Irony prevails at Benetton, transparent femininity at Prada

MILAN (AP) — The frills are on at Milan Fashion Week, where “pretty” is womenswear watchword of the next cold weather season.

Embellishments appeared even on brands known for their spare lines, mostly in the form of constructed ruffles, gathering and tiers.

Highlights from Thursday’s womenswear previews for next fall and winter:

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TRANSPARENT FEMININITY AT PRADA

Prada submits that dressing in sheers makes a powerful feminist statement, a view hotly contested during the recent entertainment awards season.

But designer Miuccia Prada has some authority in the matter. Her collections frequently comment on a sociopolitical climate. She said the inspiration for her collection shown in Milan came from the Viennese secession period, when the intelligentsia, creatives and artisans ‘’worked together to create something good’’ as a counterpoint to the Industrial Revolution.

For next fall and winter, Prada deconstructed the skirt until it was barely there. Long silky fringe on an elegant, urban rendering of a grass skirt, a pleated skirt reduced to strips, and finally sheer numbers were among the looks.

‘’Femininity is a power by itself,’’ she said backstage.

Prada’s point: Strong women should not have to give up being feminine. She paired diminishing skirts with strong-shouldered belted jackets or leather ties and sleeveless shirts to drive home the message. And she claimed feminine embellishments for daywear, such as the beaded fringe on speckled knitwear.

Prada threw down the gauntlet to women who dress for workouts of comfort on school carpool runs. Knit tights and a sports bra layered with a sheer beaded tunic were an open dare to the fashion police. The collection took a decidedly luxe turn with patent leather coats in frothy pink and sea-green that had shearling details and beading.

‘’Glamour is something that makes you optimistic, and lifts you up,’’ Prada said.

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FENDI’S CURVES

Fendi reinvented the feminine silhouette for next fall and winter, and it has curves.

The Fendi woman is cinched, even corseted, at the waist, with bulbous sleeves and soft quilted textures. To emphasize the strong shapes, Fendi also revamped the showroom, installing plush quilted sofas set up in curves, as if to say this is a place where a woman can project power.

But don’t be fooled by the femininity. There was a suggestion of a 1950s housewife, with A-line skirts and fur collars, but also a dominatrix in a sleek leather coat with squared shoulders and matching boots. Dresses in wool crepe or cotton had built-in criss-cross scarves draping down the back for a powerful super-heroine effect. The female form accented by a thin belt and look finished with satin booties or ankle-strapped pumps.

The silhouette, refreshingly, worked for curvier models. One wore a soft yellow double-breasted coat with a corseted waist. A series of sheer lingerie looks also included size extensions.

Hair was done high off the neck, with headbands worn across the nape of the neck, instead of over the crown.

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MAX MARA’S SEA-FARING FRILLS

Kaia Gerber was swathed in a navy cape and and Bella Hadid strutted a ruffle shoulder bomber, setting the tone for Max Mara’s collection of looks with a seafaring twist.

Outerwear is the Max Mara forte, and next season is an indulgence of full-length looks in fuzzy teddy bear coats tied with a sailor’s cord, duffels with tassel closures and puffer jackets with puffy sleeves and detachable hoods.

Ruffles and gathers gave the collection its pretty silhouette, including flourishes of tiered ruffles down jacket sleeves, and asymmetrical ruffled skirts peeking playfully out of functional double-breasted jackets, puffer coats or blazers.

Pinstripes and mariner stripes were the only exception to the monochrome rule, in the brand’s standard camel, gray, white and navy. Looks were finished with dock-worker beanies and gloves, and hair styled with a single tiny, wispy braid. Accessories included ample duffel bags.

The show closed with Hadid in a sheer black top with constructed shoulders and high-waisted velvet trousers cinched with a rope belt, and Gerber in an oversized white double-breasted jacket with a detachable hood, paired with a flouncy mini skirt.

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BENETTON EVOKES IRONY

Designer Jean-Charles de Castelbajac says he is trying to promote a democratic revolution with his collections for Benetton. That would certainly be within the brand’s long history of using fashion as a message for social change.

“Fashion today is blended. It has to be sustainable, affordable and creative — and it has to be for everyone,’’ Castelbajac said after the performance/presentation of the new collection for Benetton, which he joined as creative director in 2018.

The collection was underpinned by utilitarian combos for him and for her in a mashup of plaids and camouflage, as well as prints by Keith Haring — an old friend of Castelbajac’s — Disney’s Bambi superimposed on leopard prints, and laughing cartoon cats and mice. Whimsy was also evident in some designs, such as yellow ruffles peeking like wings from a black jumpsuit.

Castelbajac’s teddy bear coat is quite literal: covered with dozens of mini stuffed bears, reminiscent of the “fur coats” of teddy bears he did for stars like Diana Ross and LL Cool J in previous incarnations. Key to Castelbajac’s philosophy at Benetton, he can make such intense creations more accessible.

Castelbajac said the teddy bear is his revenge for 11 years of boarding school when he wasn’t allowed the comfort of a stuffed animal.

‘’It’s about irony,’’ he said. ‘’We need humanity and tenderness.’’

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MOSCHINO’s DANGEROUS LIAISONS

Jermey Scott indulges in excess for Moschino’s collection for next fall and winter. Think Marie Antoinette, or “Dangerous Liaisons.” She wears her side-hoop gown, and dresses up like a cake too.

The ironic pannier-waist mini dresses come in in denim with embroidered floral trim, or are worn with biker jackets with golden embroidery and thigh-high boots. The looks are then translated into more modern silhouettes: tight jeans, a vest and a long denim jacket, or short-shorts and a push-up top with lace-up boots. French country drapery fabric featuring bucolic scenes are cut into biker shorts and matching jackets.

Scott closed the show with dresses made to look like layered cakes –an tongue-in-cheek reference to the ‘’Let them eat cake,’’ phrase often attributed to Marie Antoinette. The final look was a cake-topper: a hooped white confection enticing enough to grace any wedding cake.

Models wore the famed Marie Antoinette pouf, updated in fashion colors like lavender and tangerine.

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