The opening shows of Milan Fashion Week underscored a world in transition.
Ermenegildo Zegna invited guests to an abandoned and gutted former steelworks on the outskirts of Milan that symbolises both the region’s deindustrialisation but also offers the prospects for rebirth as the site of a major redevelopment plan.
In a green oasis in the heart of the city, Stella McCartney offered a literary and activist view on fashion, and the world, as she touted her message of sustainability.
Alessandro Santori bookended the collection for Ermenegildo Zegna XXX with two suits that encapsulated its disciplined yet otherworldly spirit: The opening single-button light suit had fading block print, the colour of a light cappuccino stain, while its closing purple twin had a sheen that seemed to capture a rainbow.
Models walked down a dark gravel runway under the metal roof of the disused steel plant in sturdy boots. But there was nothing workmanlike about the looks, which were calculated casual. Ties hung untied inside tailored suits, suede blousons were worn with elegant striped trouser and short-sleeve leather jackets featured architectural pockets.
Textiles, some created from fabric cuttings or developed from recycled plastics, were reworked for a wrinkle effect on tailored trousers and suits, while prints had a hazy, shadowy effect, like looking through a rain-battered window or at an enlarged negative.
Flat caps were worn jauntily backwards, and eyewear offered colourful contrasts. Bags included cross-body sunglass cases and leather bound journals for the traveller, and more substantial satchels.
The colours — basic cream, grey and lavender with offsets of icy green and peacock blue — played gorgeously against the stormy sky.
A band marched into Stella McCartney’s garden party playing joyfully, and McCartney paused in conversation, observing with delight: “We’re listening to Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da, which my Dad wrote.”
McCartney’s men’s and women’s collection celebrated the Beatles, it celebrated literature through a collaboration with Jonathan Safran Foer, and as all her collections, it celebrated sustainability.
“It’s 60 per cent sustainable, the collection, which is really hard to achieve,” the designer said. That includes organic cotton, sustainable viscose, a regenerated nylon called ECONYL and recycled polyester.
For men, she had T-shirts inspired by “Yellow Submarine” and another poking fun at herself: “Eco Weirdo.” The womenswear looks celebrate spring with ruffle and floral dresses. And the Safron Foer collaboration yielded inscriptions on garments, such as, “Be leaving, believing, be living,” and “We are entirely free to live differently,” inspired by his book, ‘We are the Weather’, a call to action on climate change.
The rest of the luxury fashion world has been scrambling to catch up with McCartney, whose label was founded with sustainability as a core belief, stemming from her childhood growing up a vegetarian on an organic farm and what she called “her animal awareness, and not wanting to kill animals.”
“That’s really the next conversation, and it’s a harder conversation to have,” McCartney said.
Her mantra is to make it fun, and to embrace all positive change in the fashion industry.
“For me I feel like we are activist, Stella McCartney as a house. And we embrace change ... We want it to be positive and uplifting and we want to provide solutions,” she said. “We don’t want anyone to freak out. We don’t want to preach. We want to celebrate life and make the world a little bit of a better place.”