Milan fashion week

Image of Vanessa Friedman

Fringe dressing

Tired of those old economic doldrums? Sick of austerity? Had it up to here with the budget? Inside you may be mourning the end of conspicuous consumption, but outside at least some designers are proposing an aesthetic sea change: forget minimalism, go baroque ’n’ roll. Fringes! Laces! Skins! (and skin). There’s no such thing as too much, apparently, when we are all facing a world of too little. Although it might be wisest to restrict the wearing to Capri, or Positano, and perhaps avoid places like, say, Athens ... or Madrid.


Forget everything your mother told you about avoiding stripes because they (1) make you look wider; and (2) wiggle all around if for some reason you ever end up on television.

Miuccia Prada, Raf Simons of Jil Sander, and Conseulo Castiglioni of Marni clearly know best, and they say thick, primary coloured lines, whether horizontal, vertical, or diagonal, are It for spring – the more graphic the better.

Of course, Mrs Prada was also lobbying for monkeys and bananas in her collection.

But perhaps the more salient point to read into all this is the simple fact: you have a draw a line (sorry, couldn’t resist) somewhere.

Posh peasants

It’s that 1970s, recession thing, rearing its surprisingly pretty head again. Apparently, lack of funds brings to mind picking wheat in the fields (designers’ inference, not ours). Still, no gypsy worker ever looked this good, or managed to hit so many trends at once. Long skirts? Check. Volume? Check. Ruffles? Check. Admittedly, such dresses may not work in the boardroom, but they work awfully well from day to night, and on most body types. In other words, at retail.

Carats and fibre put Earth first on the creative fringe

Interesting, recession-inspired developments cropped up in Milan. The soaring price of gold has clearly got accessory designers thinking about the precious metal and how they might reach equally creative heights. At Sergio Rossi, designer Francesco Russo created 24-carat-tinted metallic ankle plates set on leather ankle cuffs for his “warrior” heels, while at Bally, new designers Graeme Fidler and Michael Herz finished a stack-heeled beige pump with a small cube of brushed gold. At Zagliani, Mauro Orietti-Carella brushed gold paint on his signature squishy pouches and totes to create a super luxurious graffiti on otherwise discreet matte snakeskin, and René Caovilla flat sandals came sporting gold crystal bubbles.

Meanwhile, the need to “give back to the market”, as Emanuele Carminati, chief executive of Valextra, said, drove him to create what has to be one of the smartest accessories in years: the waterproof leather handbag. “The technique had been developed by a tannery about a year ago, and no one seemed to know what to do with it except make techno sports shoes,” he shrugged. “So we decided to see if it would work for us.”

Carminati decided to see what would happen if he used it on one of his brand’s signature white handbags and the result was transformative: dirt literally can be wiped off the pristine bucket shape with a cotton ball dipped in water. “You can carry ice in it,” he laughs but it’s no joke when women can suddenly see a whole new future.

Then there’s Loro Piana, home of baby cashmere, who have newly discovered the lotus flower fibre. Found in Burma and only harvested from May to December, the fibre must be extracted and woven in 24 hours or it dries and is unusable. The end result is a crease-resistant yarn that can only be produced in seriously limited quantities. Loro Piana predicts they will be able to make 20-30 jackets each year.

It gives new meaning to the idea of Earth First, as do the high-heeled wood clogs and slides at Jimmy Choo and Tod’s, not to mention the wood-based, gold-leather-strapped numbers at Guiseppe Zanotti, proving once and for all that eco-chic is not an oxymoron.

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