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The forward-lookers: Prada, Versace, Marni, Jil Sander

Thankfully, not every Milan designer went 1980s retrograde. Here are four collections to note for fall.

March 08, 2009|Booth Moore


Leave the shoulder pads in the past. Tough tailoring is Miuccia Prada's answer to the new power dressing trend -- tweed coats sculpted in at the waist and slit up the sides, fringed suede and crystal-studded tunic dresses. Compared with last season's killer heels, which sent one model tumbling to the floor, the shoes were almost sensible -- chunky high-heeled shoe-boots, fringed and studded pumps. And who doesn't need a pair of Prada waders?


Grown-up sexy, self-referential but not retro, the Versace collection was loaded with the kind of artful details that communicate design value -- silver embroidery sprinkled on the bottom of a black satin trench and ropes of lacquered paillettes shaping a nude chiffon gown, to name a few. With liquidy, body-hugging silhouettes, the draped jersey dresses that were the stars here could easily have looked cheap. But in the hands of Donatella Versace, the fit and fabric were in perfect harmony. Where so many others were designing for girls, Versace was designing for women.


Celebrating the joy of getting dressed with a "more is more" attitude, Consuelo Castiglioni dispensed with her usual tricky volumes and focused on simple shapes in richly embellished fabrics, with the occasional sporty touch. Swarovski crystals sparkled from the sleeves of oversized pea coats, and fur mixed with fabric on jackets with zippered pockets. Sheath dresses in gilded wallpaper florals were accessorized with metallic checked tights, snakeskin sandals and extraordinary bib necklaces with gold-dipped flowers and flakes of emerald and amethyst.


Dolce & Gabbana referenced Elsa Schiaparelli, and Aquilnano e Rimondi looked back to costume designer extraordinaire Gilbert Adrian. But Raf Simons' collection for Jil Sander was a forward-looking take on the sculptural trend. Inspired by the work of French ceramist Pol Chambost, Simons' sculptural forms -- with contrast color pieces peeling away from, or spiraling around, the body -- were thrilling to look at from every angle. The concept got the better of him in a few instances, but it's exciting to see how his mind works as he charts the future of this brand.

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