The best part of Milan Fashion Week every season is the sensation that you have truly left the real world behind and landed on a planet where it’s normal for women to stand outside a fashion show wearing Batman masks and dresses made of feathers while walking a fleet of matching Afghan hounds. And no one bats an eye.
To think, one night you’re checking into your flight at JFK, wearing sweatpants and a Justin Bieber concert T-shirt, and feeling like a complete slob when you realize that Carolina and Reinaldo Herrera are at the next counter (guess I’m not making the International Best Dressed List yet again). And the next afternoon you are dressed in Brunello Cucinelli cashmere as you maneuver between hairy dogs on the way into the Gucci show.
And what a sight that was to see. Alessandro Michele, Italy’s hottest creative director of the present fashion week, has decorated a vast hangar in wall-to-wall carpeting, pink velvet seats and over 250,000 plastic square paillettes that hang like beaded curtains throughout the room. His collection began with a smoke machine effect, so smokey, in fact, that it was exceedingly difficult to make out the clothes that followed, but from what I could see they were very, very good. Michele’s overt decorativism has played a huge role in the course of fashion over the last few seasons, and he is not ceding any ground on that front. It’s fun just to pick out the items you imagine the street style stars will be wearing tomorrow: The zebra intarsia fur coat, or perhaps the version that depicted jellyfish trailing ruffled streamers. There were great enlarged versions of Gucci bags and cool sequined socks that looked attached to the heels they were worn with. Fairy princess dresses were made of sharply pleated metallics that became perversely transparent in all the wrong, or right, places.
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Michele’s collections tend to combine so many references and ideas that they suggest many things, in this case perhaps his summer vacation to Los Angeles, where celebrities have gone ga-ga for Gucci. One dress was finished with a ribbon belt with the word “Cemetery” across the waist. Only from behind did the words “Hollywood Forever” become visible, a connection to the fabled resting place of stars that is also a concert venue. Again, strange, but also cool. You can imagine Michele, who happens to be a big fan of costume design, dancing the night away with Jared Leto and Hari Nef on Adrian’s grave.
Walking into the Roberto Cavalli show later that night, the oddities of Milan had become so expected that it barely registered when Ciara was giving a television interview at the door while wearing what appeared to be a metallic caftan. “Thirdly,” she said, “you’ve always got to have a glam squad.” I cannot be sure what the first two pieces of advice she was reciting might have been. I’m guessing one of them might have been to channel the ghost of Talitha Getty, since that’s what this groovy collection by Peter Dundas appeared to be doing with fun pastel velvets and embroidered bell-bottoms for boys and girls. That’s giving me ideas for what to wear on the flight home.