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Of all the fashion cities, it’s in Milan that the taste barometer needle behaves most agitatedly. It began to twitch a little at Alberta Ferretti. Ordinarily a house of genteel femininity and lofty refinement, for SS17, the 65-year-old designer was exploring new expressions of womanhood: this was a more erotic creature, in peignoir slips, French knickers, folkloric embroidered lingerie dresses and leather corset tops, like breast plates, which laced at the back with bullwhip cording. Many of the looks were cinched with double belts, or strapped to bags slung around the waist. At moments, the show’s mix of so much leather and embroidered tulle was less seductive, although the more sober black dresses and long layered evening gowns in deep jewel colours did much to restore its dignity.
In his third outing for Roberto Cavalli since being made creative director last year, Peter Dundas was also playing fast and loose with sartorial decorum, stitching together a patchwork of influences that included Navajo-inspired beaded dresses and kaftans, long, lean Seventies trouser suits with deep flares and patchwork details, and tiered Boho maxiskirts. The looks were worn with low-slung Western concho belts and trailing skinny scarves, at times recalling Sienna Miller circa the Jude Law years: a sort of Burning Man meets Marrakesh hybrid. Many people found it deeply satisfying. I couldn’t help thinking the embroidered combat pants, woven evening dresses and acid palette looked a little Matalan.
But if these collections only tickled the taste metre, Philipp Plein’s fashion fandango on Wednesday night sent it soaring off the charts. Staged in a Plein-themed amusement park, with fairytale cottages and a flying chair carousel, the models walked around the set’s perimeter to a live DJ set and before a clutch of rippling-torsoed “groundsmen”. These lucky chaps had been tasked to perform chores like soaping their pectoral muscles, or snipping plastic topiary, while simultaneously admiring the models.
And there was much to admire; stonewashed slashed denim hot pants, jodhpurs and cropped jackets with shouty slogan prints and blingy metal adornment; dresses strung with gold chains with cutaway panels up the body; white denim jackets embroidered with big cats and strange bumster shorts suspended mid-buttock from the knicker elastic. Most wore towering gladiator stilettos which strapped up to mid-thigh and piles of shiny necklaces, a la B A Baracus (of The A Team). It was all very mid-nineties in flavour: Paris Hilton walked the catwalk in a flimsy black evening gown. Fergie, of the Black Eyed Peas, sang a few tunes. At the close of his “Alice in ghetto land” themed spectacle, Plein announced to the assembly this would be his last Milanese outing. The 38-year-old designer is moving his show to New York from next season, where he will no doubt seek to augment his fortunes with yet more sensational, enormously silly shows. The clothes aren’t my thing at all, but Plein’s bold brand of nouveau brash luxury made him €200 million last year, and there were moments of true hilarity here: the show was kind of fun. The baron of bad taste knows exactly what he’s doing. And Milan won’t be the same without him.