At Gucci, Hollywood Forever; At Cavalli, Nudie's Rodeo Tailors

It’s been a while since I’ve traveled to Milan for fashion week, probably about 5 years or so, and the city feels more vibrant, young and hip than I remembered.

On Tuesday night at the pedestrian shopping area Corso Vittorio Emanuele, people were dressed to the nines and clogging the streets and stores until midnight. The occasion? Fashion’s Night Out.

Apparently, the Camera Moda, which is Italian fashion’s governing body, was inspired by the success of the Milan Expo in 2015, to try to make fashion week more inclusive of the city of Milan. And while there’s nothing like the Tommy Hilfiger carnival open to the public here this week, having Fashion’s Night Out kick off the shows did feel good, even though the global shopping event, which started in 2009, has since been abandoned by most other cities.

The foodie revolution has arrived here, too, with several gourmet food halls popping up around the city, including one in the basement of the new concept store Excelsior, which has the most beautiful selection of tomatoes I’ve ever seen. Only in Italy, right?

And still, from what I’ve heard, public relations executives at fashion brands have had a hard time wrangling celebrities to come to the shows here. “There’s no direct flight from L.A.…and no one really wants to come to Milan,” a PR vet told me Wednesday.

Even Gucci, the one fashion brand that’s on top of the world, had a relatively lightweight front row on Wednesday, with just one major A-lister, Dakota Johnson.

At Gucci, Hollywood Forever

Not that the brand is short on celebrity love (in the last month, it has released ad campaigns with both Jared Leto and Vanessa Redgrave). Creative director Alessandro Michele loves L.A., traveling to the city often, according to his Instagram feed, and frequent sightings at Chateau Marmont. And it showed more than ever in this cinematic runway outing, featuring a cast of ghostly characters, a dreamlike pink boudoir set with velvet cushions and 250,000 hand set pink mirrors casting a rosy glow on everything, and “Hollywood Cemetery Forever” scrawled on several looks.

The spring 2017 collection was a continuation of Michele’s fanciful, granny-meets-street story, with sporty, cardigan-style hoodies, embroidered denim jackets, silky pajama tops, studded flared denim suits, platform satin slippers, the new oversized Marmont handbag, paper fans as accessories and more, more, more. The designer collaborated with San Francisco based illustrator Jayde Fish on artwork on some of the pieces. I also noticed quite a bit more cocktail and evening wear, including a minidress with a single ruffled sleeve, and delicate tiered chiffon dresses embroidered with sprays of sequins, all of which will be useful come November when Gucci once again sponsors the Art + Film Gala at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

The collection was rich, wonderful and chockful of stuff to buy. Michele has created such an incredibly identifiable aesthetic in less than 2 years time at the helm of Gucci, and everywhere you look you can see his influence (pleated skirts, floral blouses, kiltie loafers, patched and embroidered everything) reverberating in other labels. Between the Gucci Ghost painted buses and the windows at department store Rinascente, his creative coup has elevated the entire city.

Fausto Takes Us to the Theater

Fausto Puglisi, the Sicilian designer who has created stage wear for Madonna, Katy Perry and many more celebs, staged his own fashion performance, inspired by the Comagnia della Fortezza, a theater company inside a prison. The subject was heavy. (The idea was “for everyone to absorb the horror of my homeland,” he wrote in the show notes, nodding to the invasions that have befallen his home country, by the Greeks, the Normans and so on.) But the clothes were street cool.

The show was set behind bars, with heavy religious overtones, including crosses on either side of the stage, and an icon of the Virgin Mary above. Models rattled the cage, as guests strained to catch a glimpse of the print dresses and matching boots, studded leather bustiers and oversized “Fausto” T-shirts. Most notable, though, may have been the throwback, 1980s cowboy belts, because they were also spotted on the runways at Ferretti and Cavalli on Wednesday as well. Time to start scanning Etsy.

Ferretti Goes Folkloric

Alberta Ferretti is a designer I’ve long associated with sweet, romantic, diaphanous looks (hence the label’s popularity on the red carpet, as worn by Laura Dern at the 2015 Oscars, Kate Beckinsale and others).

But this season, she pivoted to something saucier with a folkloric-looking collection of jewel tone ruffled skirts and leather bandeaus; off-the-shoulder dresses with colorful embroideries, corset-laced broiderie anglaise shirts and shorts, all worn with the label’s sumptuous velvet slip-on mules — and often, those aforementioned cowboy belts, too. It was a welcome change of pace.

At Cavalli, The Flying Burrito Brothers

Roberto Cavalli designer Peter Dundas seemed to have The West on his mind, too. “The mood of the pioneer," is how he put it, emphasizing a mélange of references, including the famous North Hollywood-based rodeo tailor Nudie Cohn, who dressed everyone from Gram Parsons to Elvis Presley.

Add to that a little Buffalo Soldier and Victoriana inspiration, and it made for a heady mix of flared pants suits (one fabulous one in flame orange velvet); fringed kimonos and ponchos, patchwork jacquard gowns, concha belts, beaded purses and more. The collection was rock n’ roll, decadent and very L.A.

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