Milan runways buzz with off carpet news

COLLEEN BARRY DANIELA PETROFF Associated Press Published:

MILAN (AP) -- There was more buzz off than on the runway Friday, with the fashion crowd digesting the news of designer Jil Sander's return to the fold, and a preview peek at a much anticipated exhibit juxtaposing two of Italy's most influential female designers.

It was business as usual on the runway, with shows confirming the look for winter 2013 promises to be a mixture of military discipline, Victorian virtue and a lot of sexy spice.

Army accents abound from epaulette shoulders to gold buttoning, to any number of military booties -- not to mention silvery armor. The 1960s pant suit, one of the first forms of power fashion, also makes a comeback.

Wasp waistlines, high collars, puffed sleeves, ruched hemlines and bustle skirts evoke Victorian times, but the sheer fabrics and strategic cut outs and embroidery reveal much more than the queen would ever have allowed.

Next winter promises to be another dark season, at least where color is concerned. Although most shows along with fall hues of brown and green offer some very bright -- mainly purple, pink and yellow shades -- the favorite backdrop continues to be black.

Sander will be making her second comeback to the eponymous, minimalist label she launched in 1968, following the departure of Belgian designer Raf Simons. Simons last runway show for the label will be on Saturday -- and then it's anybody's guess where he will turn up next.

Sander said in a statement that her return "feels like coming home after a brief journey." Her last exit was eight years, when her company was under Prada Group ownership. Her new bosses couldn't be more thrilled with her decision.

"It's almost too good to be true," said Jil Sander Group CEO Alessandro Cremonesi, praising her entrepreneurial spirit and passion.

Miuccia Prada appeared at a presentation for the fashion exhibit "Impossible Conversations" at the New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, which will feature pairings of her creations with those of her designing compatriot Elsa Schiaparelli, who died in 1973.

The exhibit, which will run from May 10-Aug. 19, contained pairings of the two designers' dresses, showing apparent similarities that fade when their techniques and inspirations are considered.

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VERSACE

Donatella Versace must have the chainmail market cornered.

Versace's womenswear collection for next winter was heavy on garments in some way adorned with silvery chains or mesh in every imaginable weight and density.

The heavy metal looks would be ideal for a futuristic galactic gladiator -- even one who wanted to show her vulnerabilities as much as defend herself against adversaries.

The bustier, often fortified with chainmail that was first introduced to label by the late Gianni Versace in the 1980s, was the centerpiece of the collection, forming breast plates that were built into figure-hugging dresses and that topped slim pencil skirts.

Versace adorned her creations with Byzantine crosses, often bejeweled, another of her brother's favorite motifs. At times she enhanced the look with silver accents on the hips -- creating a streamlined silhouette.

As much as creating shields, Versace also sought to be revealing.

She used beads to create an open mesh that she worked into dresses or used as overlays on top of nude sheaths.

For the devil-may-care rocker, there was a backless black dress covered with what appeared to be shredded white ribbon.

The color scheme was mostly black and white, but Versace can never resist bold colors and this time reached for yellow and orange. Models wore short bangs and long flowing hair.

The short skirts were often paired with high-heeled knee boots, themselves covered with crystals and beads, and worn with fishnet stockings.

The silver chains, crystals and jewel beading reflects any sliver of light, creating a fantastic nighttime effect, but meaning the wardrobe ultimately would not work well on a sneak attack. Gladiators, beware.

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ETRO

Paisley prints revisited are the name of the game at Etro for next winter.

Veronica Etro, womenswear designer for the fashion house and family that established paisley printing on the Milan runway in the 1980s, was inspired by an old shawl found at the bottom of their fashion closet.

"The rest came naturally," she said.

The Etro brand, which also manufactures its own materials, is famous for incorporating bright colors and kaleidoscopic patterns, above all paisley, into their young and trendy styles.

This round, there were a series of unique treatments, from laser cut patchworks to decorative trompe l'oeil, giving the traditional pattern a contemporary twist. Worked into black tulle or sheer netting, the pattern creates a body tattoo effect.

The basic winter silhouette is sexy Victorian, which at Etro is not a contradiction in terms. Corset details like lacing and paneling are strategically placed to show off the body. Demure ruching, which forms ruffles or petals, finds it way on to an edgy leather biker jacket, while wool or leather bustles give a flip look to gowns and skirts.

Materials do the rest. Rich velvets, jacquards and tweeds are bound together to create sophisticated three-dimensional patchworks, while patent leather embroidery is used to form a film over a paisley background on a full-length gown.

Handbags like many of those seen on the current runway are rigid and medium-sized. Footwear too reflect the latest favorites: stiletto pumps with lace up ankles and pointy toe booties.

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MOSCHINO

Never has military-inspired apparel been quite so sweet.

Moschino creative director Rossella Jardini added girly touches to many of the uniform-inspired overcoats, jackets and capes previewed Friday as part of the womenswear collection for next winter during Milan Fashion Week.

Moschino's military capes, complete with epaulettes and big golden buttons on double-breasted styles, were cut of bright pink satin fabric or embellished with a thick ruffle. The leg-baring hemline leaves you guessing about the fashion underneath.

Hard and soft were in perfect balance.

A quilted biker jacket adorned with a heart and a peace sign was paired with a shaggy ballerina skirt.

Beehive hairdos were wrapped in oversized black taffeta bows, and jewelry was bold, large open circle earrings, heavy pendants and thick Moschino-emblazoned bracelets.

The accessories worked across a spectrum of looks, from mini suits in graphic prints recalling the 1960s to frilly pink taffeta cocktail dresses. Biker jackets were indispensable to the collection, showing up with short skirts and snug pants.

The palatte was mostly black and white, with flashes of red, yellow and bright girly pink. Shoes were spiky open-toe pumps.

Moschino paid special attention to headwear. There were lots of broad-brimmed South American cowboy hats held snug by a chin strap. And big furry black caps, call it a head muff, created a soft Muppet effect, sweetly framing the face with a big satin bow.

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BLUMARINE

Every season Anna Molinari offers a fresh interpretation of what she calls "young and naughty," for her fun-filled Blumarine label.

Next winter, the designer ups the ante with a sassy, sexy wardrobe, perfect for disco Barbie or a Paris Hilton moment on the red carpet.

Animal printing from head to toe, super-bright sequining and shimmery metallic leather all combine to create a super flashy look, where the adjectives demure or romantic, frequently used to describe the winter wears currently on display on the Milan runway, have no place.

Hot pants, tight fitting jeans with matching jacket in shiny silver leather, silk graffiti painted leggings, hip hugging emerald green sequined skirts and sparkling tops, all worn with high-heeled booties zipped at the back, and oversized hoop earrings, spoke of naughty days and even naughtier nights.

The incessantly repeated refrain from the runway's disco beat soundtrack summed up the show. "Bad girls," it said, "do it better."