It's as though a group of designers got together one night over pasta at El Toula and decided on a few familiar themes. But they say they all got to the oriental motif, for example, very independently.
Giorgio Armani said he first saw a book of Japanese prints, and that gave him an idea for colors that started him off on the new collection. He had almost finished when he saw Kuwasawa's film "Kagemusha." The collection was long finished before he actually went to Japan. (His leathers for Mario Valentino, however, seemed to come straight from the film.)
Gianfranco Ferre, an architect turned fashion designer, said he has always been fascinated with the simplicity of the Chinese seesaw, and that is the simplicity he applied to his collection. " And one day in New York I was walking on Lexington Avenue -- and saw the red Chinese flag hanging outside of Bloomingdale's. That gave me the idea to use red," says the designer.
"I found this book of photographs of the Chinese theater. I couldn't read the Chinese, so it never distracted me from the astonishing photographs," says Mariuccia Mandelli Pinto, the designer for Krizia. "Then I went to New York and saw the Chinese robes exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and that confirmed for me that I was on the right track."
While some details such as the obi belt, the standup collar, quilt treatments and kimono cuts give a far eastern flavor to many of the collections, the clothes here are basically sportswear separates for women to juggle as they want. There is hardly a dress around, unless it is a short one that looks like a tunic worn with tights.
Pants predominate, always soft and rounded rather than straight cut, and in every length possible. Jodphurs, knickers, bermuda shorts, culottes, sarrouels . . . you name it. If there is a name for it, and even when there isn't, every imaginable shape is there.
Skirts are an endangered species -- Armani didn't show one, and Versace showed one or two. Many of the others shown have been culottes. If designers have overdosed on pants, it is only because they've seen how quickly the Italian women have started to wear them.
Leather is worked as skillfully as finest silk, and sometimes you can't be sure that it is leather. Capes and ponchos are the new coat shape.
Gone are the ruffles and lace collars of a year ago. But aside from that, there isn't much from a year ago that, perhaps with change in pants, wouldn't make everything look new again. The only noticeable ruffle is at Fendi in fur.
"Watch out for the pickpockets," shouted Bernie Ozer as the crowd of more than 1,500 heaved forward toward the first security check outside the Krizia show. Ozer, who is with Associated Merchandising Corporation, consultants to top fashion stores, was speaking from experience -- the loss of an expensive gold pen. Others here in Milan for the showings have been hassled and mugged on the streets near the posh hotels. Grace Mirabella of Vogue refused to give up her shoulder bag to a man who tried to wrench it from her. "The silk cord of the Fendi bag just wouldn't give out. That's quality for you," laughed Mirabella afterward. A buyer from Hattie's in Michigan was not laughing after being mugged between the Principe Hotel and the annex. There was more. Count Rudi Crespi gave up his lire (but not the gold clip) to a man who stuck a pointed object in his back. At the end of the week, the Principe Hotel was offering "walkers" to escort guests to their annex or cars.
Krizia has a new animal in her zoo. This year it is the lion, which will no doubt stalk the front of sweaters and sweatshirts before long, just as her elephants, leopards and toucans have done before this.
First lady watchers are having a picnic in Milan. Says Giorgio Armani, "Nancy Reagan has an old-style chic, but that is not elegance. It is conventional and safe." He's not very high on Lady Diana Spencer either. "She already dresses like she has grown old."
Hair stylist Sergio Valente thinks Mrs. Reagan's hair color is great but the style too teased. Lady Di is fabulous, says the Rome hair designer who was in Milan to do the models for the Fendi show.
Asks Katarine Augstein from Ser Speigel, "why does your First Lady show her wrinkled arms so open?"
"There are many fewer black models here this season than in the past two years, and designers tend to send black models out as a group, then the white models. Blonds together and brunettes together." The black models show clothes different, insists Gianfranco Ferre. "The actually model better, and by having them on the runway at the same time it seems to work better."
Washington born model Gloria Burgess doesn't agree. "I think they could make the point better about the versatility of their clothes if they showed them on models all mixed up".
It's busman's holiday for many of the American buyers. And not just because both Macy's and Bloomingdale's have hired buses for the week to get their buyers around town. Because of the stronger dollar, the buyers have done a lot of personal shopping. Kal Ruttenstein bought an Armani belt for $32 not just because it was a great buy, but because he just lose 32 pounds. (David Wolfe from Neiman-Marcus is celebrating his 10-pound loss by buying nothing. "Finally I can fit back into my old clothes," he says). Bernie Ozer has bought Guido Pasquale white shoes for $45. "The price is fabulous, but also they fit." He said that other great buys are the $10 T-shirts and the $3 printed cotton shorts at Fiorucci.
Saks Fifth Avenue's Ellin Saltzman, shopping with her 16-year-old daughter Elizabeth, bought her one of everything at Fiorucci, or so it seemed. The real winners, she said, were the cotton knit sundresses and jewerly. At Benetton, the real appeal, she said, was that in Italy there is a greater range of colors and sizes, as well as the price saving.
The chichi dessert in Milan these days is kiwi and papaya. Many of the swanky restaurants offer a variety from fruit sauces to just decorations.
The hot new disco is Chinima. It's where Fiorucci had its big party one night this week celebrating more than anything else its licensing Mickey Mouse for everything. Party guests had to wear Mickey Mouse T-shirts to get in. A favorite costume for the young girls at the disco -- body tights and a tulle tutu. Old comic strips were flashed on the wall of the dance area and Walt Disney and Coca Cola were spelled out in laser beams.
The fashion crowd was invited to a rehearsal -- but not a dress rehearsal -- of a Moussorsky opera Wednesday night. No costumes, but it was not a big problem. Just a few of the performers were wearing long Russian coats and tunics and billowy pants to get used to them for the performance. They looked like a lot of the clothes from the fashion show runway.