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The very best of Milan Fashion Week FW23

And that growing gap between creative and marketable fashion

The very best of Milan Fashion Week FW23 And that growing gap between creative and marketable fashion

If WFW23 has taught us one thing, it is that the gap between creative fashion and pragmatic fashion is increasingly unbridgeable. In a stark contrast between the opulent minimalism of the luxury maisons and the spectacle of the emerging brands, two very different philosophies can be discerned: some seek the buyer by pandering to the client rather than their own aesthetic identity, and some seek the limelight to stand out from the crowd of young brands and prove that they have a right to exist more than others. Here are three macro themes that defined the fashion week that just ended.

Minimalism continues: Prada, Ferragamo, Bottega Veneta

The trend towards reductionism that had flooded the past catwalks was confirmed for FW23 in the thousand charcoal grey faces of Fendi, the uniforms of the Prada-Simons duo, the Hollywood glamour of Ferragamo, the 81 looks of Bottega Veneta, and the moto jackets of Jil Sander. For Prada, the focus was on uniforms, honoring the humble and caring acts of the people who wear them, in bright white, a nod to nurses' gowns and embellishments on the wedding dress, with a touch of sensuality in a sea of sheer skirts over leather blazers and the occasional topless. For Ferragamo's main line, Maximilian Davis sought to reinforce Florentine Maison's historic connection with Hollywood by returning to one of the brand's heyday periods, the 1950s, when Audrey Hepburn and Marylin Monroe were among its customers. Davis focused on the era's signature elements (wide skirts, tight waists, and heart-shaped necklines) and updated the house's fashion classics with modern fabrics, sporty details, casual looks, oversized bags, and the bright red accents that are now part of the brand's aesthetic DNA. For Blazy, who is at the helm of Bottega Veneta for the third time, the inspiration was Italy and its celebration amid Boccioni statues and Roman bronzes. The looks, all different but all harking back to the Parisian designer's effortlessly chic vision, ranged from knitted jumpsuits to python print trench coats and delicate silk dresses with floral embroidery.

Celebrity effect: Gucci and Dolce & Gabbana 

Even more than the clothes, it was the celebrities who fuelled the hype on the brands' social channels. Last year, Kim Kardashian co-designed Dolce & Gabbana's fashion show, but this time she returned to Italy as the brand's muse and testimonial. Squeezed into an archival mermaid dress reinterpreted in a modern two-piece (also seen on the runway) and wrapped with Chrome Hearts crosses, the Skims founder stood front row to follow the fashion house's heritage looks, including extreme transparencies, corsets, and an hourglass-shaped black coat in double wool with the 1997-98 label on the sleeve. For the Italian designer duo, the future of the house lies in its past, just as it does for Gucci, the brand that, following the unexpected departure of Alessandro Michele, has revolutionized its aesthetic with a surprising return to its origins under the guidance of the historic designer team (awaiting the succession of Sabato De Sarno). A 70s sexiness of earthy colors and maxi furs, boyfriend jeans, rhinestone studded petticoats, logo bras, and the return of the HorseBit bag in a 2003 version, the spotlight was all on the celebrities though: Dakota Johnson, the Maneskin Quartet, Florence Welch, Julia Garner, Chinese singer and actress Xiao Zhan, who sat next to CEO Marco Bizzarri. In particular, A$AP Rocky and his hairstyle with the braids that mimicked the Gucci logo earned unprecedented views and filled the screen of TikTok Italia.

Fashion Gimmick: Cormio, Diesel, Sunnei 

The Fashion Gimmicks were protagonists thanks to Cormio, which with bright colors, fun details, and a joyfully rebellious attitude, launched a message on gender equality in the world of sport and the right to play, without distinction of gender or sexual orientation. The Calvairate Sports Centre was filled with bows and leaders, in front of a collection consisting of pleated miniskirts, striped tops, maxi denim skirts, long dresses covered in stars, soft knitted trousers, sleeves, and Futsal shoes by Mizuno, Gems, Diadora, and Lotto, made personal with bows, colored ribbons, and funny pins. Sunnei opted instead for stage diving: the fashion show opened with 'instructions for use' and a narrator's voice in the background reminding us to enjoy imperfections. In past seasons we had seen the models running, sitting in the audience, or coming out of a revolving door, this time they threw themselves into the crowd. Diesel's FW23, on the other hand, was an ode to sex, to nightlife, to pleasure: at the center of the catwalk was a mountain of 200,000 boxes of Durex condoms (another 300,000 will be distributed free of charge in April in stores worldwide). "Sexual positivity is something extraordinary. We at Diesel like to play and we do it seriously. Have fun, respect each other, and be safe. For a healthy life!" said Glenn Martens, the creative director who has brought luster back to the historic Italian brand and who this season presented 72 looks between sexiness, clubbing, and Y2K.