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Fall 2001 / MILAN COLLECTIONS

A Nod to Mod

March 06, 2001

MILAN, Italy — The 1980s dress-for-excess foxy lady looks of the last two seasons are finito. But look out, because here comes their replacement--the sex kitten of the 1960s, Lolita, all innocently glammed up in purrrfect baby doll outfits, itty-bitty ruffles and bows and wispy mini-dresses.

To get the picture, think back to wide-eyed Joey Heatherton--if you can remember that far back--in her mini crepe sheath, swingy patent leather coat and zipped-above-the-knee white pointy boots.

The look, a flashback to fashion of that era by icons Andre Courreges and Yves St. Laurent, is gracing catwalk after catwalk during fall previews here. Giorgio Armani, Tom Ford at Gucci, Karl Lagerfeld at Fendi, Miuccia Prada, Lawrence Steele and Dolce & Gabbana all are reinterpreting the '60s-style ode to youth with a nod to mod.

"The woman of this season is hard and soft, and soft and hard. But there is a certain innocence in the baby-doll shapes and tops," said Ford, the creative director and designer for Italian house Gucci and France's Yves Saint Laurent, which Gucci took over two years ago. The in-your-face feathers, furs and diamonds of past seasons reached a level of vulgarity that was "OK for the exuberance of the economy," he said at a news conference before his show. "But we're out of the big boom. It's time to pull back."

In keeping with his less-is-best approach, Ford offered conservative, ultra-slim trousers decorated with leather strips and zippers on the front of pant legs and on low-riding rear pockets. Zippers were even placed on the side of a town coat and placed off-center on the front of a fur coat. Short, snug jackets looked as if they belonged to a child.

Gucci's baby-doll dresses--some with empire waists and structured bras, others chemises--came in sheer chiffon, silk, crepe and velvet in various shades. Accessories included a bow-tie black satin choker. Other short, boxy shifts were covered with rows of grosgrain ribbon squares that resembled matte paillettes and came in pink, violet and black. He also offered short capes and fur coats in red and shocking pink.

Giorgio Armani presented a dainty collection that kept step--or, rather, was on its toes--with the little-girl look. Only, his girls were cultured ballerinas--strong yet delicate, with impeccable taste.

A parade of blue-hued, ruched and flouncy skirts danced on the runway in his flawless collection, which also was a tribute to Picasso's blue period. The garments were loosely pleated and embroidered with sequins under layers of tulle. Small, simple, unadorned bodices were paired with the skirts. Even the flat shoes--in a flesh tone--were fastened by tape and looked like classic ballet slippers.

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Armani's Emporio line, shown separately earlier, was mostly black, white and beige with an occasional flash of red. He emphasized a figure-hugging jacket that brushed the hips and was accented by defined shoulders, some of them even padded. Tubular beaded dresses and embroidered trousers were elegant yet casual. He splashed evening wear with red sequins and used a red floral print on black.

In one of the week's most stunning collections, Gianfranco Ferre also referenced another 1960s designer: Roberto Capucci. For evening he created sheaths of layers and layers of tissue-thin black and gray tulle folded in the front and back like works of origami with traces of fuchsia underneath. The column gowns were weightless and sensual. He also mixed long organza skirts with leather and studded biker jackets trimmed in fur.

His leather corsets peeked from underneath padded jackets. Skintight trousers and dresses featured chains, zippers and studs. Jeans were made of tartan brocade, short skirts of mohair and tweed jackets were adorned with a light sprinkling of iridescent crystals a la David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust, one of Ferre's favorite characters.

Lagerfeld at Fendi paid tribute to Courreges with his all-white geometric-shaped collection of short dresses in shiny fabrics and short coats in sheared fur that almost had the look, the touch and weightlessness of velvet. Fur was used as trim on several garments. White embossed leather coats, some with stand-up metal collars and matching boots, were hip and mod.

White turtlenecks teamed with ultra-slim trousers and white capes in embossed leather, shiny patent leather and fur were standout ensembles. Lagerfeld's new purse is still shaped like a baguette, but it's bigger and flatter, in white and black.

Miuccia Prada also recalled Courreges with coats, capes and dresses edged in contrasting bright trims. The collection was bold in shape but otherwise mostly unadorned--almost Puritanical. The clothes were spare with empire-waist tie-back dresses that were simple and practical--and not particularly pretty or romantic.

"I love the avant-garde 1960s look," said Prada after her show, which included leggings and tights, short pleated cheerleader skirts and simple short sheaths that were trimmed with wide mink borders.

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