MILAN (AP) — It was out with the old, and in with the new as Milan Fashion Week got under way Saturday.
Jil Sander is gone — again — and a team, rather than a single star, has filled her shoes. Adding to the sense of renewal, another young designer got his Milan debut. And the National Italian Fashion Chamber introduced its new CEO, a former advertising executive whose job is to both promote Milan's image as a fashion capital and help boost sales of Italian luxury fashion.
"I am here to facilitate growth for all the brands, not just the big ones," Jane Reeve said during an opening day lunch. "I want to foster teamwork." The appointment of Reeve, a British citizen who has been living in Milan for more than 20 years, is part of the chamber's efforts to relaunch Italy's fashion system, which has suffered because of Italy's economic woes and growing competition from other fashion capitals. It has been the smaller fashion houses with less access to the export market that have suffered the most.
The chamber is forecasting a 5 percent increase in global sales because of increases in exports and signs that the domestic market is stabilizing.
North invades south in the designing duo Dolce&Gabbana's menswear collection for next winter.
The cold weather looks took their cue from Medieval courts after the Norman conquest of Sicily, the designers' eternal muse. Fabrics and yarns were warm and wooly, colors dark and royal.
In Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana's Norman court, the king wears a thick, sturdy top bearing the image of a king, perhaps a treasured predecessor, over slim-fitting trousers. Bejeweled gloves, slippers and, of course, a golden crown, finish the look. For a tour of his lands, there is a heavy sheepskin coat.
Knights wear a knitted wool cap, which is embroidered with sparkling studs to mimic chain mail, over a furry gray jacket and strapped ankle boots.
Italian fashion house Versace's cowboy-themed menswear collection for fall 2014 was outrageously fun, even by Versace standards.
"Our cowboy is macho, he's a biker ... he doesn't have a horse," designer Donatella Versace said backstage after the show.
Donatella's cowboys wear their boots with sharp, tight suits decorated with rhinestone horseshoes and cactus plants on both front and back. These cowhands head out on the town wearing red leather chaps over their jeans, or sometimes just over their bandanna-print underwear. Cheeky indeed!
Just because Kiss glammed-it down the runway at the John Varvatos menswear preview for next winter does not mean they are slaves to fashion.
Gene Simmons, who is still wagging his tongue at audiences 40 years after Kiss released its first album, says fashion for him "to be an individual and not to be a lemming."
Singer and guitarist Paul Stanley said he's not a fan of fashion "because it's really temporary. Fashion is something that changes every year to sell products. Style is timeless."
They both agree that Varvatos, whom they met during fashion week last year when they happened to be playing in Milan, had rock 'n' roll credentials.
"I knew John's clothes for years because they have all those elements that I love in clothes, which are timeless," Stanley said. "There is a style that goes back to some of the great rock 'n' roll bands of the 60s."
Designer Stefan Pilati, in his second full year at Zegna, looked to the cosmos for aesthetic input, but kept his latest collection firmly down to Earth.
The drama and sweep of the collection came from the most unsuspecting of places, like the staple scarf. Pilati's scarves were not mere accents, but part of the architecture of the collection. They appeared to be extensions of sweaters and jackets, either knitted into and wrapped around a sweater neckline or sewn into the jacket.
The neckline, more often the plaything of womenswear, was showered with attention. Turtlenecks seemed to sweep upwards, and scarves were crisscrossed for a wrap-around look.
Pilati, who spent eight years as head designer at Yves Saint Laurent before returning to his native Milan in 2012, commissioned astrophysicists to chart a journey from space to the interior of Zegna's new City Life Palace, creating the sensation of being catapulted from space and then back again.
The designer combined formal and sporty looks — say a short quilted jacket or sweater over a suit jacket. Roomy quilted anoraks offer a cozy warmth while short bomber jackets were offered with fur trim or notched collars. The color palate was mostly dark and formal — blues, grays, blacks and burgundy with some white and camel.
Swiss Julian Zigerli's fifth collection ever made its debut at Giorgio Armani's theater — part of the Milan headliner's efforts to support young talent and breathe new life into Italy's fashion capital.
Zigerli's looks were part busy bee, part urban slouch. If that seems a contradiction, consider the honeycomb pattern that was a constant motif in the collection, appearing printed on easy track suits or knitted into turtle necks and leisure suits. The looks were finished with hotel-style slippers emblazoned with his logo.
Backstage, Zigerli swept away a tear of joy and relief after his well-received Milan premier. "There are no words. It was truly great."
Zigerli said he chose the hexagon motif because it is a perfect geometrical shape that comes from nature. "It is also what the bees make," he said.
The 29-year-old Zurich native has previously shown in Berlin, where he studied and where he says the pressure and scrutiny is less intense.
"I think my professor is here as well," he said. "I can't wait to hear what she says."
For the first time in a long while, no one came out to take a bow at the end of the Jil Sander show.
The founder of the eponymous fashion house announced her resignation for a third time this fall. Instead of naming a successor, the fashion house said a team assembled by Sander before she left would carry on.
The new team stayed true to the house's trademark aesthetic, showing a clean, moodily colored fall menswear collection.
Sander's trademark deftness with luxurious fabrics was evident in thick overcoats and jackets with surfaces crafted into an eye-catching "packing bubble" texture.
Coats and boxy jackets were worn over high-waisted trousers, paired with thick-soled, chunky Oxfords for a vibe that was both relaxed and classic. The show's eye-catcher were pants in a shimmering metallic fabric that looked as fluid as liquid mercury.
The fashion crowd applauded enthusiastically, but no one took a bow.
Costume National's menswear looks for next winter made deft use of deep, masculine colors like electric blue, burned orange, oxblood, eggplant and emerald green.
Boxy jackets in heavy fabrics like felt in black or gray were worn over big, soft sweaters in maroon or blue and paired with skinny trousers. Black and white optical print pants were a nod to the designer's geometric shapes shown in the spring-summer collection. For cold weather, there were black shearling bomber jackets and overcoats in "eco fur."
"I was inspired by the Berlin of David Bowie in the mid-1970s," designer Ennio Capasa said backstage after the show.
The overall vibe was loose and relaxed, with what few suits were visible on the runway being shown with brightly-colored sweaters rather than with a shirt and tie. Models wore ankle-high Beatle boots with what looked like no socks, and a few carried leather portfolios dangling from the wrist by a strap.