MILAN: There is no city in the world like Milan, designer Fausto Puglisi says. Puglisi, 37, is one of six young designers showing for the first time in Milan, part of efforts by the Italian fashion system to energize its “moda Milanese” with new blood.
Not that Puglisi is new to the fashion world.
At 18, he left Sicily to seek his fortune in the United States and soon became a darling with the Hollywood crowd. Earlier this year he became creative director for the Parisian house Ungaro, and his own label styles can be found in fashion boutiques in Europe and around the world.
“I owe everything to the Americans,” he said, citing designers Carolina Herrera and Oscar de la Renta as his role models.
But his long stay abroad hasn’t dampened his Italian loyalty – his dark eyes shine with enthusiasm as he speaks of his Sicilian roots.
“I am 100 percent Italian,” he says before his show Sunday in the frescoed halls of a famous Milan palazzo, calling the late Gianni Versace “his guiding fashion light.”
He also wants to thank the designing duo Dolce&Gabbana for giving him a boost several seasons ago by displaying his styles in the “new talent” department of one of their Milan boutiques.
The mixing together of Italian and American influences has defined the Puglisi style, which could be characterized as “edgy couture.”
“I want to go beyond contemporary. Go back to the past to be in the future. Street fashion. Go to excess. Find new ways to excite. Even a T-shirt can become an object of desire,” he said.
Puglisi also gave a big shout out to Anna Wintour, artistic director of Vogue America, who he says has a big hand in promoting young Italian talent in the hope of keeping Milan’s place on the international fashion map secure following several seasons of malaise.
As part of efforts to revitalize the Italian fashion scene, Conde Nast, Vogue’s publisher, has awarded university scholarships to five young designers, artists and journalists.
“We needed the Americans to tell us to wake up,” Puglisi said.
For spring-summer 2014, Puglisi’s Sunday show paired lady-like 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 as bold sequins on a leather biker jacket. The importance of the belt in the Puglisi collection was epitomized in skirts and jackets made entirely out of buckles and belts.
Pleats and ruffles, slits and crinolines, blacks and bright shades – everything in the show had an opposite, as befitted its “not always a lady” theme.
As exhausted as he was moved by the enthusiastic applause, Puglisi walked slowly down the runway for his curtain call, stopping to throw a kiss to front-row guest Wintour and whisper a timid “Thank you.”
On another runway, Gianfranco Ferre’s architectural style continued to survive him.
Ferre fashion house design team Federico Piaggi and Stefano Citron’s women’s styles for next summer, presented Monday, 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 bust-, waist- and hemlines, while layered pockets and pleats added an element reminiscent of an Escher graphic.
Hemlines varied from mini to floor-length, often in the same garment, with either a short skirt layered under a draped overlay, or short shorts exposed beneath a wide slit. Maxi-obi belts that folded and twisted defined the looks.
Piaggi and Citron also played with soft, draping fabrics, creating statuesque looks with long, wide pants worn with a bandeau top.
The designers said in their notes that they were partly inspired by photographer Herb Ritts, whose advertising campaigns during Ferre’s lifetime helped define the fashion house.
The last word at Milan Fashion Week was left to Giorgio Armani, who closed the event with a show that not only summed up next summer’s diaphanous look, but perfected it.
This has been a hands-off season for fashion, with soft, sheer fabrics resting loosely on the body, a look embraced even by designers whose clothes traditionally hug the figure.
Who better to pull it off than Armani, whose relaxed styles have caressed rather than grabbed the body for over three decades, starting with his liningless jacket in the late 1970s?
In his spring/summer 2014 collection, the designer used different lightweight fabrics to create shadowy layers, or mixed silks and knits to create a pale shimmering effect.
As in many of the collections seen in Milan, Armani stuck 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.
But no matter what the fabric or the workmanship, the final result was an outfit that came to life in movement, revealing its intrinsic natural beauty.
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. Armani footwear next summer is a casual bootie sandal.
Many of the outfits were accompanied by a sequined kerchief that doubled as a necklace, a playful look that Armani introduced during his Emporio collection.