London Fashion Week ended on Tuesday with an over-the-top party thrown by Victoria Beckham to celebrate the first anniversary of her Dover Street store, where guests entered through a one-night-only installation by the artist Martin Creed. Called “Work No. 2497,” the art in question consisted entirely of several hundred large white balloons that filled the storefront, spilling across its gallery, all the way to the cement staircase leading to the second floor, where dinner was served.
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All you had to do to eat was walk through the balloons. And if that sounds like a piece of – POP! – cake – POP! – well, then, you have never – POP! POP! POP! – walked through a room filled with balloons while wearing stilettos. It was unnerving, really, hearing that sound over and over again (Naomi Campbell took out several on her way in), as guests sipped on pink drinks called the Victoria: comprised of Haig Club whisky (endorsed by David Beckham), sherry, red currant syrup and fresh lemon. Christopher Bailey, the Burberry chief creative and executive officer, told me they were delicious, and they were, but then the popping sound started again, and next thing I knew, I was in Italy, at the start of Milan Fashion Week on Wednesday, which was also over the top in its own special way.
The first big show here was Gucci, with its fabulously dashing new creative director Alessandro Michele, who has catapulted the brand back into the limelight seemingly overnight with his offbeat-romantic-dandy vision of fashion. The momentum has been so great that Michele felt compelled to move his show from Gucci’s traditional small theater to a trucking depot on the outskirts of town, a long drive away on a rainy day, but worth the effort if only to revel in his brand vision. Michele had covered the station platforms with vistas of carpeting that depicted pink snakes against grainy etchings of roses and butterflies, that alone worth the price of admission. His spring collection, if I read the lengthy program correctly, was an ode to the randomness of urban life and all of the wildly eccentric creatures you are bound to encounter, should you take a wrong turn into a strange part of the city.
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His designs hewed closely to the eclectic, intellectual vibe that Michele introduced over the last year with his men’s and women’s and in-betweens collections, only now with even more varieties of feather-light, transparent dresses comprised of tiers of pastel ruffles, as well as countless pleated metallic skirts, funky furs, oversize glasses, studiously creased pantsuits, and geometric marquetry motifs. The most appealing new trick was the addition of illusions of dresses applied to actual dresses, achieved through shiny sequined appliques with trompe-l’oeil pleating or ribbons (pictured, top). While looking at Michele’s collections, often comes the notion that this is a designer to whom ideas come naturally and execution comes emphatically, as if not one thought could escape his mind without resulting in yet another appliqued bee, snake, or butterfly tacked onto the front or back of a skirt. One of my favorite looks was a snakeskin-print skirt with a relatively simple lace top that was festooned with an embroidered parrot across its back (pictured, below).
Conversely, it wasn’t all so heavy. Quite a few of the dresses were so transparent as to reveal the models’ anatomies, as well as their personal tastes for nipple piercing.
It is a testament to Michele’s fast impact that so many women and men were wearing his designs throughout the day, including an Italian journalist who wore his fur-lined slippers even though it rained more that afternoon in Milan than in the previous month or so.
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Oddly enough, others here were thinking of dry sand and parched deserts, so much so that both Alberta Ferretti and Fausto Puglisi, designers as opposite in aesthetic as Pope Francis and Victoria’s Secret, showed their collections on runways covered with sand. It was a coincidence, and not a happy one for my shoes.
Ferretti’s strong collection veered more serenely into spice-market territory, with excellent cross-tie trousers, berber-like fabrics turned into billowing dresses, and several fierce warrior outfits (I’m thinking of the metallic laced crop top and short-short set, pictured, above left) that seem well suited to make their way into the wardrobe of an upcoming episode of Game of Thrones. Puglisi’s collection, meanwhile, was an ode to seashells and cowboy boots, loud music, and goddess dresses (pictured, above right) that suggested an idea for a new pilot: Game of Rome.
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