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Milan Fashion Week: The Italian stalwart takes a stab at rebellion

Fiona Sinclair Scott, CNN Contributer: Marianna Cerini

Of “the big four” fashion weeks, Milan has long boasted heritage but often pales in comparison to the youthful spirit of London, the high-octane energy of New York or the grandeur of Paris. This season, however, there was a hint of something new in the air — and it smelled like rebellion.

While there were no overt political statements on the runways in the lead up to Sunday’s general election, the country’s creative class may well have been influenced by the looming reality of a far-right party on the cusp of victory.

Gaetano Pesce, the celebrated Italian architect and furniture designer who created Bottega Veneta’s vibrant set on Saturday night, issued a blunt statement ahead of the label’s show: “This space is a tribute to diversity,” he said of his poured resin runway and hundreds of bespoke, multicolored chairs.

“It is about the human being; we are all different. People who say we are all the same — f**k them! We are all different and this is our defining quality — otherwise, we are just a copy.”

Days before the Bottega Veneta show, Diesel attempted to democratize its normally exclusive event by breaking with tradition and inviting the public to attend the show, hosting a whopping 5,000 people of which 3,000 were non-industry guests.

And, in a devil-may-care-move, Dolce & Gabbana’s ballsy, self-referencial video of Kim Kardashian eating a plate of spaghetti was defiant, to say the least.

The last time Dolce & Gabbana used spaghetti as a prop, in November 2018, the brand found itself facing widespread accusations of racism. The promotional videos in question, which showed an Asian model struggling to eat the pasta with chopsticks, received so much backlash that the brand was forced to cancel its planned show in China.

Four years on, and the familiar scene was replayed — with a few significant edits — at the opening of the house’s Spring-Summer 2023 show. Before models walked out, a black and white film showed Kardashian tucking into a plate of spaghetti with a wry smile on her face. Was it a moment of “sorry not sorry” or an attempt to poke fun at the brand’s previous missteps? We may never know but it was a rare ackowedgemet of a controversy that the label has remained largely quiet about.

Elsewhere, designer debuts at Etro, Missoni, Ferragamo and Bally also breathed new energy into the week despite mixed reviews from critics.

Rebellion involves risk and not all risks paid off. From obnoxiously delayed shows to the numerous models who fell victim to the slip-and-slide that was Roberto Cavali’s runway, the wheels came off on a number of occasions, but there was still plenty to celebrate throughout the week.

Belle of the ball: Bottega Veneta

Matthieu Blazy’s second collection for Bottega Veneta was the undisputed triumph of the week. Combining womenswear and menswear, the elegant, thoughtful collection was filled with almost every item you might need in a wardrobe, from jeans and tanks to suits and gorgeous cocktail dresses. Repeating a technical trick he first played with his debut collection, Blazy put Kate Moss in seemingly simple jeans and flannel shirt that were actually printed leather. The show’s final look, a bright turquoise, heavily fringed dress, had the crowd cheering before the models came back out for the customary parade.

Gothic goddesses at Versace

Another notable highlight was delivered by Donatella Versace. “I have always loved a rebel,” she said in her show notes. “A woman who is confident, smart and a little bit of a diva.” The moody collection was a goth girl’s dream, in hues of purple and black, featuring lingerie-inspired mini dresses, fringed leather and lace-detailed veils. In a subversive move at the end, Paris Hilton stormed down the runway in sequinned fuchsia channeling the look and swagger of a rebel Barbie.

Millennial cool at Fendi

Fashion’s obsession with Y2K is still going strong and Kim Jones’ latest collection — featuring Gen Z-friendly cargo trousers in leather and silk, fluffy platform heels in highlighter green and leather mesh dresses — only cemented this notion further. That said, a solid base layer of neutral tones offered plenty of options for women in search of more classic, grown-up styles.

Inflatables for inflation at Moschino

Those seeking escapism can always rely on Jeremy Scott’s Moschino designs for a sweet moment of levity. This season was no different, though his playful collection did take its inspiration from darker realities. Speaking to CNN Style backstage, Scott said he was thinking about global concerns, such as the war in Ukraine, economic inflation and the ongoing assault on women’s rights, when creating the looks. His inflatable designs were an attempt to fight the heavy mood with literal buoyancy. “There’s so much negativity that we have to process,” he said, “but we must hold space for joy.”

Prada powers ahead

The partnership between Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons hit its stride this season. The pair’s latest collection showed a new symbiosis between the two highly regarded designers, who have been working together since Simons was made co-creative director of Prada two years ago. A series of delicate, paperlike looks were utterly captivating. And for anyone lamenting the demise of skinny jeans, the numerous narrowly cut trousers signaled you may not have long to wait before they are back in rotation.

Keeping scrolling for more from Milan Fashion Week.

Top image: Diesel Spring-Summer 2023 during Milan Fashion Week, 2022.

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