MILAN — The final day highlights of Armani and DSquared2 always make a rather odd pairing, representing in many ways the two poles of Milan fashion.
Armani, who celebrates 40 years of his fashion brand this year, was a founding protagonist of the Milan fashion scene, and has become a global fashion watchword by creating enduring looks, with a focus on detailing and elegance, not flash-by trends.
Dean and Dan Caten, the Canadian twins behind the DSquared2 label, are on the more extravagant end of the fashion spectrum, with audacious styles that cross the border into camp.
What they share is a vision for Milan that they are willing to invest in.
Armani is the fashion world's ambassador to the world Expo 2015 opening May 1 in Milan, using his renown to promote the event to the fashion crowd. He is currently working on a retrospective exhibit to open on the eve of the world's fair opening, along with a runway show of his greatest hits.
The Caten twins last year opened the rooftop restaurant Ceresio 7 above their Milan headquarters, which has quickly become one of the city's hippest restaurants. With two swimming pools and a view of Milan's new quarter of futuristic skyscrapers, it will be one of the places to see and be seen by the visiting Expo crowd.
Highlights from the last of six days of womenswear previews for next autumn and winter during Milan Fashion Week, which ended Monday.
Sometimes Armani comes up with something so new, refreshing and inventive that not even he knows what to call it.
So it was with a new trouser silhouette that on top resembled a sweeping skirt in the shape of a pair of tulip petals, then melded seamlessly into a tight-fitting pant-leg. They were paired with pretty swing coats, some decorated crystals, or a sloping high-collar sweater that had the effect of a contemporary casual poncho.
Pants were so much on Armani's mind that of the more than 80 looks he sent out, fewer than 10 were skirts or dresses.
A velvet evening version working a skirt into the trouser was paired with tops of swirling chiffon or cropped jackets, while pants with a cummerbund waistline highlighted the crystal-dotted bustier. The looks were complemented by shimmery, but not metallic, long-fringe shawls.
For Armani, the black evening pant is the season's must-have. But when the occasion calls for a dress, there were long printed slip dresses with a diagonal band of black velvet sloping down to the hem and an eye-catching strapless chiffon dresses in red or cotton-candy pink with ruffled detailing at the bodice.
Giorgio Armani's looks for next winter were infused with a gentleness inspired by paintings by Chagall, whose work was shown in a retrospective that closed recently in Milan.
While many runways favored dramatic geographic lines, Armani chose a softer optical effect, a bleeding of one color into the other that the designer said was a nod to Chagall. The print of choice was a blur or color, giving the effect nearly of an aurora borealis of red, pink, black and gray.
A Chagall work inspired another detail, pretty feminine collars suggestive of a French school girl. Rounded or slightly squared, the collars could also be worn alone, as in unattached to a shirt or coat, as an accessory.
"There is a painting by Chagall with one or two women with big white collars," Armani said. "I was hit by this sense of innocence."
OLD WORLD-NEW WORLD
The staging of DSquared2's runway show suggested a more sober collection. That was not to be.
Models strode down an elegant zig-zag staircase lit up in shifting shades of purple to pink to gray. They did not emerge, as has been the rule, from the sort of elaborate sets illustrating the stories behind recent collections.
The clothes, however, clearly told a tale.
The looks were an eclectic mix of Native American dress mixed with European colonial-era attire, suggestive of conquest on many levels.
An elaborate admiral's short-coat was worn over a boudoir-ready ruffle blouse and big-pocket jodhpur pants, while a military coat thrown over a laced-up mini-dress suggested trophy.
And so the collision of world's pairings continued, with cropped trousers bearing golden sailor stripes worn with a feather-bedecked vest or fur coat with Native American symbols and an oversized hood. The larger-than-life hoods were seen previously in DSquared's menswear collection.
Many looks were laden with enough jewels to have purchased Manhattan at the going rate of the day.
Sheer graphic body-wear printed with native patterns suggested body paint or tattoos on any bare skin available. The collection, disciplined and brimming with luxury, closed with a pair of billowing evening dresses with a colonial-era lady-of-the-night sexiness.
Presentations are getting more of an emphasis in Milan. Alongside the runway shows, they allow garments to be viewed close up and give a better understanding of the workmanship and materials. They also are an entry point into the fashion calendar for brands like Kiton, a second-generation family-run company rooted in the luxury sector but not part of the fashion scene.
"We don't want to be trendy, or do runway shows," said Mara Giovanna Paono on a tour of Kiton's showroom showing the latest collection in three color-themed rooms, green, red and blue. Kiton, based in Naples, recently acquired the former headquarters of the Ferre fashion house in central Milan for its showroom and is a center for international client for fittings and styling.
Paono emphasizes the quality of the materials, vicuna wool and double cashmere, and examined the hand-stitched seams down on a green velvet tuxedo jacket for evening, paired with a ruffle blouse. Nearby, another model wore a coat and flared trousers our of a brushed cashmere plaid. All of the garment can be custom made, down to color and materials, in Kiton's workshop near Naples, Paono said.
"Every woman has her own personality and she needs to express herself," Paono said.