“Judging is an instinct.” “You’re already giving a score to this look in your mind, just express it.” So droned the Voice of God at the Sunnei show over the weekend as Milan Fashion Week drew to a close. Well, who doesn’t know truth when they hear it?
Every member of the audience was handled a group of paddles bearing numbers from one to 10, and instructed to rate each look as it appeared, in the sort of fashion meta-commentary on the modern condition that the brand’s designers, Simone Rizzo and Loris Messina, have made their signature.
This season the subject was the court of public opinion that is the social media sphere, where everyone is free to weigh in on everything. And as usual, while the clothes illustrating the issue were good (Sunnei is essentially grunge for the thinking person), even better was the point.
Sometimes that can be hard to find under the plethora of “real clothes,” razzle-dazzle showmanship and archive-diving that currently seems to be the default in fashion.
Such needle-sharp social commentary used to be the province of Moschino, but the brand is between designers. This year was its 40th anniversary, and rather than throw a party, the owner Aeffe, decided to invite four celebrated stylists — Carlyne Cerf de Dudzeele, Katie Grand, Lucia Liu and Gabriella Karefa-Johnson — to “interpret” the archive in 10 looks each.
Moschino, spring 2024Credit…Max Montingelli
The results were fun. Ms. Cerf de Dudzeele offered up classics with labels that read — in typical Moschino irony — “classic pant” and “classic jean”; Ms. Karefa-Johnson riffed on cowboys and granny crochet; Ms. Grand created a “Loud Luxury” lineup of body suits painted with body parts; and Ms. Liu, a “protect me from the fashion system” tee that she mixed up with ruffled meringues.
But the looks were more about the legacy of Franco Moschino himself, rather than the world outside — which was always his subject. As such, they were also a reminder of just how much of a difference a creative director with something to say can make. That content creation, a buzz phrase of today, is about more than just producing filler for the voracious viewing maw.
When it comes to clothes, it’s actually another term for design.
Let’s Go Somewhere
This is something that Matthieu Blazy of Bottega Veneta understands implicitly and it is what makes his collections so extraordinary. He treats each outfit — or maybe two, since his men’s looks and his women’s looks often seem to come in pairs, like on Noah’s Ark — as its own idea. Or maybe its own country, given that the floor of his show space was tiled to resemble a mythic world, complete with continents and flying fish, over which a flood of global nomads roamed.
Bottega Veneta, spring 2024Credit…Top two and bottom left, Antonio Calanni/Associated Press, bottom right, Giovanni Giannoni/WWD, via Getty Images.
They started out simply, in neat black suits and a little black dress, the straps just beginning to unpeel from the shoulders, and then built in increasingly wild amalgamations of texture and type: three-dimensional knits tracing new body topographies; a leather dress that cross-referenced panniers and tribal fringe; a halter covered in tiny blue scales that segued into silk strands that shifted over a pen-and-ink print like water.
Some were plain old weird (fishnet dresses with balls of fluff sprouting all over like seed pods) but many more were eye-poppingly good. “Let’s go somewhere” went the soundtrack, and the whole show was like an argument for appreciating process and the sheer allure of exploration, rather than any single destination.
Heading off into the unknown is an increasingly endangered concept. Luke and Lucie Meier are flirting with it at Jil Sander, expanding the bounds of what that brand can be with smart experiments in volume, matching skinny ribbed knits with stiff balloon skirts and turning big shirts back to front (though the cat and dog prints were a little random), but it’s early stages. You get the sense that Maximilian Davis could do really interesting things at Ferragamo — see his finale gown, with its layers of black chiffon trapped under a breastplate of glossy leather, with sections that looked as if they had been eaten away — though he is still being overly tethered to the leather legacy.
But at Versace, Donatella Versace went back to 1995 and a collection by her brother Gianni to emerge with an Easter egg parade of checkerboard-print ’60s-style frocks, suits and South Beach shorts sets in sorbet shades (also Claudia Schiffer, in a chain mail gown, as her closer).
Indeed, shorts, especially very short shorts, have been the trend of the week, in almost every collection. As Miranda Priestly might say, “Shorts? For spring? Groundbreaking.”
Versace, spring 2024Credit…Versace
Couture for the Climate Apocalypse
For that, look to Glenn Martens at Diesel, who (like Mr. Blazy) is turning into one of the most compelling designers in Milan; a technical genius who also understands how to use clothes to tell a story and is willing to go out on a limb to do it.
Or rather, to invite 6,000 members of the public — 1,000 students plus 5,000 fans who snapped up the tickets online in 15 minutes — to an open-air rave sponsored by Bulldog gin and capped by the Diesel runway show projected on a screen 26 meters wide by 14 meters high (85 feet by 46 feet) that later was used for an outdoor film festival.
Diesel, spring 2024Credit…Top two, Giovanni Giannoni/WWD, via Getty Images, bottom two, Estrop/Getty Images.
It had a chaotic, end-of-the-world energy that is reflected in Mr. Martens’s clothes, which increasingly seem like couture for the climate apocalypse. He does things with surface treatments that don’t seem possible: corrodes jersey and denim into sheer nylon and tulle (Renzo Rosso, the owner of Diesel, is trying to patent the process); shreds deadstock jeans into party dresses; melts and molds old blockbuster movie posters into jackets. “Kill Bill” as outerwear. Why not?
The result viscerally conveys the beauty in devastation. Another way to say, perhaps, that judgment day is coming.