MILAN, Italy — Born in Vienna, schooled in London and previously part of the Giorgio Armani design team, Arthur Arbesser is one of Milan's bright young stars. As a foreigner to the city, he is still something of an outsider. Yet, in a short amount time, he has managed to become an active member of Milan's culturally progressive, underground circles — a cross-disciplinary milieu of editors, architects and other creative — shaping a wholly new, eminently international Italian identity. In this sense, he is also an insider. For instance, he collaborates with radical Italian architect Luca Cippelletti on the concepts and sets for his presentations.
Today's outing was Arbesser's first proper catwalk show in Milan, which followed the special project he did for Pitti in Florence in June. Set amidst the beautifully dilapidated glory of Palazzo Reale's Sala delle Cariatidi, with a giant cat overlooking the runaway, the collection — all light dresses, watercolour prints and graphic transparencies offset by a number of pieces in industrial-looking synthetics — exuded an air of trembling, suffused eroticism. Balthus — part of the designer's stated inspiration — had only a partial effect on the proceedings.
Rather, it looked like Arbesser had finally let go of the chilly, Vienna Secession hard-edged geometry of his debut. It worked, if, at times, the clothes actually looked a bit too sweet. But now we know Arbesser is capable of another voice. In future seasons, it will be interesting to see him dive further into the tension between hard and soft.