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Comings and Going in Milan

Adrian Appiolaza arrives at Moschino, Francesco Risso whites out reality at Marni and Donatella Versace still loves Prince, writes Tim Blanks.
Moschino Autumn/Winter 2024
Adrian Appiolaza debuts his first collection for Moschino. (Spotlight/

MILAN — The little paper sailor hat on every seat at the Moschino show unfolded into shownotes which immediately announced Adrian Appiolaza’s intention “to build a new language from an existing vocabulary.” But the mere weeks he had to create a collection, succeeding Davide Renne whose death, after only ten days in the job, rocked Milan last November, scarcely left Appiolaza with much time for such an ambitious project. So maybe this was more like him familiarising himself with the old language, becoming fluent in it before he starts speaking his own lingo.

And boy, was he fluent! The thought that Franco Moschino might be somewhere smiling over Appiolaza’s debut didn’t seem so outlandish, especially when so many memorable Franco-isms were paraded in a refresher course for those who might only be aware of the brand through Jeremy Scott’s near-decade in charge. Scott’s brand of irony tended to an overload of campy spectacle. Moschino himself was a much more rigorous proposition, dressing up droll satire and an activist frame of mind in Milanese tailoring (even as he poked fun at it). Appiolaza’s years of experience in the industry, most recently as design director of women’s ready-to-wear at Loewe, make him a dream successor in that respect. He calls himself “an obsessive archivist.” With this debut, it was really the lightness of his touch with the legacy that made the greatest impression.

Of course, it helped that so many of Franco’s details are so durably delightful, but Appiolaza owned them, made them look fresh, rather than 35 years old. I was always a sucker for the exclamation marks, the question marks and the polka dots anyway, along with Moschino’s message tees and the endless trompe l’oeil touches. Appiolaza drew on them all, plus the repurposed men’s wardrobe, the trench, boxer shorts, silk pyjamas, ties turned into waistcoats and turbans. The pearl-draped “Chanel” suit got a revisit in waffle knit. PEACE and LOVE, Happy Face and fluffy white clouds drifting in a clear blue sky: Moschino’s original iconography now has other layers of meaning, but whatever happens next, Appiolaza captured his character — and his characters. I’m already looking forward to the next one.

Moschino Autumn/Winter 2024

Francesco Risso insists Marni’s travels aren’t over but after touching down in New York, Tokyo and Paris, he felt the brand’s 30th birthday should be celebrated in Milan. “We’re becoming adults,” he said gleefully. And then he proceeded to show a collection that was child’s play, an extravaganza of deliberate naïvete, an earnest effort to glorify instinct and intuition as a release from the structured thinking he has acquired over his years in fashion.


Risso was motivated by Charlie Porter’s new book “Bring No Clothes,” the title taken from Virginia Woolf’s instruction to her haute bohemian friends on how to dress for a weekend in the country. Come as you are, forget about traditional niceties of dress. Gripped by the idea of a real blank slate, Risso and his team covered everything in their studio, windows included, in white paper. No moodboards, no perspective, no floodtide of digital imagery. Completely detached from that customary comfort zone, “It was the first place our soul came alive,” Risso marveled. Simple creation by pure instinct. Lots of handwork, scribbling, obsessive finger-painting. No need for details or cuts. Like turning a switch off and back on again, Risso agreed, to illuminate an entirely new landscape.

He resists the idea he’s any kind of shaman, but there was a distinctly shamanic tinge to the enterprise, with the tribe of Marni chasing enlightenment behind their fearless leader. The show venue was originally a dark, dirty tunnel, transformed, cleansed, by another covering into a white paper cave. A choir sang.

Those who have followed Marni for the last three decades probably cherish memories of aesthetically pleasing eccentricity (a contemporary version of the haute bohemian patch that was Woolf and Co.’s playground a century ago). Risso’s blank slate produced rather more of a challenge. Marni was always about colour. He talked about “dematerialising colour.” There was a lot of black, cut into stark, geometric, basic, almost 2D shapes. Very little detail, as promised. Instinct manifested itself in animal prints, and outcrops of fur, which made some of the models look like a new species. When the fur was hand-painted, it matted into whorls or peaks of whipped meringue. To these eyes at least, it was the hand-painting that came closest to Risso’s faith in a structureless new vision. Striations of paint were gloriously splurged by hand all over jackets, capes and frocks. Granted, the paint needed the structure of those items of clothing to achieve its effects, but there was never a shaman who thrived without compromise.

I came away thinking of Emma Stone as Bella Baxter in “Poor Things,” negotiating her way back into the human condition by trial and error. Same with Francesco Risso. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Marni Autumn/Winter 2024

Donatella Versace’s backdrop was a gleaming white stairway to heaven. To reach it, her models had to traverse a massive expanse of thick-piled black carpet which kicked up a snowdrift of fluff while they walked. It’s hard work getting to heaven. That’s something Donatella knows all too well. Her exceptionally good mood also suggested she knows she’ll make it in the end. Or maybe it was due to the collection she’d just showed. Back when the world had clarity, Donatella was responsible for Versus, the second collection her brother gifted her as a way to keep Versace wired into the rock/pop/punk culture she was naturally drawn to. Versus presentations in New York were as much a gig as a fashion show. That’s how Friday night felt, except that now there’s the artisanship of the atelier’s hands to polish the product.

From the first sheetmetal blast of Siouxsie & the Banshees to the last (you will never again hear the lyrics “Be a carcass … be limblessly in love” at a fashion show, promise), the Versace show was an exercise in Versus edge. Hair was spiked punkily, eyes were shadowed heavily. There were hole-y knits. And the palette of black, white, red and grey was classic, a punk/power pop hybrid, like the five-button Edwardian jackets on the boys. Though it was actually the ones Donatella made for Prince that dictated the silhouette, wide in the shoulder, suppressed in the waist. The dramatic tweed jacket with the jeweled buttons? That hinted at further inspiration from the Purple One.

The Versace show in LA a year ago was a turning point for Donatella. The precise, powerful tailoring generated rave reviews. Understandably, she’s not about to let it go. “We need courage,” she said during a preview. The broad-shouldered power jacket is a crutch. She went on to show more of the same. Graphic cuts, graphic patterns. The show closed with a couple of tuxedo looks — the boy in black leather thigh boots — that will probably keep her stuck to her power-dressing guns. But, earlier, there were a few sculpted looks with ruched skirts and bustier or portrait necklines that I figured were much more likely to have put the smile on Donatella’s face. Good girls go to heaven. Bad girls go to Versace. With Gigi Hadid in priestly white-collared black silk to offer absolution.

Versace Autumn/Winter 2024

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