When in Milan, I like to take an afternoon to saunter around Monte Napoleone, Via della Spiga and the like, and take in the glossiness of everything. Going in and out of the flagship stores of all the biggie Italian houses that seem to be far better stocked than the ones back home. It's educational window shopping, taking in the merchandising and seeing what's coming and going. I also like to imagine what it's like to veritably walk into a Prada store and drop x number of £k's just as so many of the Chinese/Russian/Middle Eastern shopper tourists do. Instead, I'm just a voyeur. Not an envious one but a curious spectator, who is completely aware of "how the other half live."
This is exactly how I approach the following collections that have thus far bucked the sombre tones of New York, the precise and etched out ideas of London, where even the most colourful of butterflies such as Meadham Kirchhoff toned it right back and the "real clothes" approach of the likes of Prada and Marni in Milan. More is more and more is never enough. There's a "We know who our girl/woman is so fuck it!" attitude that I can't help but admire. Much like my onlooker tendencies in Milan, I like to fantasise for one moment of what it's like to sashay, shimmy and smoulder in these clothes, before snapping back into reality. Some of this dances around the murky lines of bad taste, whether it's intentional or not. In fact ostensibly to most fashion poo poo-ers (you'll find them pouring dirge in the comments section of The Guardian) these are exactly the sort of clothes, which sum up the evils of the industry - ostentatious, brash and hideously expensive. I'd like to flip it and say that whilst those qualities aren't positive, there's value in gorging on this visual fest of OTT. Well, I'm certainly never going to have a rat's chance of physically touching the stuff but as an image, it's certainly a guilty pleasure to be stuffing your face full of Tom Ford's dressed-to-the-tens prima donna, Fendi's "If we're gonna do fur, let's amp it up attitude and Donatella Versace's Vunk (that's Versace mixed with punk…). I literally just feel like I've polished off a whole box of Quality Street, just by uploading these images - and I don't even like chocolate all that much.
I wasn't expecting to get a Tom Ford ticket. Yes, it was finally a proper show after a few seasons of his intimate, no-photos, no-one-except-editors-in-chief presentations. Still, a blogger let loose with her DSLR at a Tom Ford show where god forbid, there are non-sanctioned images of the show going out into the messy cyberspace? I was half expecting to be stopped at the gates of the lavish Lancaster House (an ex-Royal residence, ya know…) only to be told it was a ticketing mistake. Still there I was allowed to snap away, processing the excess of sequins and beading, the comic book KAPOWs, the kitsch Chinoiserie and the electric coloured furfurfur. For some, it was a head-scratching moment of "WTF?" It certainly felt like Ford had allowed something to explode in his womenswear collection, which he called a "Cross Cultural Multi Ethnic", a title not to be over-analysed. Taken as a whole, it can be a bit puzzling to see where to place this in the context of Ford's meticulous brand carving, something we all know he is capable of. Unlike his precise and agenda-laden menswear offering, the womenswear has run quite a free-reined gamut. It felt strange to see him let loose. Still, looking at the individual pieces and taking them out of their context, I actually felt the urge to try on the weight of all those lavish coats and dresses dripping with sequins work or to see what an all-over embroidered boot would be like to wear. There were moments of hilarious Too Much Ness that I somehow couldn't resist. Whether Ford meant for it to be hilarious is questionable. The joke will be lost on a certain clientele in the world that will be gagging for Ford's offerings. I'll see them stalking up and down the ritzy streets of Milano or London's Bond Street. And I'll try and give them a high five if their bodyguards/chauffeurs don't stop me.
Into Milan, and I lost my Fendi show virginity. I'm a bit of a show hermit when it comes to Milan and there have always been some must-see shows that I never managed to get to, with Fendi being one of them. What everyone was murmuring before and after the show was "Gosh…when/how did Fendi get good?" Their S/S 13 collection was stonkingly good, translating the graphic mood of the season into some of the best accessories and shoes that I woefully never saw in person. A/W 13 continued that upwards trajectory. It was as if the Silvia Venturini Fendi and Karl Lagerfeld sent a mantra out to their team to say "We are a fur house. Let's not apologise. Let's run with it, amp it up and just go for it." The models wore fur mohawks and fur-sided sunnies like an imaginary homage tribe to eighties New Wave. Electric colours would streak mink coats, skirts and sweaters like flashes of post-punk nostalgia. Once again, the accessories got people talking with the furry gremlins hung off crazy-coloured shearling bags and the zebra patterned shoes and their architectural heels. There was a masterful display of the house's expertise in fur - shaved, colour-blocked, woven, plaited and feathered into sculptural pieces that moved with verve to the thump thump thump of Morning Hours by David Mayne. Again, the impact on the eye was high. You couldn't help but be bowled over by the boldness and conviction with which everything emerged from the double F Fendi logged box.
On a furry note, I got into a long comment-thread with people on my Instagram about the tactics of anti-fur protests. It will disappoint some to say that I don't have a strictly anti-fur policy. I don't wear the stuff. But I'm not against featuring it for aesthetic reasons (such as posts like these), but I'm reluctant to do it often. I don't besmirch those that wear/buy it either. We need more awareness of what is technically bi-product, whether the animals would survive in the wild on their own accord or how humanely the animals are killed from the designers themselves. That would ease the argument and prevent blind furor from both sides.
Finally we have Versace. I'll admit, I was slightly distracted by the surreal front row situation going on across from me. Christopher Kane sitting next to an almost unrecognisable Lana del Rey (her hair is black and her look is devoid of that nostalgia-tinged romanticism) and new Versus guest designer J.W. Anderson next to Janet Jackson. A few British editors and I swore that Janet made eye contact with us, smiling back and forth. Well, I'm going to swear that happened anyway. Once Donatella got her "Vunk" going though, it was hard not to tear your eyes away from the audacious mix of vampy PVC, Clueless-esque checks, giant spikes and pins worn as earrings and as halterneck clasps (a throwback to THOSE giant safety pins preventing Liz Hurley's modesty from escaping) and yes, more fun fun fun fur in blob-patterned canary yellow and black and white. It's sort of everything you want a Versace show to be. In a perverse way, you want people to question "Who would wear THAT?" but the very fact that these clothes exist scales up the parameters of extremity. Head to toe skintight PVC aside (I'll leave that Ms. Del Rey - she seemed to be loving those looks), the Fraggle fur skirts and coats (Muppets and Sesame Street-esque furs - both faux and real - are abound this season as Sarah Mower noted), the mohair-patched-up cobweb knits and the metal tipped collared coats are just OTT bits that I'll be stroking up next season when at the Versace boutique on via Monte Napoleone.