MILAN - At least the fashion world can agree on one antidote to the financial crisis: Color.
Black, a wardrobe staple that might be a safe haven in a crisis, is not a mainstay of the previews for spring and summer 2013 womenswear collections as Milan Fashion Week continued into its fifth day Sunday.
Color, instead, is king — either in monochromatic looks or deployed in geometric and floral patterns and prints. Summer white and seasonal pastels round out the palette.
Warm weather styles, too, are upbeat and often playful. Designers are employing ruffles, folds and peplums and for a little frivolity on the standard silhouette. Sheer fabrics, flowing cuts and accents like pleats and plisses give the season a quiet elegance and grace. Designers also are using a lot of detailing on outfits, from sequins, beads, colored discs and tassels.
With rare exception, dresses take centre stage, while pants are merely in a supporting role.
Along with very high heels, there are lots of wedges and also flat sandals and even some ballerina slippers so popular this past summer.
Hats are the forgotten accessory. In their place, there are headscarves, headbands and even a visor.
Giorgio Armani always has done his own thing, leaving others to follow if they chose.
His collection for spring-summer 2013 is no exception. There are no prints, plenty of pants and more glitter than a nighttime constellation.
The Armani daytime jacket is deconstructed in a pearl grey with matching skirt or wide trousers cropped at the ankle.
The cocktail hour comes in the lightest of pale pastel chiffon, turquoise, blue and power pink, with long skirts over cropped pants and a small jacket. Armani also offered a skirt-on-skirt version of the same look.
But it's by night that the designer bursts into glitter with a myriad of beautiful gowns and sparkling pants enhanced by a plisse silk bodice. Nighttime shades are midnight blue, slate grey and some black.
"This is a woman who doesn't put on airs, rather is young in age or mentality," Armani told reporters before the show.
This was an Armani that hasn't been seen in many a season.
Perhaps in reviewing his new exhibit "Eccentrico," which traces Armani's style in clothes and accessories over the past two decades, the "Maestro" stepped back and said to himself, "that is really good. I think I will do it again."
Tennis star Serena Williams was on hand for the show.
"Meraviglioso," the Italian 1960s hit parade song, played over and over as the models marched down the runway in gaily striped and printed outfits all gleaned from the Dolce&Gabbana's Sicilian treasure trove.
And marvelous it all was at the designing duo's spring-summer 2013 show, from the live cactus runway decorations, to the summer play suits, to the cart wheel earrings, to the unique ball gown made out of wicker covered by a black tulle veil.
Not that the collection took giant fashion leaps forward, but it was fun to follow and will probably be also to wear, something which some designers seem to forget as they invent ever more complicated ways of looking stylish.
The show began with short sun dresses in blue and white stripes that recalled the pattern of a beach umbrella. Then came the more elaborate printed dresses, inspired by the gaily colored decorations of a wooden Sicilian cart. These were accessorized by hoop earrings reminiscent of the wheel of the cart as was the painting on the wedged sandals.
Tassels like the ones on the horse's bridal showed up everywhere, like on the brightly colored straw belts reminiscent of the horses decorative harness.
Models wore their long hair gathered in a twist, with a silk scarf doubling as a headband. Except for the wedges, the preferred look for footwear was comfortable and flat.
A pair of 3D glasses, or a kaleidoscope, might go well with Missoni's collection for next summer.
Designer Angela Missoni took a form-fitting knit tube dress in the label's trademark patterns and placed overtop a sheer organza trapeze dress, in black or white. The combination created a veiled effect that seemed from another dimension — or perhaps, another planet.
Missoni said next summer's look belonged to "a mysterious intergalactic tourist."
The label's trademark knitwear is multi-dimensional with raised figures. It too can be layered, knit-over-knit, with the outer layer containing repeating oval windows, recalling old-fashioned picture frames.
Dresses are short, knee-length and long, all in a loose silhouette thanks to the sheer outer layer — sometimes with graphic elements like repeating flowers or sequins for a dreamy effect. Missoni also offers pedal-pusher trousers for a sportier look.
The colour palette ranges from orange to green to pinks, all of which can be muted by the overlay.
The interplanetary visitor comes in peace, wearing chunky chokers and bracelets that appear to be made out of crystals and have an icy effect, large round sunglasses outlined in colours like green and white, long hair sleeked down on top and then loose, sometimes with a clear plastic visor, and always fluorescent lipstick.
She mostly wears sandals — either flat or heeled — with ankle bands, often in night-glow green or orange. She carries a slim handbag if she's just out for the evening, or an oversized cylinder for longer outings — both worn strapped across the back.
Marni's catch phrase for next summer: "Sparseness as elegance."
There was a simplicity to the next summer's collection that is hard to define as minimalist, given the volume-creating effects of folds in A-line skirts and peplums, or short overskirts, added to tops and jackets. Necklines were mostly simple V's or crew.
Skirts and dresses were the mainstay of the collection, with some roomy shorts — lovely in leather with equally roomy V-neck tops with three-quarter sleeves — and slim-fitting pedal pushers.
Much of the line was monochromatic: white, black and green with touches of orange or aqua.
Designer Consuelo Castiglioni also was true to the label's Bohemian feel with bold patterns, checked fabric had transparent blocks, lending a seasonal lightness, and sequences of undulating semicircles. There were also block flowers — floral prints and motifs a clear trend this season.
Castiglioni chose sturdy materials, cotton canvas, jacquard and leather, which defined the clean line, and contrasted to volumes created through lighter, billowing fabric on other Milan runways.
Open-toe slingback sandals had accents of silver or golden metal on the wedge, and platform sandals strapped around the ankle gave a hint of the Orient. Hair was pulled back easily, leaving loose strands for a look of careless freedom.
Salvatore Ferragamo does a little season-bending in his latest collection for next summer.
The collection turned on the tailored trench coat, both long and short, cinched at the waist with a long belt. The coats were paired with trousers gathered at the ankles, or short skirts that draped.
The shorter hemlines showed off an inventive and sexy cross between sandals and boots that extend over the knee and lace up the back. The intricate footwear was a testament to the craftsmanship and detail of the line.
There was a warrior feel to some of the short dresses, featuring an asymmetrical fold on one hip, especially when made out of textured leather and paired with gladiator-style sandals.
Colours were neutral, linen, clay, taupe. Handbags were soft large hobos with equestrian detailing from metal bridles to braiding.
Laura Biagiotti's much-applauded show was bursting with colour.
"Basta (enough) drab colours," said Lavinia Biagiotti, who runs the label with her 'Queen of Cashmere" mom. "We need to come up with some anti-crisis vibes, and why not start with what we wear."
Blocks of fuchsia, blue, yellow and orange combined to brighten up jersey sheath dresses as light as feathers. Colorful embroidery and beading also added to the upbeat feel of the collection.
Biagiotti also had another anti-crisis tip on the runway. A money-saving two purpose jersey jacket with winged sleeves that open up to become a cozy scarf to fend off a summer chill.
Where are the famous Pucci prints?
For the spring-summer 2013, Pucci designer Norwegian Peter Dundas opts for a more subtle approach, weaving animal and floral motifs into mono tone light fabrics.
Pucci was looking to the Far East for inspiration for its latest collection shown Saturday night in the frescoed rooms of a downtown Milan palazzo, during womenswear Fashion Week. Tigers, dragons, snakes, and Oriental floral arrangements, embroidered in the same colour as the outfit, created a veiled effect, especially when fashioned in the season's favourite fabric, chiffon.
The off-white wedged sandals which accompanied most outfits were truly amazing, with the wedge carved out in patterns taken from Oriental ivory craftsmanship.
The collection's silhouette is also based on Asian models. Almost all white, with some black and navy, the Pucci summer wardrobe includes mini tunic dresses worn over soft, partly transparent trousers, kimono jackets, silk jumpsuits and long, one-shouldered tiny-waisted dresses.