It took an American designer to create the first Paris-like crush at the otherwise orderly fashion shows of fall '78 clothing in Milan this week. The pushing and shoving started an hour before the Geoffrey Beene show was scheduled to begin and was resolved with the overflow crowd crammed into the aisles of the Palazzo della Permanente, an art institute here where many of the showings have taken place. (Among those standing in the aisles at the Beene show - Henry and Mildred Marx of Saks/Jandel.)
Beene let no one down. He has refined some extraordinary fabrics - double-faced corduroy, menswer cashmere (at $130 per yard), the thinnest possible leather - and used them in unexpected combinations. His silhouette is still loose - "I could never give that up," he says. "I worked too hard to get it and I don't know anything better to move it.
But several things are slimmer, more controlled with tucks, quilting or stitching, but never confining. His colors are soft - including browns, lodens, quartz tones with unexpected brights such as heliotrope, lavender and pink as accents.
Beene blew the whistle on the uniform look over here. His was the Boy Scout, complete with "Boy Scouts" gallumphing down the runway blowing whistles, swinging mess kits and equipped with backpacks and flashlights. It's his way of injecting a bit of humor into his military colored clothes, which are always loose tops and full skirts or softs, roomy dresses. "The Europeans like everything American," Beene said of his scouts, "and the Americans relate to it, too."
Marie Stella is Beene's mannequin find in Milan. Tall, rail-thin with frizzy blond hair, her only problem was that her feet were bigger than the shoes he brought from America. Most of the time, she went down runway in socks.
Geoffrey Beene's mother, Lorine Pratt, was at the Beene rehearsal and said her son as a child always fussed about the clothes that she and his sisters chose to wear. Beene went to medical school, "even passed his anatomy exam," she said, before deciding he'd rather study design in Paris with Captain Molyneux.
"We taught Washington how to eat Italian food. Now we will teach them how to dress Italian-style," said Giulio Santillo, owner of Washington's noted restaurant, Tiberio.He's planning to open a shop at 19th and K Streets with his brother-in-law Eduardo DePandi, who will be in charge of the menswear. DePandi, which will also the name of the store, makes custom suits for Santillo and others. "This one doesn't fit me very well, said Santillo pulling at the loose fit. "I've lost a lot of weight worrying about the shop." He plans to include in his shop Soldano, Faarli and, he hopes, Giorgio Armani, and plans to look out for it from his nearby restaurant.
Marcello Mastroianni, sitting unnoticed in a corner of the bar at the Hotel Principe e Savoia, was amused by the frenzy of buyers, models and press in the hotel last Wednesday night. "It's the same spirits as the Cannes Film Festival," he said. Mastroianni is in Milan this month to make a TV film.
Roberta di Camarino took her bows after her showing followed by three schnauzers. She's still into the big look with blousons and a knitted tummy band that slides up and down on the body and which you can use to change the fullness of a style.
Remember Castelbajae's cost that inflated into a life raft? This season he has put a life-saver vest over several of the coats in his collection for San Lorenzo. They won't help much in an emergency, however - they're made of quilted leather.
Belts are wrapped every which way in the Italian collections. There are suspender belts, holster belts, bandolier belts and Walter Albini has cooked up a new one - a belt that goes from front to back around the crotch.
Garfinckel's fashion director Janet Wallach came to Milan by way of Bucharest where her journalist husband was interviewing President Nicolae Ceausescu. They gave her a special showing of Rumanian peasant clothes and several of their models could make it in Paris or Rome she says. And though she sympathizes with the Rumanians, she didn't place any orders. "I can only buy what is appropriate for Washington," she said.
The designers in Milan are masters of public relations. Not only have they flooded rooms of visitors with flowers (most of them the out-of-season variety), but they've putbuyers and press in a good mood with giveaways before the show. San Lorenzo offered his viewers ice cream pops, Callaghan dressed his audience in the very berets he showed on the runaway, Basile presented everyone with a corsage, and Timmy gave his audience one copper earring.
How do you spot a Milanese child? She wears her skirts at least mid-calf length. That's also how Krizia showed them on the runway for children, along with that house's ready-to-wear collection for women.
Smart money at the side street flower pushcarts in Milan Easter weekend were the knock-offs (copies) of the status-y Louis Vuitton satchel, at less than one tenth of the going D.C. price. The print is near perfect on the brown textured plastic and so is the shape, but the comparison stops there.
Hanging from meathooks on one pushcart are tote bags with the familiar Fruit of the Loom label on them, but if you look closely, you find the brand is "Fruit of the Lome."
Newest item on the souvenir stands here is the plastic disco bag with a "Visit Naples" insignia.