- The Washington Times - Monday, September 28, 2009

MILAN — As the Milan Fashion Week draws to an end, it is clear that the designers are looking to lift the yoke of recession gloom.

The spring-summer 2010 collections previewed on the runway speak of happy colors, easy styles and lots of sensuality. The DSquared2 campsite presented on Monday, the last day of the week of preview showings, is a perfect example.

“It has been a very youthful season,” said Bepe Modenese, honorary president of the Italian Fashion Chamber and the man who got Milan fashion started back in the 1970s.

Famous for their skin-tight, sexy styles, the Italian designers presenting their summer wears have opted to keep things demure. Peekaboo lace, sheer fabrics and transparent plastic are the favorite see-through materials, but the styles are loose and innocent, from the myriad of bubble skirts to the short shorts and minidresses.

There has been a lot of underwear as outerwear, from bra tops to body suits and bloomers, but the look is more yesteryear girlie than contemporary sexpot, with heavy use of chaste cotton and innocent ruffles.

Even the look of the many micro miniskirts — except at Versace, where the skirts were as tight as they were short — is softened by baggy shapes and bubble hemlines.

“Despite the crisis, Italy is still in first place on the world fashion scene,” Mario Boselli told reporters after Laura Biagiotti’s presentation, last show of the five-day fashion week.

The show by Canadian designing twins Dean and Dan Caten was full-immersion into the wild, from the tents pitched on the runway to the hiking gear and rainwear. This campsite was for the fashionista who will only go so far in roughing it.

Between the chandelier lighting in the tents and the plastic evening gowns for a wet night, it was clear that this was a flashy, high-end campsite.

The designers, known for their fun-loving styles, put together the perfect outfit for the city-slicker camper.

The basic look was a distressed pair of jeans shorts, a Boy Scout shirt decorated with badges and a baseball cap.

Trousers were oversized in bright plasticized fabrics worn with an ‘I love camping’ sweat shirt with the Canadian maple leaf replacing the usual heart.

But the real ‘hip’ look comes in the footwear: high heeled studded lace-up hiking sandals, worn with thick gray-and-orange woolen socks or transparent plastic boots. The latter come with a matching plastic poncho and an oversized see-through back pack.

Evening wear is fashioned out of shiny plasticized fabric, from the bubble skirts to the colorful full-skirted gowns, to guarantee a waterproof soiree.

Just in case the nature girl forgets she’s outdoors, the designers accessorize the outfits with necklaces of beads shaped like black beetles.

But leave it to Laura Biagiotti, queen of cashmere, to come up with an almost transparent version of the precious wool for next year’s summer months. The transparent look has been one of the main trends of the current round of Milan fashion.

Ms. Biagiotti, who showed her spring-summer 2010 collection in a Milan theater, uses the extra-light knit for summer miniskirts, cardigans and leggings.

The designer also alternates ultralight wool stripes with fabric to create a veiled effect for her outfits.

In her show notes, Ms. Biagiotti says artist Giacomo Balla’s butterfly was the inspiration for her latest collection. Ms. Biagiotti is a collector of the 20th-century Italian artist’s work.

The butterfly’s expansive shapes become pleated dresses, wide-sleeved cardigans, ponchos with drawstring waists, or soft pants with wide pannier pockets and narrow hems. At times, the butterfly is embroidered in sequins on evening wear.

Accessories include bronze-colored high-heeled sandals with ankle straps or flat sandals with a butterfly motif.

Always in the mood for romance, another theme of this round of preview showings, Ms. Biagiotti’s favorite color once again is white.

“White evokes freedom, like the flight of a butterfly,” the designer said backstage after the show.

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