MILAN -- Floral references during the Milan Fashion Week womenswear previews ranged from the graphic motif to romantic bouquets or jungle foliage.
It's not a sexy season. Collections for next summer are more romantic than racy and sheer fabrics suggest more than they show.
The silhouette is loose and flowing -- with skirt lengths both baby-doll short and granny-dress long. Trousers, too, are wide with the 1960s palazzo pajama making a comeback. Sporty shorts and pedal pushers are often paired with feminine blousy tops. A pastel palate kept the looks demure, while gold, silver and bronze add flash.
Bows and ribbons lend romance to the season, cinching waistlines, gracing floppy hats or wrapping an ankle. But the flower grabs the headlines in most of the shows -- setting a wide range of moods.
Miuccia Prada -- one of the fashion world's most out-of-the-box thinkers -- for next summer takes apart the kimono to discover its most basic silhouette. Then, she puts it all back together again to come up with a full collection of imperial outfits.
The central motif of the new collection is a graphic flower, often with a bright red center, which appeared on bags, tops, dresses, wraps and eyewear.
Prada has reinterpreted the Japanese Geisha sandal complete with split-toe tabi sock, which she crafted from leather with a zipper up the back, suggesting they could be footwear in their own right.
The impact of the entire collection was otherworldly, a reflection of Prada's reach for conceptual fashion where idea trumps fit. The kimono showed up as a wrap, a top tied neatly in the back, a skirt formed out of panels or just a simple tunic dress. Fabrics were shiny silk and satin.
Shoes were over the top, wedge and platform sandals, always worn with the tabi sock at times in contrasting gold and silver. The latest Prada palate includes soft pink and sage but the basic color scheme stuck to black, white and gray -- all the better to show off the flower emblem and highlight red accents.
The collection was decidedly warm weather, but Prada also devised wraps and three-quarter sleeved coats, often of fur, for chillier climes. Here too, the flower motif made the difference. The basic bag was a small summer shopper -- more for the boutique than market
Emporio Armani is Giorgio Armani's second line aimed at a younger client, and that is just where the "maestro" was headed in his latest spring-summer collection.
Teenage models strolled down the runway in sweet pastel silk shorts, their curly hair brushing the shoulder of the matching tapered jacket. Ballerina flats tied in a demure silk ankle bow, dainty leather driving gloves, and a sporty pastel bucket bag completed the ingenue look.
In his show notes, the designer called his spring style "clean."
Natural colors with touches of opaque gold and bronze underlined the down to earth feel of the collection.
There is a good deal of layering in the Emporio collection, with fluid knit-wear, silk tops and jackets with small shoulders and a barely marked waist combining with either a short skirt or a pair of soft straight pants gathered at the bottom, to create a well put together, young look.
Romance is in the air at Blugirl. It's in the sheer fabrics, silken ribbons and golden lockets.
But if all that gives the impression of pastoral innocence, not so quick.
In fashion notes, the label that targets a younger audience said the collection was inspired by the "ethereal dreamy girls" in the photography of David Hamilton, whose best-known work features grainy images of young women, often nude or semi-nude.
Designer Anna Molinari's collection is as long on lace, organza and eyelet materials, as it is short on undergarments.
Molinari layered sheer over sheer, animal prints under plain, creating a romantic effect without ever really covering up. Underneath she fitted silken culotte panties with lace trim and nothing more. Silk ribbons were tied prettily around the waist, or around floppy brim hats.
The silhouette was loose, but lengths varied from short skirts and culottes to maxi-dresses. Pleats and ruffles added shape and volume. Shades were decidedly pastel, until evening hit, and then Molinari turned to gold sequins and beading.
The look was completed with high-heeled lace-up leather booties in colors ranging from pastels to gold.
Whether in leopard prints or safari wear, the Max Mara woman is the hunter not the hunted.
The Max Mara collection evokes the jungle, where foliage prints provide natural camouflage for the animalistic spirit ready to spring -- a mood captured in curve-hugging dresses in stripes of spotted and floral prints.
The silhouette is both free, with loose blouses of light fabric, and controlled, with fitted skirts that often finish below the knee. Safari touches are present throughout, including large pockets, rolled-up sleeves and button tabs on shoulders.
Blouson tops have large, lightweight hoods, for taking quick cover to scurry away, unrecognized.
In keeping with the theme, the collection's palette is rooted in earthy tones like camel and olive green, complemented by leopard, floral and sometimes plaid prints as well as icier tones of blue and green.