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March 2, 2012

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Italian giants crank up the style

THE fashion world's top Italian houses were out in full force for Milan Fashion Week, which ended on Monday.

There was a bit of a masculine trend to the week with Donatella Versace finding many interesting uses for chain mail in her womenswear collection. The MaxMara collection found inspiration from military looks with its bomber jackets and cropped pants.

On the softer side, Dolce&Gabbana's 2013 winter collection features a whole bunch of black velvet, lace and chiffon and enough gold to fill a mint.

Frida Giannini was going for romance with her fall collection for Gucci. The clothes were mostly in a variety of greens, navys and dark maroons.

Armani focused his attention on Bermuda shorts, pairing them with feminine blouses and tailored jackets while Roberto Cavalli's collection featured a fair amount of animal motifs, be it in the form of a leopard print or an alligator necklace.


Black velvet, black lace, black chiffon and more gold than even Midas could muster are the basic ingredients of the dramatic Dolce&Gabbana winter collection.

Dramatic, as well as theatric. Ten maxi chandeliers dripping with silk roses hung above the runway, while in the background an oversized gilded mirror doubled the splendor of the outfits during Sunday's show on the fifth day of Fashion Week for winter 2013.

Front row guest, British actress Helen Mirren, on her way to pay her compliments to the designing duo backstage, described the clothes as both "decadent and opulent" and said she loved "every bit" of the show.

However, the actress best known for her role as Queen Elizabeth II, in "The Queen" which earned her an Oscar as best actress in 2007 did not dip into her theater closet for reference, but rather said the show "spoke to my Russian roots." Mirren's father was a Russian nobleman.

For another front-row guest, Italian actress Monica Bellucci, the show was "molto Siciliano," a reference to the Dolce&Gabbana fashion vision. This round inspiration could easily come from the 1963 film "The Leopard," about the decline of Sicilian nobility at the end of the 19th century, and the famous ballroom dance of Claudia Cardinale and Burt Lancaster.

Either way, there was definitely an aristocratic feel to the collection, from the dainty gilded head dressings that framed the models demure hairdos, to the dainty little buttoned booties that adorned their feet.

Styles ranged from coats to capes, from long sheaths to ballooned shorts, from pleated skirts to ruffled tops.

To lighten the look the designing duo interspersed white or pretty Victorian floral patterns into the basic black palette.


"Romanticism - literally speaking, of the 19th century." That was Frida Giannini's starting point for her fall Gucci collection. It worked like a charm of the seductive, rather than sweet, variety. She chose a palette moody with color (dark maroons, greens and navys) and fabrics with flourish; high-drama brocades and jacquards formed the base, worked in combination with velvet, fur, silk and leather.

There was a poetic practicality to Giannini's tailoring. She focused a great deal of attention on day clothes - real, functioning day clothes - worn in texturally intense layers that evoked the literary dandy without looking silly. In their combinations and controlled swagger, some were informed by the language of Saint Laurent.

Opening the show: a structured jacket with a vague military effect over a long velvet skirt. This was just one of numerous strong outerwear pieces ranging from a languid velvet trench to an alpaca-lined knitted mink and grandly proportioned cape.

On the softer side, lean dresses were inset with velvet panels and waistbands; some flaunted explosions of huge florals.


All it takes to be Armani stylish next winter is a pair of Bermudas.

Well, almost. There is a lot more going on in the latest collection of the man who put the "moda Milanese" on the fashion map more than 30 years ago, but these chic iron-creased shorts are the centerpiece of the preview show presented on Monday.

Worn on their own under a super-feminine blouse in a brightly colored print, paired with a tailored Armani jacket, or peeking out of the hem of a silk taffeta cocktail dress in coral and pink, they claim the runway and define the collection.

The new Armani jacket has no lapel and caresses the neckline. Besides with the Bermudas, it can be worn with tapered slacks, and is often accessorized by a silk corsage.

The Bermuda shorts, still iron creased, but now in luxurious silk, also claim the night lights, coupled with shimmering sequined evening jackets, or worn with a silk sheath.

Bottega Veneta

Shouts of "Bravo" rang out as Tomas Maier took his bow at the end of a show that was short, sweet and to the point.

The new Bottega Veneta winter collection, presented last Saturday during Milan Fashion Week, had the contemporary elegance that has marked the label since creative director Maier came on board in 2001, but softened the trademark minimalist edge with such details as jeweled beading, ruching, sequining and embossed velvet embroidery.

From the early morning hours, it is clear that this lady is into luxury - the downplayed kind. She wears a simple sheath over a closely-fitting black coat, with dainty velvet collar and couture wool buttons, paired with a pair of flat equestrian style boots and a contrasting brown Bottega Veneta basket weave shoulder bag.

The Bottega woman's dark suit is double-breasted with the same chic buttons and a proper mid-calf hemline, or she might opt for a taupe blue double breasted dress that looks like a one-piece suit.

As the day wears on, the clothes get lighter - soft sweaters and winter peddle pushers replace the more formal but never rigid outerwear.


Donatella Versace must have the chain mail market cornered. Versace's womenswear collection for next winter, previewed during Milan Fashion Week on February 24, 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 chain mail 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. At times she enhanced the look with silver accents on the hips - creating a streamlined silhouette.


With her angular features and boyish haircut, Dutch model Saskia de Brauw is the perfect poster girl for fashion's darker, more masculine mood. She opened the MaxMara show in an officer green bomber jacket and cropped pants, announcing the collection's military leanings. The design team at the Italian sportswear powerhouse was inspired by the cult Fritz Lang film "Metropolis" from 1927, which was evident in the drop-waist, cocoon shapes from that era, and its focus on dignified - and luxed-up - proletariat style.

They crossbred wartime looks with another dark-hearted movie, Rainer Werner Fassbinder's "Querelle," to interesting effect. Sailor stripes winked out from a military greatcoat banded in what looked to be plush shearling, and peacoats had couturelike caped backs.

Outerwear was strong overall, the house's signature camel coats now spliced with a band of leather around the hips, or sprouting a sporty hood. The references to sinister cinema added drama to Max Mara's clean-lined sportswear, as in a beefy cardigan with military pockets.

What's happening

Lady Gaga at Harvard

Pop star Lady Gaga descended on Harvard University with some powerful friends on Wednesday to launch her new foundation aimed at empowering young people.

The singer was joined by Oprah Winfrey, spiritual leader Deepak Chopra, and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to kick off the Born This Way Foundation that Gaga's mother and inspiration will help steer.

Gaga spoke to more than 1,100 students from several states, faculty and invited guests at Harvard, urging the young audience to "challenge meanness and cruelty."

"I believe that if you have revolutionary potential, you must make the world a better place and use it," she said.

She reminded them that there is no law to make people be kind to one another. She later added: "I wish there was because, you know, I'd be chained naked to a fence somewhere trying to pass it."

Save Your Logo project

Lacoste launched its fifth Save Your Logo project: conserving the Philippine Crocodile. The crocodile brand will support the Mabuwaya Foundation, which aims to preserve the existence of Philippine crocodiles in the wild.

Lacoste will work in cooperation with the Philippines government and with the French Endowment Fund for Biodiversity.

With a small and fragmented population of less than 200 surviving in the wetlands, the Philippine crocodile is today listed among the animals on the verge of extinction and is considered by scientists as one of the most endangered crocodilians.

For the past two years, Lacoste has been a premium partner of the Save Your Logo preservation projects, aiming at safeguarding and protecting endangered crocodiles, alligators, caimans, and gharials.

Hilton in Shanghai

Paris Hilton was undoubtedly the star at the Shanghai International Optics Fair, held February 22-24.

She launched her own sunglasses collection in Asia at the Xintiandi Longham Hotel on February 22, along with a fashion show showcasing the 2012 collection. The collection features designs that reflect the many facets of Hilton - from red carpet glamor, classic sophistication to casual and playful everyday wear.

Meanwhile, spectacles maker Rodenstock has teamed up with Mercedes-Benz to create Mercedes-Benz eyewear. The collection will feature sporty and elegant designs, A special collection was designed specifically for the Asian market.


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