerwear taken from the male wardrobe, with padding that shields and warms, while leather and suede garments draw inspiration from protective clothing. Flowers, a sign of affection, at the same time evoke the craftsmanship of fashion, another gesture of care.