February 20, 2013 4:50 pm

Milan Fashion Week: runway report 1

Gucci ups the material ante with ‘exclusive textiles’

And so to Milan, where fashion week coincides almost exactly with the final throes of the Italian electoral campaigns. Though this would theoretically seem an unfortunate thing – who wants to think about fluffy stuff such as style when the country’s future is at stake? – there is something oddly appropriate about the timing.

The economy, after all, is a crucial topic for every candidate, and luxury is among the few very healthy industries in Italy. In this context, fashion week becomes a showcase for what could, or should, be.

So it was only logical to begin the merry-go-round with Gucci, which has made something of a fetish out of “Made in Italy” – fetish being the operative word. In a collection rife with what creative director Frida Giannini called “devious touches” – think leather cuffs on gloves, elbow-length and otherwise, fishnet tights and witch’s booties – they upped the material ante with “exclusive textiles” in python, leather, Astrakhan, feathers and goat’s hair; as well as three-dimensional metallic-embroidery on sleeves and up the sides of skirts and trousers.

The silhouette was dominatrix-strict, save for arms and shoulders with an exaggerated curve, and the occasional couture portrait-neckline on a sheath dress. As for the evening wear, it mixed satin and sheer lace net shirts bristling with fern frond embroidery made from multicoloured feathers and paillettes.

If it was all a bit heavy-handed and literal, and it was (hard to imagine anyone wearing a form-fitting leather polo neck under a wool suit without fainting from heat exhaustion; hard to imagine anyone wearing a high-waisted blue satin pant jumpsuit with sheer top, period), it also set a don’t-mess-with-us tough luxe tone that felt resonant beyond the catwalk.

Like the clothes themselves or not, what the brand stands for – country, heritage, employment – gives it real power. Ms Giannini may have overplayed the sartorial subtext. But no candidate should ignore the point: not of the soaring heels on her ostrich skin stiletto boots, or what they represent.

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