Fashion seeks authenticity in Milan
Does fashion have a purpose today? This question ran through the first day of shows at Milan on Wednesday, each designer providing their own answer to it or proposing possible paths forward. In particular, Calcaterra sent out an extremely pared-down collection, while Marco Rambaldi designed for women free from all social diktats, and Gilberto Calzolari went all in with a truly ecologically responsible approach.
The winner of the Oscars of eco fashion, Green Carpet, in 2018, Calzolari opened proceedings on Monday with what he defined as a "denunciation runway." Calling into question the frenzy of overproduction that currently plagues the industry, as well as the avalanche of fashion imagery continually poured out by social networks, the designer's models walked through a set surrounded by screens, stopping suddenly partway down the catwalk, as though inviting the audience to pause for thought.
"It's an invitation to reflect on the crazy world we live in, caught between fake news and the climate emergency," explained the designer, who at 45 can boast of experience at some of the biggest fashion houses around, including Marni, Alberta Ferretti, Valentino and Miu Miu.
After 10 years at Giorgio Armani, Calzolari, then 40, decided to take a step back in order to adopt a more responsible approach to fashion. In 2015, he founded his own eponymous label, where all the clothes are made using what the designer calls "forgotten fabrics" that have been reclaimed from stocks, as well as new responsibly manufactured technical textiles. He also recycles unusual materials to make couture fabrics, as in the case of a lightly ruched top and skirt at this season's show, constructed using the material from umbrellas.
Elsewhere, coat-dresses with large buttons were elevated with removable collars in cosy plush in a variety of bold shades, while fine organza tunics were worn over skirts with maxi sequins. The overall silhouette was chic, contemporary and feminine, playing with contrasts between structured and fluid cuts. Colourful inserts were harmoniously slipped into patchwork pieces featuring stripes, houndstooth and Prince of Wales check.
Calcaterra chose the same direction and took it to the extreme. Accompanied by the strains of a string quartet, models walked in slow motion and in extremely close proximity to the audience. "I wanted to make an intimate, absolutely pure collection with a neutral palette and natural materials that have been treated as little as possible," stated Daniele Calcaterra, who took his inspiration from John Cage's 4′33″, a composition consisting of four minutes and 33 seconds of silence.
With his own sartorial composition for next winter, the designer transformed silence into music. Each piece seeming to be an essential element of the collection: the all-enveloping pull-over, the corduroy trousers, the loose distressed jeans, the white cotton shirt, the draped dress and the coat – a key element in Calcaterra's wardrobe, interpreted as a mohair robe, a parka with a maxi fur-lined hood and even as a billowing cape.
Heavy throws in felted wool were transformed into skirts, shawl-tops or long tunics. Everything gave off a feeling of comfort and natural elegance, where women's and menswear fused effortlessly. All of the pieces on the runway were monochrome and devoid of the least embellishment. Disregarding a smattering of all-black looks, the palette ranged from off white to beige, via a fleshy pink.
Over at Marco Rambaldi, the designer had made clothes for a liberated woman "who refuses the labels that society wants to impose on her" and expresses her own identity. Born in Bologna, Rambaldi has always taken his inspiration from 1970s protest and underground culture. This season, the designer continued in the same vein, presenting an inclusive gender-fluid womenswear wardrobe, a message underlined by the participation of transgender actress and singer Eva Robin's in the show, along with the presence of a handful of menswear pieces.
Here the devil was in the detail. A pale pink jacket and coat were quilted with embossed hearts, a motif that could also be found crocheted onto long, slender dresses. One tightly fitted dress in electric blue was cut with a generous décolletage, while skirts were slashed with two slits up the front.
A black hand-knitted hoodie was decorated with long white drawstrings and the slogan "altre libertine" (other libertines). Silk slip dresses were paired with cardigans and featured prints recalling old grandma-crocheted tablecloths, patterns that were also used in long dresses with cut-outs.
A specialist in knitwear, the designer sent out a series of beautiful jacquard pullovers that picked up on the iconography of the 1970s, with certain images being incorporated into the backs of jackets, like posters. This season Rimbaldi too was concerned with the quality of his thread and fabrics, which were all recycled from other materials by an Italian company.
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