The larger-than-life spirit of Milan has always been enough to prevent jaded editors from falling into a mid-fashion month slump, but for S/S’18 you’d be hard-pressed to pick out the seasonal cluster of trends to knot together the Italian city’s eclectic brands. Instead, one of the few commonality to be drawn between the headline shows (Gucci, Dolce, Versace et al) was that each brand seemed intent upon exaggerating, riffing upon and endlessly referencing their particular fashion DNA over any outside influences. To put it as a paradox, the only similarity was an interest in what makes each label different from the rest (that, and the socks. Never have socks been such a talking point).
First, take Gucci. Since Alessandro Michele took the helm at the heritage label back in 2015, the design wunderkind has ushered in an entirely new aesthetic: out went the out-and-out sexiness associated with Tom Ford’s tenure, and the more pared-back (and, arguably, less memorable) stylings of Frida Giannini, in came an eclectic, colourful maximalism that embraced clashing prints, ‘70s references and old-school branding. It’s proved to be a wildly successful tactic, one that has managed to win over influencers and (crucially) boost profits, so it’s hardly surprising that subsequent collections – including S/S’18 – have riffed on this winning formula in different ways. For S/S’18, the ‘70s stylings were explicitly glam-rock, with Elton John’s stage costumes cited as a reference point. Sequinned dresses decked out in huge bows and outré outerwear appeared to take Michele hallmarks (Big sleeves! Logo mania! Geek glasses!) and then push them to their logical extremes, making them as Gucci as possible. In another act of self-reference, Gucci became ‘Guccy,’ appearing in modified spelling on next season’s accessories. There were new elements too – you can’t make eclecticism your ‘thing’ without bringing more and more references to the table, after all – but this collection was very much about the Gucci-ness of the thing.
Then there’s Moschino. Season after season, Jeremy Scott embraces the cartoonish side of fashion often literally: this time around, he teamed up with My Little Pony for a colourful collaboration (featuring the luxe lunch box that pre-teen dreams were made of). Here, it’s never about picking a trend but about revelling in showmanship – whether that’s a petal dress that wilfully disintegrates as the model walks the runway or Gigi Hadid trussed up as a bouquet – and identifying the micro-accessories that will go on to play a supporting role in next season’s street style images. Scott is a designer perfectly suited for the social media era: his designs are perfectly weighted to make an impact in our Instagram feeds, rather than play into the trend game.
Dolce & Gabbana, meanwhile, achieve the same ends through slightly different means. Rather than deviating wildly from season to season, the design duo stick closely to a signature, quintessentially Italian aesthetic: the bold prints, the crowns, the little black dresses. Every season, it’s the subtle deviations from this formula that maintain our interest – that, and the brand’s fondness for casting headline-grabbing models that number royals (Lady Amelia Windsor), celebrity offspring (Anais Gallagher, Rafferty Law) and viral sensations (Thylane Blondeau, aka ‘the most beautiful girl in the world’).
Finally, there’s Versace. For Donatella, self-reference came in the form of a ‘greatest hits’ style medley. Marking the 20th anniversary of her brother Gianni’s death, the designer brought back some of his most iconic ‘90s looks: the black-and-yellow Baroque print series, Vogue cover patterns, larger-than-life leopard print and embellished leather jackets. These are all styles that scream Versace, operating outside of trends in a brilliantly meta fashion bubble. And then, of course, there were the supermodels: what could better encapsulate Milan’s self-referential spirit than bringing out Naomi Campbell, Helena Christensen, Cindy Crawford, Carla Bruni and Claudia Schiffer to the tune of George Michael’s ‘Freedom?’