MILAN - Donatella Versace once famously said that shoes are the new jewelry.
This season, her decree is being fulfilled to the hilt — which at times means all the way up the thigh. Midway through Milan Fashion Week's preview shows for the 2013-14 winter season, shoes are more than accessories. They are little masterpieces.
The season's favourite heel is high, sparkling and metallic. And the favourite shape is pointed. Versace upped the ante, adding studs to spiky-heeled boots.
In most collections, booties have supplanted last season's equestrian footwear. In this round's aggressive look, thick-soled winter sandals, sometimes with power ankle straps, are ready for an urban march. Pumps are mostly reserved for elegant eveningwear.
Designers are also leaving room for comfort, but always with a touch of luxury. Sneakers have suede and python leather touches, velvet slippers were embroidered, and there were even simple work boots worn with ankle socks.
Donatella Versace doesn't seek to revisit punk so much as to interpret what it would be if it were born today.
She may have nailed it in the women's collection for winter 2013-14. In fact, many of her creations were accentuated by clusters of silver spikes — some placed to make any moves toward intimacy a daring feat — or fastened together by long nails.
Versace called the collection "sexy, strong, brave and full of energy."
While the designer claimed a musical inspiration for her "Vunk" line, many of the looks had a distinct women warrior energy. Leather body suits were sculpted to look like armour, spiky leather bras were worn over dresses, and those spikes and nails certainly suggest a woman who can defend herself.
The favourite material was vinyl and the colours monochromatic: white, black, fire engine red and canary yellow, for the girl who always wanted to shine. Vinyl was crafted into form-fitting dresses with spikes fitted down one arm, or perhaps as earrings or a choker interspersed with jewels — with some strategically placed spikes easily measuring several inches (centimetres).
The collection was decidedly edgy, but Versace did make one nod to current trends, incorporating plaid into pleated miniskirts, often with vinyl panels or buckles. Cashmere sought, perhaps in vain, to give some softness to the studded leather.
Fur coats were dyed into artificial animal prints mimicking a zebra or a yellow and even red leopard, materials developed by American artists The Haas Brothers.
Evening gowns of vinyl incorporated transparent panels for a look of exposure, while more classic materials were provocatively draped and wrapped around the body — always leaving a sexy slit.
Shoes were either studded mid-calf boots with silver stiletto heels, or thigh-high boots.
The Etro collection for next winter was short and to the point.
Walking through a kaleidoscope of Etro patterns projected on a screen, the models marched down the runway in structured outfits, underlining the power silhouette that is becoming the No. 1 trend of the current Milan Fashion Week.
The womenswear preview showing for the fall-winter 2013-2014 featured coats and jackets with marked shoulders, slim skirts and belted waistlines, all signs of an aggressive urban mood. Creative designer Veronica Etro jazzed up the usually gentle Etro patterns with metallic touches. Many of the outfits also featured prominent zippers.
The kaleidoscope idea, at times turning digital with computerized versions of church domes, stained glass windows, frescoes and tapestries, became next winter's pattern motifs. The colour palette ranges from coral to amethyst to blues and greens, to silver and gold all on a stark black background. Burnt orange, the favourite shade of the season also plays heavily in the collection.
The preferred Etro footwear is ankle-strapped with a determined metallic heel.
Gabriele Colangelo's womenswear line for next winter drew inspiration from artist Laurent Segretier's "photographic digital distortions" — a concept that the designer translated with 3-D flair.
In the collection that previewed Friday on the third day of Milan Fashion Week, the notion of digital distortions came through in pixelated patterns on coats that sometimes gave way to panels of sheer grey fabric.
The sheer materials made for an "unfinished" look, Colangelo said in the notes, "creating a vacuum and allowing glimpses of the body."
Sheer materials also were used in sweaters, alternating vertical stripes with knitted patterns. In one version, a long sweater dress included a hood wrapped around the head, creating a cocoon effect. The look was finished with a sleeveless mink-astrakhan-striped coat, itself of alternating stripes.
Colangelo experimented with textiles, layering shinier fabrics with a dulling sheer fabric that had created optical illusions, as if a tunic were actually a top and a miniskirt.
A series of heavy wool jackets — many in white — had a poncho effect, finished with a yarn fringe.
There was also an architectural feel to the clothing — another trend on Milan runways this season — with stiff fabrics giving shape or inventive cuts, like a notched collar laid flat, challenging the status quo.
The colour palette was decidedly urban with a dominance of greys broken up by green, maroon and some winter white. Colangelo finished the outfits with leather booties by Bionda Castana and camera bags with leather handles by Borbonese.