Ciao Bella: La Moda Italiana

From Gucci, to Prada to Dolce & Gabbanna, top Italian designers show the world a thing or two about style at AW 2011 Milan Fashion Week.

Dolce and Gabbana  (photo credit: Reuters)
Dolce and Gabbana
(photo credit: Reuters)
Retro and futuristic, playfully colorful yet elegant, wearable but still luxurious, the Milan Fashion week once again left its audience in complete awe.
Once regarded as the fashion capital of the world, Milan has been losing its ground to other stylish cities, especially after the fashion dictator herself, Vogue Editor Anna Wintour cut her visit short last year, throwing the city into utter chaos. However, between the avant-guard styles, the creative trends and the timeless glamor showcased during the Fall/Winter 2011 Fashion Week, the Italian designers have successfully restored the city to its rightful place among the top spots for international fashion.
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Kicking off the Milan Fashion week to a glamorous start was none other than the infamous brand of Gucci and the blast of color it brought with it. While many of the major fashion designers have quickly flocked back the style of the 60s, Gucci continued to play homage to the 70s, seen previously throughout the spring/summer 2011 collections, blending the era’s infamous retro colors and style with that of the 1940s.
The luxury brand’s designer Frida Giannini didn’t hesitate to paint the runway with an eye-popping 70s palette, including lemongrass yellows, ruby red, magenta, deep burgundies, and of course peacock tones ranging from emerald green, to dark blue and, rustic metal grays. While the collection was immensely wearable – consisting primarily of cropped wool peacoats, bulging polo necks and flared trousers paired with sweaters, the vivid color combinations, such as a purple mink vest worn over a turquoise trench coat, gave the collection that all essential runway flair. Nearly every look was trimmed by brightly colored fur, a trend that dominated many runways including that of Massoni and Fendi, lending many of the pieces a definite 1940s gangster vibe.The look was further dandified with belted waistcoats, pussycat-bow blouses, two tone wide-brim hats and patent leather or snakeskin boots.
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While the daytime looks focused on mixing fur with the 70s styled looser pants and skirts, for evening, Ginannini switched to a more seductive vibe. Ditching the fur wraps, she opted in favor of stoles made of thousands of hand-sewn hand-painted silk flowers draped over plunging neckline sheer chiffon gowns worn over matching briefs (below).
However, Gucci wasn’t the only Italian designer to pay homage to a past decade; a pair of designers’, by the familiar names of Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana, newest line had an undeniable 80s influence to it. The Dolce & Gabbana show kicked off with a "Boy versus Girl" theme as the designer duo sent models parading down the runway crisscrossing between menswear inspired styles and sexy feminine silhouettes.  Models dressed up as boys emerged in pinstriped banker suits with torn off sleeves, skinny short pants, double breasted jackets, suspenders and porkpie hats (below); while on the more girly side, models strutted down the catwalk in delicate chiffon dresses adorned with musical symbols like piano keys and treble clefs (below) and bombshell dresses covered with stars.
Dolce and GabbannaDolce and GabbannaDolce and GabbannaDolce and Gabbanna    Over at the D&G show, the designer’s ready to wear line, the iconic style of  the 80s continued to rule to the runway; with even Madonna's 80s hit "Vogue" playing as models struck a pose. The collection was all about bold tones (hot pink, neon greens, sunshine yellows and taxi cab oranges), a sporty chic undertone and of course singing the ABCs. Dolce and Gabbana splashed the letters of the alphabet on every item of their collections, from leggings, to tees, to over sized sweaters to even tube and maxi dresses. The “alphabet” soup theme was carried through to the very last detail with many of the models wearing necklaces and bracelets covered in plastic neon colored letters. Ensembles were finished off with high-heeled, brightly colored converse trainers (below).
And then we come to Prada. Arguably the most important of the Italian shows, Miuccia Prada is notorious for wowing, dazzling and even shocking her audiences with her surprising take on fashion and the Fall/Winter 2011 line, while slightly more demure than some of her previous shows, did not let the audience down. Showcasing the collection against a backdrop of a child dollhouse set, the Italian designer brought childlike wonder back to the “sophisticated” world of fashion.
While we know that the “Devil wears Prada”, we have to wonder do prep school girls? It seemed like the answer is a definite yes as the new collection “women should look...more innocent” saw models streaming down the runway looking more like playful schoolgirls, than urbane women. Fusing the designer’s two favorite decades the roaring 20s and the ladylike 60s, the show started off with the classic 1960s thick cashmere princess coats (below) and drop waisted dresses: peach with over-sized silver buttons on the side and a low-slung red belt, black or white dresses with scooped backs and box pleats to just above the knee (below) and of course the signature 60s straight silhouette.
PradaPradaPradaPrada     However, it wasn’t all so “classical”, as Prada brought out her inner child, by mixing and matching prints, textures and colors – much like a child does when she is playing dress up with mommy’s wardrobe. Dresses made entirely from prep school girl skirt pattern were paired with snake skin Mary Jane styles boots; drop-waist block-colored silhouettes with thick bold belts were paired with knee high python print socks (below); and a delicate blush blouse was paired with a block green and teal print skirt, worn over teal, green python, and key lime green boots. Other silhouettes were covered completely with fur (below), while some models walked the runway wearing Prada’s take on the aviator hat – starting out in wool, the aviator skulls cap gradually turned into fur and then finally shaggy sheep’s wool.
Much like the hats, which began more eccentric as the show went on, so did the clothes. By the end of the show the 60s styled monochrome and block print silhouettes had been transformed into a futuristic version – almost translucent numbers made entirely out of plastic scales (below). Outwear also got blasted with the “plastic fantastic” look, as the thick A-line cashmere versions, gradually changed into reptile (above) or fur adorned coats and eventually emerged as futuristic pastel colored plastic creations complete with circular disk detailing and even fur collars. 
PradaPradaPradaPrada    While bright and bold colors were a predominant trend on Fall/Winter 2011 runways, with many of the top Italian designers shrugging off the bleak symbolism of dark winters, and instead painted their collections in every imaginable shade possible; one legendary designer stayed true to the classical winter dark hues. Inspired by a “film noir” theme, Emporio Armani’s Fall/Winter 2011 collection was consistently black:  black dresses, on top of black pants with matching black aviator styles caps – with only the occasional peacock blue or green fur shawl and handbag popping up now and again. Asymmetric tunic dresses and wool ponchos were mixed in with the designer’s classic slim-line silhouettes, with many of model’s wearing black headscarves and dark sunglasses (below).
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While the Emporio collection centered on black, the Giorgio Armani show, showcased later in the week, turned to softer hues, seducing its audience with an almost fairytale like style. Inspired by a “world of dreams”, the collection was a whirlwind of soft pinks, delicate skirts and dresses made completely from silk, satins and chiffons. For the finale the Italian designer sent models cascading down the catwalk in shimmering silver and glittering soft pink princess gowns, adorned with crystal fringing, hand-embroidered organza and charmed necklaces and with many girls wearing plexiglass “Cinderella” like heels (below).
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