In the film "The Devil Wears Prada," there is a montage of runway images when the protagonist, Andrea, first arrives in Paris for Fashion Week, and it seems ineffably glamourous. As a first-timer, Milan Fashion Week feels like that.
The day started at Gucci's 3 p.m. show, where jet-lagged editors were offered chocolate and champagne in a mirrored, cream-carpeted room off the Pizza Oberdan before being escorted into the first show. Like New York -- and unlike London -- Milan shows tend to start a half hour late, and Gucci was on Milan schedule.
For pre-fall, Frida Gianni surprised us with a collection that lacked the overt sexiness of seasons past, and she continued on that thread for autumn/winter 2014, opening with perfectly preppy pea coats in pastel blue and green and a pale blue leather shift dress with a ruffled front. Later, we saw slightly more "Gucci" looks that, like Henry Holland in London, recalled London's swinging '60s -- big, furry jackets with skinny jeans and caramel leather pants and a skirt, though even the skirt was cut conservatively. Best of all was the '60s eyewear -- big, semi-round, colorful frames with semi-transparent lenses.
It's tempting to think that with such a collection, Gucci is looking to strike a more commercial note even on the runway: that is, to create fashions that appeal to an older, wealthier clientele -- perhaps one outside of Italy, where unemployment sits at 12.7 percent. But it's more likely that Gianni is drawing creatively on a different part of Gucci's past -- the one rooted in more casual, sportier wear, which we've also seen more of in recent collections.
Later, No 21 showed one of the better collections we've seen this season -- the looks were nothing new, but the garments themselves were covetable and, just as importantly, the styling was on point. There were sparkly, patterned coats, dresses and separates, and skirts in feathers and lace paired with big knits and jeweled boyfriend coats. One coat, made of cow hide, was particularly memorable -- a refreshing alternative to the many dyed and printed calf hair coats we've seen in recent seasons. The accessories were strong: pointed flats mostly, and large envelope clutches of various skins and furs.
In between, we stopped by Giambattista Valli's new store -- his second ever, and his first in his home country of Italy -- set back on the quiet via Sant'Andrea, where it has Chanel, Prada and Miu Miu for neighbors. The store, pristine in cream marble, was a great deal like his flagship in Paris, only smaller and, as a publicist noted, more commercial, as the focus here was the ready-to-wear collection. We particularly coveted a pair of silver-studded Birkenstock-like sandals in navy leopard calf hair -- but at 800 euros, they were a bit out of my price range.
We finished the evening with Fausto Puglisi's show, which opened with white strobe lights and blasting Led Zeppelin -- a real party. Color-blocking -- in triangle shapes of black, green, red, yellow and lavender, all on one garment -- and embellishment were the big visual themes at Puglisi's show, which closed with riotous applause. The Italians, it seems, are passionate about their fashion -- and it's good to see them on their home turf.
Click through to see the entire Gucci collection.