Op-Ed: Reality Versus Dreams During Milan Fashion Week

The clothes offered in Milan are (expensive) comfort over desire.
milan fashion week fw24 gucci prada
From left to right: Ferragamo, Moschino, Gucci, Bottega Veneta, Prada

At the recent Milan Fashion Week, most designers seemed to be interested in the “reality”. But what does reality really mean in the fashion world?

At Bottega Veneta, Mathieu Blazy wanted to offer something for the wearers that is “real, pragmatic and functional”. By that, Blazy meant no flannel shirts made of leather, no trompe l’oeil. Instead, cotton was cotton and leather was leather. There were no embellishments and crazy techniques as we’ve seen in the past seasons. It was an act of reduction with the intent of making a maximum impact. Of course, the clothes were beautifully made. In fact, they were some of the best that we have seen in Milan (for the record, we didn’t get a show invite). But speaking of inspiration, Blazy said, “We all watch the same news. It is hard to be celebratory at this point. Still, the idea of rebirth is beautiful too. These are the flowers that bloom after the earth is burnt—they give a sense of hope. They come back stronger than ever. Here, elegance is resilience.” Elsewhere, he was also quoted saying, “In a world on fire, there is something very human in the simple act of dressing.”

It got us thinking about the correlation between these beautiful garments and the narrative of the “real world”. Can fashion express a certain form of resilience and hope during challenging times? How does a MYR50,000 shearling coat signal hope and resilience here?

Gucci’s Sabato de Sarno is also interested in the real world. “My dreams, as with my fashion, always converse with reality. Because I am not searching for another world to live in, but rather of ways to live in this world,” De Sarno said. It is an incredibly respectable view, yet with his incredible savoir-faire and skills, it is hard to see some of these clothes in real life. I mean, how often will you wear a floor-length camel coat covered in sequins and paillettes?

Having said that, his second outing for the Italian brand did lay the groundwork of a modern wardrobe for the new Gucci woman, who is (given the cost of the clothes) the one per cent that is fearless, fabulous, and frivolous.

After all, who can afford a MYR20,000 wool coat at a time like this? I think the versions of reality these designers dream up perhaps speak to the handful few who are privileged enough to carry on with life in the face of someone else’s struggle.

Of course, drawing inspiration from dark times is nothing novel. At Prada, Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons seek out beauty in tough times—the beauty that is evident in the military codes of the collection, inspired by the 1920s. Think wartime-masculine tailoring, sailor hats (made of feathers!) paired with linen dresses inspired by the old tablecloth.

There is a certain romance in both the show and the clothes, which suggests that when we reminisce, things aren’t always necessarily wonderful. It can be hard, harsh, and dark. But we can also look at them and respect the beauty in them. Ultimately, I think the message is about beauty and love, as universal values.

At Moschino, newly minted Creative Director Adrian Appiolaza put forth a more straightforward message on love, by putting slogan logos on the garments.

With only three weeks to design the entire collection following the sudden death of former Creative Director Davide Renne, Appiolaza managed to keep things cheery and find humour in a smiley face on a bright yellow jumper, a baguette-shaped bag, and paper boat moulded hats amongst other things.

With his recent stint at Loewe, Appiolaza definitely has a penchant for eccentric realness. His debut collection which is both respectful to the house codes and imbued with his idiosyncratic style signals a new real world for Moschino. And we are here for it.

Meanwhile, Ferragamo’s Maximilian Davis’ version of reality comes in the form of protection. Citing the 1920s (a recurring era this season) through his distinctly defined perspectives, thick wool stockings, and exaggerated shoulder pads are combined with dropped waist and slinky cuts. Like Prada, there is also a wartime mood permeated at Ferragamo, the difference is perhaps the relaxed finesse to Davis’ silhouettes, where raised hems and fluid fabrics were coupled with his excellent play of saturated colours.

Overall, the commercialism and conservatism of Milan Fashion Week seem to suggest that today’s world is a dark place and in the real life we live in, clothes should first be comforting rather desirable. I found this quote by Fashion Critic, José Criales-Unzueta, extremely poignant and spot on: “Today is one of those times in which fashion is faced with the challenge of proving itself purposeful and meaningful in a world plagued by destruction. A tall order this season has yet to fulfil.”