Fashion Review: Does Milan Matter?

It was 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, the Bottega Veneta show was about to start, and François-Henri Pinault, chief executive of Kering, the French conglomerate that owns the Italian brand, was het up.

Were the models late? Had some clothes not arrived? Did he — oops — not like what he saw?

Nope. His morning had been ruined because of the news that the Trump administration was changing the federal government’s policy on sexual assault on campus, potentially allowing colleges to raise the standard of proof required, a decision widely seen as altering the balance of power toward the colleges and away from the victims.

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Bottega Veneta: Spring 2018

CreditGio Staiano/Nowfashion

Kering has a women’s foundation that had done a lot of work on the issue, and he couldn’t believe what he had read. He was wondering if there was a way they could protest the decision. Between that and the Mexico City earthquake (his wife, Salma Hayek, is Mexican) there were things on his mind besides fashion.

At least until the show began. Then the sporty 1970s shapes — straight skirts and boxy jackets and belted trench coats and T-shirt gowns — in color field combinations of chartreuse, lilac and dusty rose, teal and olive green and dark gray, adorned with metal grommets and glinting mirrors so the utilitarian was transformed into the decorative, demanded a certain attention.

A few Pocahontas fringed dresses aside, this was a smart (in every sense of the word) proposal for how to navigate a world where attention is elsewhere; a sophisticated reminder that between no frills and fantasy, aesthetic invention can still be found. The priorities were right.

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Antonio Marras: Spring 2018

CreditGuillaume Roujas/Nowfashion

Still, it’s been a largely out-of-focus season in Milan. Italy has been something of a peripheral player in the European narrative of late — in the various dances among Macron and Merkel and Trump and May, Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni rarely cuts in — and designers seem equally confused about their own roles in the greater fashion ecosystem.

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