The Best of Milan Fashion Week Fall/Winter 2014

Dolce & Gabbana brings a fairy tale to life, Pucci honors its Italian jet-set heritage, and Jil Sander's design team falls short. Plus, more from the Milan catwalks.

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Dolce & Gabbana brings a fairy tale to life, Pucci honors its Italian jet-set heritage, and Jil Sander's design team falls short. Plus, more from the Milan catwalks.

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Salvatore Ferragamo

"The artisanal workmanship behind the collection is the focus," creative director Massimiliano Giornetti said of his latest collection for Salvatore Ferragamo. This season, Giornetti seemed to skillfully master modernizing Ferragamo's luxurious heritage by showing a dark color palette of brown, black, and grey—with splashes of deep jewel tones here and there—that was sophisticated, youthful, and completely on point with the house's aesthetic. Between the high-necked, plaid cape that opened the show and the draped wool dresses and pony hair pieces that followed, Giornetti truly empshasized creation beyond anything else—it was clear the cuts were masterfully crafted and the most luxe fabrics were utilizied. The capes were the standouts of the collection, popping up in eggplant, a leopard-leather combination, and violet and black ombre. This was the appropriate stretch of the Ferragamo woman—strong, sophisticated, and certainly very, very stylish.

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Knitwear, unsurprisingly, dominated the Missoni runway; "We did a lot of research specifically into texture, to give the knits structure," designer Angela Missoni said of the brand's Fall/Winter 2014 collection. Things were laid-back and relaxed, with oversized cuts and menswear-inspired pieces in a series of orange, brown, yellow, green, and blue. The classic Missoni touch was evident, as each piece seemed comfortable in both shape and texture—chevron outerwear and tweed suits were all, surprisingly, crafted from knits. Dresses, skirts, and tops, on the other hand, hung more tightly on the body while still retaining the same balance of luxury and relaxation. Accessories were sharp as well—particularly the colored combat-style booties and structured leather handbags.    

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Dolce & Gabbana

Stefano Gabbana and Domenico Dolce delivered a collection for Dolce & Gabbana that was straight out of a fairy tale—one named,  “Once upon a time…in Sicily.” An enchanted forest with bare winter trees stood as the backdrop for an ornate and romantic collection that was equally as lavish as its predecessors—think the brands Fall/Winter 2014 Byzantine-inspired looks, or its gilded nod to ancient Sicilian culture. Models pranced to the tune of Tchaikovsky's "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" while wearing sweaters and capes printed with Mother Goose-like creatures and folk-art inspired foxes, semi-sheer dresses cinched at the waist with a lace-up corset, and shift dresses adorned with lace or playful appliques. The accessories retained the gilded touch of season's past in the form of bejeweled clutches, boots, and, most notably, detachable hoods, adding a 'wow' factor to some of the more simple colors, textures, and silhouettes. Little Red Riding Hood, too, made her high-fashion appearance, with Kasia Struss donning a flowing red gown printed with flowers and squirrels and a furry crimson headpiece, before Dolce & Gabbana's knights in shining armour stormed down the runway for the finale. Black and silver armor in the form of rich embellishments and structured pieces with heavy shoulders concluded the fantasy. 

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Emilio Pucci

When 40-year-old Eva Herzigová is seen prancing down the catwalk in a semi-sheer black dress with lace and embellishments, it's bound to be a good show. And Peter Dundas, who has been at the helm of the Italian brand for a little over five years, delivered just that. When Dundas entered the house in 2008, he sought to bring a youthful perspective to the legendary company while still maintaining its glamorous identity. For his Fall/Winter 2014 collection, aptly named "Call of the Wild," Dundas presented a series of pieces that highlighted the designer's eye for craftmanship and embellishments as much as it did Pucci's "Italian jet-set heritage." The opening looks, a high-neck, long-sleeve mini-dress, was the first of a series of modernized, tougher takes on the iconic Pucci print—the geometric shapes in a variety of colors were also translated into jumpsuits, jersey blouses, and silky, flowing gowns with plunging necklines and thigh-high slits. Dundas didn't only focus on updating the Pucci aesthetic, however. Instead, he pushed boundaries even farther, introducing chunky, navajo-inspired knitwear, colored fur coats, and velvet pantstuits. Regardless of the fit—be it oversized and loose or completely hip-hugging—Dundas presented pieces that were sophisticated, intricately-crafted, and sexy in the most tasteful way.

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Jil Sander

When Jil Sander left her epynomous label in October for the third time, the future of the brand was left uncertain. Over the course of a little more than a decade, the company has somehow survived—and flourished—despite its revolving design doors. Yet the brand's Fall/Winter 2014 collection, which was meant to "[address and reinstate] the fundamental codes of the Jil Sander label, reinforcing the emblems of the house," seems to have succumbed to its changing internal infrastructure. It wasn't that the clothes weren't bad, as they definitely nodded at the label's simplicity. But, in some ways, they weren't exactly good either. Cuts were clean and simple—there was all-encompassing cashmere outerwear with high-necks, skirts that were mostly a-line, and sweater-trouser combinations that, depending on the color, came off as a bit too bulky and workwear-like. The colorful creepers—particularly in baby blue and highlighter yellow—were one of the strongest takeaways from the collection, as were the softly-embellished shifts and one brown-tangerine turtleneck sweater-skirt pairing. Mostly, howver, it seemed the design team was trying too hard to be Jil Sander, lacking direction or voice of their own. Hopefully, with this Fall/Winter 2014 collection under their belts, things to follow will be more of a progression of the Sander aesthetic, and less of a boring, continuation of the same old thing.

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Roberto Cavalli

Roberto Cavalli's show was on fire, literally, as models paraded a runway encircled by roaring flames. While the catwalk itself created a statement—and spectacle—Cavalli's clothing was invoked the designer's usual aesthetic: exceedingly sexy, over-the-top, and slapped with an array of animal prints. "I love designing, but the best part is coming up with new ideas," Cavalli said of his Fall/Winter 2014 presentation. "This season was all about energy and rebirth, like a Phoenix." And while the setting certainly had that 'wow' factor, the pieces that followed were less about new ideas and more, well, typical Cavalli. The show opened with a series of snakeskin separates, graphic printed blouses and tight-fitting trousers, and oversized fur shawls. Some of the intricately beaded dresses were stand-outs, but then were taken a bit too far—as were the jackets, pants, and tops—when printed with an overly obvious flame motif. The gowns were dramatic and certainly emphasized Cavalli's skill for craftsmanship, but as a whole, the collection was excessive in too many ways. The staging was cool, yes. But shouldn't one's take away from a fashion show be the clothing, and not so much the spectacle surrounding it?

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There is nothing better than a Versace show that is quintessentially Donatella, and, for the past few seasons, the designer has failed to disappoint. The Fall/Winter 2014 collection was, in certain ways, a toned-down version of the Versace aesthetic. But nevertheless, the sexiness and sophistication of the house prevailed. "This is another part of the Versace woman," Donatella explained of the more relaxed look. "It's sensual, softer, but I always want the tough part too." And the tough, powerful Versace woman still shined with military-inspired garments—gold buttons adorned jackets and hip-hugging dresses, fringe dangled from the shoulders of tops and blazers—that were inspired by her late-brother's personal uniform collection. The central theme of the collection, however, focused on the bias-cut dress, which creates a softer, looser silhouette—something seemingly un-Versace-like. The new cut, of course, did not hinder the usual Versace touches: some were paired with oversized gold and jeweled chains adorned with the house's Medusa symbol; others featured sheer paneling or the favored high-slit. The colors of the collection, in particular, made things even stronger: deep red, vibrant blue, and one random yellow jacket broke up an otherwise black-and-white palette. The "new" Versace woman is sleek and enjoys luxurious fabrics and cuts, yet can still pull off a hard, sexy edge. "For me, the Spring/Summer 2014 collection was about 21st-century Versace," she said. "It was about the way that women today wear Versace." If this is how women today are wearing Versace, Gianni himself should be very proud.

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"The Etro woman takes inspiration from folk couture and wrapping the body with a cozy embrace," explained the Fall/Winter 2014 collection's show notes. Veronica Etro's pieces were dominated by paisley—the brand's signature—and other warm, comfortable prints that matched the pieces's flowing cuts and bohemian aesthetic. Loose dresses were layered underneath thick patchwork coats, knits were paired with slouchy, silk pajama-style pants, and outerwear came in the form of structured wool jackets, furry numbers, and blanket-style ponchos. The accessories, too, were sleek and comfortable at the same time, with envelope clutches and fur bags, neutral suede boots, and knit scarves. 

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Emporio Armani

Emporio Armani described its Fall/Winter 2014 collection as “a story about fashion, where masculine and feminine elements come together.” Pulling inspiration from the "strong attitude" of Luc Besson's Nikita—the French femme-fatale—Armani presented clothing that was strongest in the best sense, from the sharp tailoring down to its wearability. Slightly-oversized bowler hats made a statement early on, prancing down the runway alongside structured suits, button-downs, blazers, and outerwear. Thankfully, the polished cuts were paired with looser trousers, wide-framed, ankle-length skirts, and fur coats that were, in the lamest terms, cool. Despite the mannish start, soft frocks in silk and velvet quickly followed suit—they were youthful and fun while still paying attention to the vintage vibe flowing throughout the collection. 

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"I wanted to transmit humanity," Miuccia Prada said of her latest collection. "People, feeling, and emotions." The clothes that followed evoked just that, but the actual emotions they provoked are a bit unclear. Prada's description of the line as “a mix of the sophisticated and things that look plain vulgar,” made a lot more sense. The Fall/Winter 2014 collection was a clear progression of Prada's menswear presentation a month earlier. And, like the brand's Spring/Summer 2014 collection, it was inspired by art. This time, however, it involved art-deco patterns rather than surrealist faces. Bright colors dominated—red, turquoise, yellow, purple, and orange—adding some flare to a show that featured boxy menswear coats, sheer dresses, and slouchy v-neck sweaters. Technicolor fur was everpresent as well, and, in most cases, in strange color combinations. The red, long-sleeved fur dress on Tati Collier was also outrageous, being much more Sesame Street than street style. The sheer, slip-like dresses with hints of fur that allowed the model's undergarments to show from beneath were also a bit strange and messy. Sure, the sheer was sexy and some of the patterned shift dresses and coats had a very sophisticated Prada feel, but the collection on the whole seemed a bit too vulgar.

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Fendi's "Buggies" have become a street-style phenomenon, adorning the bags of editors, bloggers, and celebrities in the fashion scene. So when Cara Delevingne opened the Fall/Winter show in a black jacket, it wasn't the pom-pom-style fur hood that had audiences talking—it was the furry friend dangling from her fingers clad with white, tied-back hair, black sunglasses, and a tie. That's right: Karl Lagerfeld had buggied himself. Lagerfeld and Silvia Venturini Fendi's latest collection hit that playful—and furry—note, showing dresses, coats, and separates sprouting lines of different-colored fur, flowing skirts that hit just at the ankle, and structured wool jackets with accentuated pockets at the hips. The latter half of the show took a different turn, with a series of pieces featuring color-blocking in an orange, gray, and purple camoflage-like pattern, which were then followed by dresses, coats, and separates seemingly paint-splattered in different color combinations: orange and brown, green with black and white. Overall, the collection was strong and sexy, with an athletic edge that came in the form of high-end, silky gym shorts, velvet track pants with tight ankles, and heeled, white leather, lace-up booties. It was tough and sleek, or, as Lagerfeld described, "a mix of sport and sophistication, [with] no period references.” Another spectacle hovered just above the runway: Fendi drones filmed and live-streamed the catwalk in high definition. It was “an unprecedented event in the fashion world,” Fendi's president and CEO Pietro Beccari said of the brand's technological foray.

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Max Mara

Outerwear—as usual—dominated the Max Mara runway in a mostly dark, monochromatic palette. The collection, which was described by the brand as "anglo-Scottish," showed slightly-oversized tweed coats and vests, cozy knits, and lengthy, work-appropriate blazers juxtaposed with silky blouses, metallic separates, and soft dresses in chartreuse, violet, and deep blue. The outerwear—which ranged from structured peacoats to belted trenches, slightly-puffy jackets to ones adorned with fur—has always been Max Mara's strong suit, and this season's pieces were definitely some of the most notable, and unsurprisingly, wearable. The clothing was functional in the warmest sense, proving that even in the coldest months, it's possible to stay stylish. 

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Alberta Ferretti

Alberta Ferretti drew inspiration from nature, showing a Fall/Winter 2014 collection that was ethereal and romantic, even if in the most literal sense. The opening dress was a light, earthy green, adorned with what looked like flower petals and black feathers. It was delicate with the right amount of woodsy and highlighted the intricate craftsmanship in each and every piece sent down the runway. The fabrics and hues served as the dominant part of the collection—textiles ranged from tulle and silk to felt and wool; colors were deep and neutral greens, reds, browns, oranges, and blacks. It was a "metamorphosis of nature and woman," the designer described; one of the highest forms of artisanal crafstmanship and delicate, intricately designed pieces. 

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Creative director Frida Giannini wanted to get back to the brand’s basics; she “felt the need to materialize the essence of Gucci. A longing for precision [and] clean lines.” Giannini’s throwback to the sixties was neither outgoing nor sexy, but instead a mellow, seemingly safe approach for a brand that has become synonymous with quintessential Italian flashiness. Things were demure in a way that definitely wasn’t bad, but was incredibly different than the label’s usual aesthetic. There was a strong balance of mannish items mixed with feminine pieces—think tuxedo shirts and tailored trousers alongside very mod, a-line mini-dresses and oversized fur coats in icy blue, pink, and teal. The furs, alongside pieces printed in an interesting shade of leopard, and dresses with subtle leather detailing were some of the collection’s strongest notes. The final look, an a-line number comprised of a silver glittery top with black detailing and a white skirt was a hit, but it was far from the daring evening wear Gucci tends to present. The accessories in particular—mainly riding boots, loafers, and structured totes—served as a nod to the original leather goods success of Gucci. The clothing was more wearable than last season’s collection dominated by oversized mesh t-shirt and dangerously low-cut dresses, but the pastel hues and mod-cuts were different from, and in many ways lacking, the usual Gucci glamor. "I am trying more and more to get away from a sexy style to emphasize a romantic sensuality,” Giannini explained. “Women have to like themselves above all." Only time will tell if Gucci’s new direction is a good or bad thing.

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MILAN, ITALY - FEBRUARY 24: Models walk the runway at the Dsquared2 during Milan Fashion Week Womenswear Autumn/Winter 2014 on February 24, 2014 in Milan, Italy. (Photo by Tullio M. Puglia/Getty Images)