MILAN (AP) — The Milan masters displayed their customary discipline, but it was the fresh perspectives of up-and-coming young designers that energized this round of Milan Fashion Week: Uma Wang's hauntingly fresh looks, Fausto Puglisi's vibrant edgy couture and Marco de Vincenzo's romantic optical illusions.
Milan designers — fierce defenders of their own creative independence — are finding common cause in backing newcomers: fresh energy also is good for the collective. Giorgio Armani lent his space to Italian-Haitian designer Stella Jean and Dolce&Gabbana have given retail exposure to Puglisi, who hails from their beloved Sicily.
"It's the week of youth," Milan Fashion Chamber president Mario Boselli said ahead of Wang's show Monday, the last day of Milan Fashion Week. "Youth brings a certain energy."
Milan may have made its name with body-hugging tailoring, but the main design language this round was more relaxed, about draping the body in soft materials that subtly reveal the shape.
Despite the predominance of the brassiere top, these were not vamped-up collections. It came in studded leather, ironic pop-art cartoon renderings, or luxurious python bandeaus, which were almost always veiled beneath sheer fabrics or worn beneath peek-a-boo tops that stood away from the body. A belt often defined the silhouette.
Silky chiffon and organza shimmered with metallic accents in Milan, often woven into the materials to create the effect of the summer sun reflecting off the water. The softness was also expressed through next season's palette of bleached pastels. Black, white and bold jewel tones also made appearances for contrast.
The fashion in Milan this season was very much a battle between minimalists and non-minimalists. While some designers hued to the clean lines, many employed ruffles, bustles and pleats for flair. And there was no shortage of sequins, beads or metallic studs.
And even the most feminine collections had sporty references: athletic stripes, visors, tube socks, jogging shorts, tank tops and trekking shoes. The 1950s swimsuit, ostensibly modest, left the poolside and headed for the street.
After several seasons of high-rise footwear, shoes came down to Earth. Most of the looks were sandals, and elaborately decorated trekking styles were also a favorite.
Bags — bread-and-butter items for most of these fashion houses — came in every shape and size, although the fold-over purse was a favorite.
Makeup was minimalist, maybe a shimmering eyelid, with red lipstick for the more daring looks. Hair was almost always long and straight, as if combed back after a swim.
Giorgio Armani not only summed up next summer's diaphanous look, he perfected it.
The designer, whose relaxed styles have caressed rather than grabbed the body for over three decades, used different lightweight fabrics to create shadowy layers for summer 2014. He also mixed silks and knits to create a pale shimmering effect.
As in many of the collections seen this round in Milan, Armani kept to a pastel palette for his delicate styles, with flashes of bright shades such as deep-sea blue and coral red. Tiny floral embroidery, always an Armani favorite, lent an even more feminine touch to the summer look.
By day the latest Armani style is a small jacket over a soft flared skirt, or a longer jacket matched with an extra short pants skirt. The Armani night is perfect for a luxury graduation ceremony, with oversized caps and flowing floral gowns.
Sicilian-born designer Fausto Puglisi's road to Milan fashion fame took him to America and back.
Puglisi has a long list of fashion patrons and inspirations: the late Gianni Versace, Carolina Herrera, Oscar de la Renta, Dolce&Gabbana, who put his creations in one of their boutiques and Anna Wintour, the artistic director of Vogue America who is providing important support.
For spring-summer 2014, Puglisi paired ladylike long skirts printed with California palm trees with masculine shirts, cinched at the waist by a wide leather belt. The shirt is often left open to reveal a black leather studded bra. The outfit could be captioned, "Grace Kelly checks out the dark side of the street."
The palm tree motif defines his collection throughout, showing up as dainty embroidery on a silk dress, or bold sequins on a leather biker jacket. The importance of the belt in Puglisi's collection was epitomized in skirts and jackets made entirely out of buckles and belts.
Pleats and ruffles, slits and crinolines, blacks and bright summer shades — many of his elements had an opposite as befitted his "not always a lady" theme.
Like Venus emerging from the froth, Uma Wang's fashions for next season had a dewy freshness expressed through materials that undulate across and drape the frame.
The Shanghai-based Wang presented a series of pretty, wearable dresses during her Milan runway debut that revealed without exposing.
The disciplined collection for a metaphorical progression: Deep blue fabrics represented the ocean, then the palette moved to pebble brown, granite gray and finally black as waves crashed against the shore. The fabrics also shifted, from soft sheers and silks to more sculpted cotton, linen and viscose. A sheer black dress billowing over a long black sheath gave off a haunting presence.
With the sturdier textiles, Wang created dresses that stand away from the body, almost like paper.
Gianfranco Ferre's architectural style continues to survive him.
Design team Federico Piaggi and Stefano Citron's women's styles for next summer, presented Monday on the last day of Milan Fashion Week, had a structural look that adhered closely to the design language developed by Ferre, who died in 2007.
Concentric seams gave structure to the bust, the waist and hemlines, while layered pockets, shoulders or pleats gave a depth to the looks reminiscent of an Escher print. Hemlines varied from mini to floor-length, often in the same garment, with either a short skirt under a draped overlay, or short shorts exposed beneath a wide slit.