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A pinch of sex and a lot of reality at Milan Fashion Week

By Jule Scott


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Bottega Veneta AW23. Image: Spotlight Launchmetrics

When Diesel designer Glenn Martens opened Milan Fashion Week last Wednesday amid a mountain of 200,000 Durex condoms bearing the Diesel logo, the stage seemed set for a revealing and sensual Milan Fashion Week. But instead, most of the designers in the Italian metropolis exercised restraint. This season, the most extroverted of fashion cities became a hotbed of pragmatism, reality and wearability - albeit with a pinch of sex.

While last season was marked by designer debuts and new orientations, many a brand used autumn/winter 2023 to refocus on the essentials: wearable clothes for everyday life.

The concept itself should come as no surprise, but amidst TikTok trends and media-savvy spectacles of the past few years - a spray dress at Coperni and Schiaparelli's couture lions - "ordinary" clothing almost seems like a revolution.

Modest fashion in times of inflation

"For me, the most important thing now is to give meaning to the modest, to appreciate humble, simple professions and not just extreme beauty or glamour,” Miuccia Prada told media representatives after the Prada show on Thursday, which coincided with the anniversary of the Russian war of aggression on Ukraine. Since the war began, the world has changed noticeably and fashion has also been affected by inflation and the unpredictable economic and political situation. Now the situation also seems to be shaping the catwalks and future storefronts, because in uncertain times few people seem to want to flaunt their disposable income on their own bodies - at least that is the theory of Prada and co-designer Raf Simons.

Prada AW23. Image: Spotlight Launchmetrics

Visually, the desire for modesty and restraint was expressed in uniforms of all kinds - military jackets became modern parkas, dresses were reminiscent of nurses' workwear and wedding dresses became everyday wear in the form of white skirts - both minis and wide, ankle-length A-lines - with floral appliques. Less inspired by uniforms than a standard uniform for the office, the designer duo also offered in the form of trouser suits and blazers with detachable, oversized collars that already caused a stir at the brand's menswear show. They were accompanied by simple crew-neck jumpers in camel and anthracite.

Fendi designer Kim Jones also created “real clothes" for his autumn/winter 2023 collection. For this, the designer was inspired by an equally "real" woman, Fendi offspring Delfina Delettrez Fendi. The style of the jewellery designer and mother is said to have inspired Jones' especially in the choice of colours - blue and brown - and the "deconstruction of feminine sophistication" with a touch of fetishism and punk, parent company LVMH stated. The result: a range of menswear-inspired monochrome officewear, knit tops with asymmetrical cut-outs, silk dresses and lingerie, and skirts reminiscent of school uniforms over suit trousers. The collection is both simple and sophisticated, reflecting that type of woman that Fendi represents under Jones' direction. "It's about real clothes: the Italian, sophisticated woman you know is going global," Jones told Vogue.

Fendi AW23. Image: Spotlight Launchmetrics

At Max Mara, the focus was not only on the famous camel-coloured coat, but also on the woman wearing it. In search of modernity, Max Mara designer Ian Griffiths travelled to the 18th century and was inspired by the French philosopher Émilie du Châtelet, Max Mara said on Monday. The resulting "Camelocracy" collection consisted mainly of knitwear in warm hues. The historical references could be discovered above all in the styling. Elbow-length gloves - both knitted and leather - met a shoulder strap incorporated into dresses, which Griffiths said was a “styling trick” of soldiers in the military. After the autumn/winter 2023 show, the designer told British newspaper The Guardian that his collection "showcases the beauty of the wearer and is designed with the comfort and convenience of the wearer in mind".

MaxMara AW23. Image: Spotlight Launchmetrics

All good things come in threes and Matthieu Blazy's third collection for Bottega Veneta is proof that familiar and wearable fashion is not synonymous with unspectacular, or even boring. The starting point for autumn/winter 2023 was the street, a place where people of all kinds and all facets of life meet. The 81 looks were as diverse as the inspiration. From loungewear looks with socks made of knitted leather, to oversized wool jumpers as dresses and leather jeans with a tank top, to elaborate evening dresses, Blazy presented a collection for every situation in life.

Bottega Veneta AW23. Image: Spotlight Launchmetrics

Reality meets excess - sex is still a box office hit

The unusually restrained mood for Milan might have something to do with Versace's absence. The Italian luxury label led by designer Donatella Versace will present its AW23 collection on 10 March, two days before the Oscars in Los Angeles, where some ladies will surely turn to the brand's sensual designs. But even if realism and pragmatism set the tone in Milan, excess and sex - even without Versace - are by no means forgotten.

Diesel went for sex positivity, not only with the Instagram-worthy condom mountain but also with a collection that lived up to the modified Diesel slogan "For Sucsexful Living". Never have models in head-to-toe denim been less dressed and covered at the same time. Y2K, including low-slung hipsters with sheer cut-outs and gauzy tank tops, dominated the red runway. Added to this were crystal-trimmed dresses and distressed denim in the form of jackets, trousers, long skirts - a trend that was also reflected in gauzy, “ripped” dresses made of silk.

Diesel AW23. Image: Spotlight Launchmetrics

Elsewhere, Blumarine, under the creative direction of Nicola Brognano, continued to focus on ultra-miniskirts, skintight dresses and crop tops that will find particular favour on TikTok and Instagram. Brognano remains true to himself, his vision for Blumarine and his customers, while many designers this season - at least on the catwalk - seem to be focusing again on a more adult target group, far away from Gen Z.

Blumarine AW23. Image: Spotlight Launchmetrics

Gucci, on the other hand - still without its chosen creative director Sabato De Sarno - is somewhere in between. The collection, put together by the in-house design team, was practical, maximalist and sexy all at once. There was a little bit of everything, mini bras made of crystals, heart-shaped faux fur collars on coats, black shift and slip dresses, oversized suits that wouldn't be out of place in any office, and simple boyfriend jeans with button-down shirts. Many looks were reminiscent of Tom Ford's era as creative director of the Florentine fashion house, a horse-bite bag from his time was also revived, and yet no concrete direction was apparent.

Gucci AW23. Image: Spotlight Launchmetrics

Sensitive or sexy, it will be De Sarno's job to work that out once he takes the reins at Gucci.

This article originally appeared on FashionUnited.DE. Translation and edit by: Rachel Douglass.

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