MILAN, Italy — In a time of farfetched inspirations that, most of the time, are just a cover-up for a sensational lack of ideas, it's particularly refreshing when designers get up, close and personal.
It's what Arthur Arbesser did this season with good result. The Austrian transplant with a knack for twisting and turning the dressing habits of the radical chic bourgeoisie did just that on the opening of Milan fashion week. It was inspired by the deeply Milanese, bourgeois surroundings he inhabits.
"I thought it was time to focus on what is really close to me, and the people I see every day," Arbesser said backstage, flashing a broad smile. By close Arbesser meant physically close: the collection was an investigation of the dressing codes of the denizens of the Piazza Sant'Ambrogio area, where Arbesser works in a Caccia Dominioni apartment that functions as his studio. Picture well-to-do ladies in Casentino wool coats and very appropriate skirts, jumpers and trousers. The designer also looked at his immediate clique: the real women, many of them friends and quite artistic in their inclinations, who wear his creations in real life.
It worked. The Arbesser lexicon — colorful, joyous and geometric — looked more fluid, grounded, even sensual. There was no intellectual pretence, just intelligently designed clothes for intelligent women.
At No.21, Alessandro Dell'Acqua was feeling just as personal, in his own way. After exploring an angular, metropolitan sensibility for quite a while, Dell'Acqua has kept reverting back to the signature sensuality of his namesake label. "The experience I went through when I lost my label was very traumatic so for a while, I refused to delve again in those carnal, sensual territories," he said backstage. "Now the healing process is complete, and I am happy and confident to be back again at what I like.”
It showed: the collection was gloriously sexy, dangerous even, whilst keeping an eminently ladylike spirit. It basically consisted of coats, dresses and slipdresses worth a very chic, considered bourgeois wardrobe. It took Dell'Acqua a simple gesture to turn it all upside down: a zip in the back of everything left undone as an open invitation. That, plus touches of latex. Bingo: seduction made easy and stylish, and thrilling. Again, the simplest ideas are always the best ones. This one was very good.