See the Standouts from the Season’s Top Collections in Milan.
Words by Kerry Pieri, Barry Samaha, Carrie Goldberg, Alison S.Cohn and Leah Melby Clinton
Milan is the center of luxury fabrics, refined tailoring, and all things elegant. Even during this wild period, when in-person events are mostly on pause, designers made sure to get this point across, utilizing films, livestreams, look books, and more. Ahead, we curate all the best looks from the fall 2021 season.
Gucci creative director Alessandro Michele never does anything by half measures, and his 100th anniversary collection titled Gucci Aria was a grand celebration that remixed the Italian brand’s storied history. There was a pared-back focus to Michele’s madcap pilings that have seemed to become more ornate with each passing season. Gucci and Balenciaga logos were splashed across monogram outerwear and boulder shoulder, wasp waist suiting—clearly Demna’s influence. They also featured prominently on layered chain-link necklaces as well as signature Balenciaga accessories such as Hourglass bags and pantaboots.
But the references didn’t stop at Balenciaga. There was an inherent sexiness to the proceedings, not seen at Gucci since the Tom Ford era. These included some literal references, like a remake of Gwyneth Paltrow’s iconic red velvet suit she wore to the 1996 MTV Video Music Awards. Others were more oblique, like riding helmets and diamante whips that the models cracked while walking down the runway—a funny, dominatrix-inspired riff on Gucci’s saddlemaker origins. —Alison S. Cohn
Gigi Hadid returned to the runway for Donatella Versace’s Fall 2021 presentation this morning, which showcased slim silhouettes, sharp tailoring, and sultry riffs on power dressing. The looks felt like veritable suits of armor, making their way through the season’s Versace maze, inspired by the Greek Key. That La Greca code was combined with the brand’s signature logo into a motif that echoed throughout the collection, alongside sultry cuts, mod minis, and eveningwear that will resonate with fashion renegades and red carpet frequenters alike. This season featured a rebellious spirit with looks that felt strong, powerful, and bold, but also pieces that were easy-to-wear, perfect for throwing on post-lockdown to take to the streets by day, or out for a sexy night on the town. —Carrie Goldberg
COURTESY OF VALENTINO
Cynthia Erivo wore a fluorescent green scuba dress from Pierpaolo Piccioli’s most recent couture collection at last night’s socially distanced Golden Globes, but for Fall 2021 ready to wear, the Valentino creative director was working in a more muted color palette of black and white with pops of gold. One year after lockdowns swept Italy and much of the world, shuttering performing arts spaces and much of our cultural life in their wake, he reopened Milan’s Piccolo Teatro for one night only to stage a 66 look spectacular titled Valentino ACT.
The historic public theater is in the process of digitizing and cataloguing its renowned costume archives. The mod Valentino styles that processed under a spotlight through the darkened space as Cosima sang live accompanied by a string quartet—pleated A-line mini skirts, pointed collar white shirts, turtlenecks, and swingy cape coats, paired with sturdy boots covered in rubber petals and macro studs—translated the house’s own ’60s origins for the here and now. As the models stood six feet apart in formation for the finale and the backdrop changed from white to Valentino red, the message was clear: the show must go on. —Alison S. Cohn
COURTESY OF LORO PIANA
Luxurious ease is what so many of us are naturally gravitating toward now, and it’s a banner thing for Loro Piano: Luxe simplicity is its signature stock-in-trade. The silhouette for fall is all about long, lean lines: wide-legged pants that drop to the floor and monochromatic sets that utilize color as the ultimate lengthener. The collection found its inspiration in Milan, its “way of dressing and behaving,” and the effortless, utterly mixable pieces certainly speak volumes about the person wearing them without ever needing to do more than whisper. That said, the label achieves its aim of wanting the wearer to shine through—these are not clothes that overwhelm or steal the spotlight—yet there’s no denying that the combination of palette, fabric, and silhouette all make for an undeniable message.—Leah Melby Clinton
COURTESY OF EMILIO PUCCI
After a fall and winter where we did such little traveling and jetting and, honestly, living the good life, it’s almost cruel to see a collection so clearly made for good wintry days out and about—almost. The prints and colors are as bold and happy as you’d expect, doing honor to Pucci himself who set out to “Puccify all the seasons” after first launching in Capri. These are pieces meant for St. Tropez and St. Moritz, separates designed to be mixed and matched and intended to bring as much energetic delight in snow or sun (don’t let the printed leggings fool you—there are shorts and saucily slit skirts too). Consider it the happiest pledge that next resort season will look nothing like the last.—Leah Melby Clinton
Philosophy di Lorenzo Serafini
Lorenzo Serafini explored a school-uniform fantasy of the Ryan Murphy variety for fall: Everything is a little bit bolder, brighter, and more exaggerated than what you’d really see standing in front of a locker, but there’s nothing wrong with maximalism. Pleats and letterman patches are always rich with nostalgia, but something feels especially emotional about the peppy, preppy attitude at this moment in time. With so much of the school year conducted virtually, uniforms didn’t get much airtime, and plenty of collegians decided to make alternative plans when faced with an unprecedented year. By tripling down on schoolgirl-chic, we’re ready to dress for the world we want.—Leah Melby Clinton
COURTESY OF SALVATORE FERRAGAMO
When it comes to parsing a collection, it’s common to look at the decades past being referenced and reworked. And while Paul Andrew did do some cinematic mining when crafting this season, the films he looked to all referenced the future (The Matrix; Gattaca). “The objective was to engineer a collection that sees the present through a prism of the future,” he wrote. The Ferragamo blueprints are about uniforms with military-inspired tailoring or sporty energy (and true-blue sports, like scuba or cycling or motorbiking, not the more leisurely lifestyle associated with American sportswear); the bolder or more feminine moments are constrained enough that they could be uniforms too. It should also be noted that Andrew’s future is sustainable: Up- and recycling were part of the process, as were other choices that resulted in a lower environmental impact.—Leah Melby Clinton
If all of us have spent part of the last year taking stock of where we’re at and rethinking what really matters, Francesco Risso is no different. All that thought resulted in a belief that fun and joy and beautifully made things—things that maybe don’t show their full beauty on a cold screen—are more important than ever. There’s a tongue-way-in-cheek attitude threaded throughout, with a feeling that the models have naughtily stolen into a mother’s closet and are sashaying around while she’s out (a feeling definitely helped by the comically large top-handle bag perched in the nook of one’s arm). It’s a reworking of the knits and nap dresses and sweats, tie-dye sets included, that we’ve spent so much time in. Recognizable elements remain, yet the updated versions have both more joy and craftsmanship going for them.—Leah Melby Clinton
Giorgio Armani is forever soft and subtle—precise, but never harsh. His particular presentation of femininity is brought to life with ruffles and petals and peeks of skin (jackets that flare open over the navel and long skirts layered over shorter ones to let legs emerge mid-stride). Rich velvets and rippling silks coyly suggest you touch without demanding it, a demure attitude upheld even by the more must-touch crystals and spiral ruffles. Entitled “Nocturnal,” it seems fair to read the collection’s palette as a sign that we’re collectively emerging from what’s felt like one very long night. Every hue of blue was used, including the inkiest iteration of a midnight sky, and spots of blush warmed things up much like the first tentacles of sun do upon the dawning of a new day. Lovely and surefooted, it’s a wonderful forecast for the future.—Leah Melby Clinton
Best known for luxury utility, Tod’s’ Walter Chiapponi tapped fanciful elements more often seen in evening dressing and couture to expand on the brand’s vernacular this season. Staples like leather coats and trenches were elevated with ruffle-like collars and strong shoulders; sheer elements made an otherwise basic day dress transform into an edgy look for evening. The accessories, which are always a focal point, were ever-more elevated; sunglasses done in all leather and a range of exaggerated, oversized handbags and hats stood out, and added to the drama. This season, Chiapponi played with proportion, volume, and styling much like someone designing for the red carpet—but in media and methods that feel inherently Tod’s.
Trends are cyclical, yes, yet some decades are less forgiving than others. The ’80s can be the hardest for designers to make palatable what with all of that era’s insistence on things that fall so far from classical aesthetic principles, yet Emporio Armani’s reincarnation feels more than palatable. It’s a softer version of some of the harsher shapes, with pleated-front trousers, skinny suspenders, and drop waist silhouettes included. The prints are bold and the velvet soft, yet neither read garish in a way vintage pieces might shriek. The ’80s reliably make for fun costume parties but not always real-life fodder; it feels refreshing to see a take that’s not just acceptable but actually exciting.—Leah Melby Clinton
A Moschino show is a show, an experience, a prance through different worlds and scenarios. For the latest tour, Jeremy Scott was inspired by George Cukor’s The Women and set out to wardrobe the entire panoply of female tropes. There are boss-heroines in tailored pinstripes; prairie housewives in calico and paisley (plus some potato sacks for good measure); adventurers in safari garb; and, of course, plenty of sirens. Never one to shy away from drama or attention-grabbing elements, Moschino was also stacked with big-name models (like Hailey Beiber, Amber Valletta, Winnie Harlow, Dita Von Teese). It’s par for the course at the label, but also feels especially necessary given the entire season is inspired by scene-stealing women.—Leah Melby Clinton
The latest installment from the partnership made in fashion dreams—Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons—is inspired by change, transformation, and opening possibilities. Those ideas live in jacquard knits, statement faux furs, menswear inspired suiting, bold colored coats, and feminine skirt suits. The looks are only seemingly simple—with bold hits of color like cobalt and orange, against black, brown, and white. Models walked on an interior landscape created out of vibrant faux fur and marble by Rem Koolhaas and AMO. All of it will be eventually donated to Meta, a circular economy project based in Milan, “which offers
sustainable solutions to waste disposal within ephemeral events by collecting and recovering materials for selling and rentals.” This is the future—clothes to collect and not discard, an awareness around waste, a venture into creativity with thought for what happens next.—Kerry Pieri
English mainstays meet a chic Italiana woman for Max Mara’s Fall collection. Think: tartans and cashmere, headscarves and Fair Isle knits. Who doesn’t want to be her? The creator of the famed teddy coat (they’re in here too, don’t worry) is celebrating 70 years since Achille Maramotti founded the storied brand as a shopping destination for the wives of local notaries and doctors. Luckily, now the ladies who frequent Max Mara’s boutiques are the professionals themselves—all the better for investing in all those camel coats.—Kerry Pieri
Brunello Cucinelli is no stranger to the luxe leisure trend that has swept the fashion industry. To wit: The Italian designer built his brand on tailored double-faced cashmere tops and cardigans, along with mohair sweaters and coats. He has also consistently offered tailored drawstring trousers. Where others are now just presenting pieces inspired by pandemic life, Cucinelli was ahead of the curve. As a result, his fall 2021 collection—comprised of his stalwarts in subtle shades of brown, beige, cream, and gray—were miles ahead of the simple ribbed knit dresses that sprung up in most presentations this season. Indeed, the proportions of his pieces was a masterclass, the mixing textures was sublime, and the addition of crochet styles were a fun surprise.—Barry Samaha
Kim Jones is the designer of the moment, and his latest livestreamed show at Milan Fashion Week proved once again that Fendi made the perfect choice in naming him artistic director of womenswear. For the fall 2021 season, a swift follow-up to his debut couture show in January, the British designer presented a collection that paid homage to the Roman label’s storied history, while also adding his signature sleek, streetwise edge. There was a slew of fitted fur coats with sizable shawl lapels and floor-grazing fringe at the hem, cinched with tiny belts; flowing V-neck silk dresses; knit crop tops with matching pencil skirts; and tie-front satin blouses with paperbag-waist trousers. The color palette stuck to neutral tones: cream, tan, blush pink, grape, and black. “I’m taking the amazing, strong women who I both know and work with, and listening to their needs,” Jones said. “There’s a usefulness to the collection, explored in a chic, timeless way.” —Barry Samaha
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This article originally appeared on harpersbazaar.com