milan is where it’s at
Peter Dundas breathed new life into Just Cavalli, Natasa Cagalj presented her first show for Ports 1961, and Chris Brown serenaded Philipp Plein. It was just another day in the new era of Milan Fashion Week.
Photography Jason Lloyd-Evans
Much has been said about the new Milan — not least on the pages of this website — but the fresh winds currently blowing through the Italian fashion capital cannot be highlighted enough. For ages, it felt like nothing was happening here. The same designers were stuck at the same houses, there was little change to the schedule, and you knew exactly what to expect.
Then, less than a handful of years ago, new names started appearing: Marco de Vincenzo and Massimo Giorgetti heralded a new generation of Milanese designers before Frida Giannini left Gucci and Alessandro Michele stepped in. His work for the house over the past year has created a revolution in fashion and not least in Milan, which now feels like a changed woman. Jeremy Scott has taken over at Moschino, Massimo Giorgetti at Emilio Pucci, Arthur Arbesser and James Long at Iceberg, and as the Saturday of fall/winter 16 shows in Milan reminded us, it doesn't stop there. As the new designer at Roberto Cavalli, Peter Dundas's presence is felt strongly in the city where he presented his second collection of the week, for the diffusion line Just Cavalli.
Talk about change: Under Roberto himself, Cavalli's younger line was a holiday-appropriate medley of trends sampled vibrantly with the house trademark prints and presented in a huge show, typically accompanied by some sort of film or hi-tech light effect. Reinvented by Dundas, it was retro rock 'n' roll with an air of pop art courtesy of his Factory reference (the Andy Warhol one) shown in a nightclub-like set with a band and Cherry Pop on the sound system.
It had all the classic Cavalli elements — animal prints and so on — but given a sense of toughness and applied to the skinny, I'm-with-the-band silhouette young consumers are buying into at the moment, it was given new relevance. Dundas himself was casual in a T-shirt, mixing drinks for guests behind the bar. Later that evening, he hosted a huge party in the venue for the cool kids of Milan — no industry people invited. It was a great way to celebrate a city in change, and to cement the great energy currently unfolding in Milan.
Ports 1961 couldn't have timed it better when they appointed Natasa Cagalj creative director just over a year ago. The Central Saint Martins alum, who served as head of design at Stella McCartney for seven years, presented her first show for Ports on Saturday evening, making a strong statement for the deconstructivist identity she's created for the brand. "I went back to my roots a lot, when I was a student in the 80s and 90s, and reconnected to some of the things I was doing then when I was identifying myself as who I am, because I then worked for other people and helped them with their vision," she said backstage where especially the Brits — all old friends — flocked to congratulate her. "There's a little quote from Wings of Desire, a movie that touched me a lot. The way it's shot in black-and-white with pops of color," Cagalj said of the collection, which started out strictly monochrome and minimalist and finished on a pink and girly note. Cagalj's first runway effort for Ports 1961 was consistent through and through, and instantly manifested a runway identity for the brand.
You can't accuse Milan of being all the same. The Saturday of shows started out with the low-key luxe of Bottega Veneta (in an absolutely brilliant collection by Tomas Maier, who nailed the louche and slightly bohemian opulence Bottega Veneta should embody), had a matinee with the Lurex-lined minimalism of Jil Sander, and finished in a warehouse with Philipp Plein, who transported his models out on enormous trucks with fire canons going off and Chris Brown playing up a storm. The signer turned out to be a safer bet than Lil Wayne, who walked off the runway at Plein's men's show in January, apparently because the fashion press — typically deadpan and emotionless — didn't get jiggy with it. Grand as they are, Plein's shows are something else and if anything, an extravagant reminder that this new age of Milan Fashion Week is a force to be reckoned with.
Text Anders Christian Madsen
Catwalk photography Mitchell Sams