MILAN — Backstage at the Moschino show on Thursday, the day Russia attacked Ukraine, designer Jeremy Scott stood among models dressed in clothes designed to resemble the furnishings of a grand manse — a hat shade which was a real lampshade; a satin bedspread mantle with a pillow as a collar; a grandfather clock dress – and discuss what happens when crisis and fashion collide. Nearby, milliner Stephen Jones attached an entire candelabra to a model’s head.
“I’m just trying to bring some respite, some joy and some beauty into our lives,” Mr. Scott said, as an explanation for the whole show-will-go-on stance. He had no idea what it might look like. “We still need that,” he said, pointing to his sweatshirt which said, with a levity that wasn’t entirely convincing, “Gilt without guilt.”
The fashion bubble, this world-within-a-world that moves with its own rhythm and language twice a year during ready-to-wear fashion shows (or did, before Covid), can seem disconcerting at best. When a global confrontation occurs, however, the contrast between life inside and life outside is particularly shocking.
On one side: the stuff of fantasy and thrift; on the other, streams and titles filled with menace and fear. This may seem almost impossible to reconcile.
Yet fashion, like other expressions of humanity, can be a tool to get through even the worst of times; can be used to feel stronger, more secure, more confident, more efficient, more able to face the day.
The problem is how to think of clothes that were made for one world, but will be seen and worn in another. When reality changes, the appearance of a thing, its purpose, can change overnight.
Max Mara’s team, for example, named Sophie Taeuber-Arp, the early 20th-century Swiss abstract artist, in their exhibition notes, and sent models swaddled from head to toe: in wraparound cashmere and down jackets, teddy bear pants, balaclavas, knit opera gloves, mohair thigh boots.
In a world emerging from Covid, such garments might reek of comfort clothes and the hug of home, but in a world of sanctions and bombings – a world where a guest in a little black dress held up a sign in cardboard scribbled with the message ‘No war in Ukraine’ – they looked more like protective gear, shielding the bodies inside.
Then there was Sunnei, where creators Simone Rizzo and Loris Messina dreamed up a mini commentary on the rush of everyday life, with models running down a side street as if late for a very important appointment, their mix eclectic popcorn knits, wide pants and color block stretch tops flying all around. It was a witty storyline, but it was hard not to see people walking by (some also in balaclavas, a trend that’s taking on a whole new cast), padded backpacks bouncing behind and thinking they were running away. .
That was the problem for Mr. Scott, whose double fashion sense has turned his work into social media catnip and made him the industry’s resident postmodern prankster. A few months ago, when he was designing his collection, a maniacal take on the homebody nature of the past two years, when we all had to find inspiration within our own four walls, probably seemed like a fun idea. Especially when crossed with the ubiquitous promise of space exploration, in the form of a setting based on the ornately decorated bedroom in the final scene of Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey.”
“It’s ‘2001: A Space Opulence’,” Mr Scott joked backstage. He was referring to suits and trench coats sporting tap and cutlery buttons, and a ruffled little black dress with the motto “maid in Italy” and a feather duster for a hat – not to mention a dress in gold carrying a full-size harp with crystal strings on the back, even though the movie that first came to mind was Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast.” Often, Mr. Scott’s sartorial puns serve as a cover for sharp, stylized cultural commentary, but this time they seemed less of a wink than unnecessary.
What exactly was he grinding? It could have been the oligarchs (who would have changed course), but instead it seemed to be… the interior design industry.
Mr Scott’s first Moschino show, held eight years ago, happened to take place at the start of the 2014 Ukrainian uprising. Then, as now, it created a stark contrast.
,Another: Just outside the Prada show – where crowds were screaming to catch a glimpse of celebrity guest Kim Kardashian (in a leather trench coat and jumpsuit from the January men’s show) and “Euphoria’s” Hunter Schafer, who modeled – two women unfurled a Ukrainian Flag.
That’s why the contrast at the heart of what Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons have explored at Prada since joining forces two years ago is so suddenly on point. Its power lies in the willingness of designers to fight push-pull from different points of view. This season was no different, with tensions between the masculine and the feminine, the hidden and the exposed, the very flowery and the very essential.
A basic white ribbed tank top was paired with a sheer skirt in some kind of metallic fabric, made to be wrinkled and shiny, sometimes sliced by inserts of pink satin or gray flannel, sometimes hanging petal-like sequins that seemed to weigh more than the material itself.
Skirts reappeared as shift dresses over more tank tops and cropped underwear, paired with 1970s graphic knits (the kind Prada made famous years ago), oversized blazers and cotton coats. leather with protruding shoulders and feathers springing from the elbows. Occasionally there was an interregnum of black, like a palate cleanser: woolen coats and robes with chains threaded around the neck and fastened over one shoulder; knee-length silk dresses with built-in corsets.
It was not revolutionary; most of the pieces (or their ancestors) had already appeared on the Prada runways in another era. But then, the designers were exploring the brand’s past. If you don’t learn anything from history etc.
As a point, it was particularly on the nose.