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Good vibes return to Milan runway

By Daniela Petroff
AP Fashion Writer / September 28, 2010

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MILAN—Retailers are thrilled, reporters are raving and designers are breathing a sigh of relief.

"Hey, Milan is back on track again," said Dan Katen of Dsquared2 after it took him more than half an hour in traffic to get to a benefit event on Monday night, the closing day of the womenswear fashion week for spring-summer 2011.

After several grouchy seasons, when, feeling the effect of the economic crisis, designers seemed devoid of ideas and the fashion pack lost its love of Milan -- "too dull and too expensive" went the refrain -- the good vibes have returned.

Everybody liked the new schedule -- top-billed shows spread out over six days -- and the new venues -- fancy downtown "palazzi," rather than the sterile fair grounds.

Figures released by the Italian Fashion Chamber at the end of the week show that Milan Fashion Week is alive and well. Fifteen thousand buyers from 40 different countries attended the event, which included 178 collections, 78 shows and more than 100 presentations.

The many fashionistas walking about town with big name shopping bags confirmed the upward move.

"Fashion is renewal, and it was time for us to renew ourselves," Beppe Modenese, founder of the Milan fashion event more than 30 years ago, said at a news conference Tuesday to close the week.

Above all else the upbeat mood was reflected in the ultra-colorful, cheerful styles, which drew inspiration from the fashion heydays of the 1970s.

From the first day of showings, when Frida Giannini for Gucci dipped her collection in bright orange, it was clear that this was going to be a glowing season.

"Everyone loves color," said Mary Lou Luther, who heads a committee of fashion experts out of New York.

Throughout the week, other designers followed suit, with Raf Simons for Jil Sander producing the most colorful -- and most popular -- collection of the season.

In one short show, he summed up the season's color palette and silhouette. Yellow, orange, pink, purple and green all in shades as bright as jars of fingerpaints are Simons' and next summer's favorites.

He based his collection on a simple T-shirt paired with a maxi skirt, and so told the tale of a summer centered on tops and bottoms. Tunics are his and other designers' favorites.

These dresses/tops, all the rage in the 1970's, are usually worn over a skirt or pants. The most common shape is flared. At times a leather belt marks the waistline.

Hemline news is big next summer, with designers yanking most of their skirts below the knee. The favorite length is the 1970's "midi" or mid-calf, but many hemlines also reach the ankle for a "maxi" effect.

There is a folksy flare to the season -- another hand-me-down from the 1970s -- with lots of floral and geometric prints, ruffles and flounces. Pants are often flared or bell-bottomed. Fringes, embroidery and lacing decorate many outfits. Jewelry is very ethnic.

Nighttime turns the clock back to the 1970s disco hour with floor-length dresses, sparkling in a myriad of sequins.

Footwear is thick soled -- see Prada's latest sneaker -- or totally flat, like the Armani satin slipper, or high-heeled, like Fendi's, but not aggressive.

There are two favorite handbags, the shoulder bag with a colorful ethnic twist or the citified handbag with a ladylike handle.

"It's time to relax," said Stefano Gabbana of the Dolce & Gabbana duo. Though speaking of his own D&G show, set in a country garden, he summed up the summer mood.

The fashion caravan now moves on to Paris where the French designers will reveal their take on next year's warm weather fashion.

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