When buyers and press from all over the world arrived for the Moschino show at the fairgrounds here yesterday, they found in their chairs a care package prepared by the designer. But the show, the curtain raiser for the five-day run of Italian designer collections for next fall, did more than offer a large clear plastic bag of cornflakes, band-aids, a shower cap and popcorn. It kicked off an opening day that offered a welcome mix of fresh ideas in the shape of clothes as well as in the fabrics and even in the way of presenting them.
Both the designers and the buyers here are ripe for a very strong season. The Italian designers are on a high because of a 20 percent increase in business in the past year plus a rush on their boutiques by tourists with strong dollars. The buyers, even if they don't like the collections, could fill their time happily shopping for themselves.
But if the first day is any indication, the 1,200 or more retail buyers here won't have any difficulty spending their stores' budgets and maybe even overspending.
Missoni -- who in the past has injected patterns, colors and textures into knitwear for men and women and introduced the reversible sweater (a raincoat on one side and a sweater on the other) -- proved that there is even more that this family of artisans do with knits. They boil them.
"I've been spending a lot of time in the kitchen," laughed Rosita Missoni as store executives congratulated her, her husband Octavio and her children after the show. Mrs. Missoni was teasing about the six months of experimenting to apply the idea of boiled wool to knitwear, which gave their handsome patterned knit jacket the structure of felted wool without the stiffness.
The idea of boiled knit jackets first occurred to her a year ago when she was vacationing in Italy on the border of Austria and saw the jackets there. When she returned to Milan, kids were wearing them on the street with their jeans. Six months ago, she began experimenting with the idea for her own collection. Even up to three weeks before the collection opened she wasn't sure it was going to work. Two weeks ago, with the factory workers doing overtime on nights and weekends, it finally fell into place. "I couldn't believe it. I think we really have made something new," she said ecstatically.
Missoni paired these shapely felted jackets with rounded shoulders, deep arm holes and often fitted waists with big, full knitted skirts in the same pattern -- but soft and fluid because they were not boiled. Done in tapestry patterns, big florals and plaids in a rich palette, the audience loved them.
"I'm not the first to think of boiling knits," said Rosita Missoni, recalling the earliest felted fabrics, "but I think I have done it in a more supple way by using lighter wool, including mohair and cashmere."
The felted jackets are not the only good news in the Missoni collection. They've undoubtedly revived the knitted coat, textured like chenille, patterned, and sometimes shot through with lurex for day or evening.
Gianfranco Ferre found new ways to work knits as well. While he continues the big shirt he introduced so successfully last season, he showed more sweaters than ever for fall. Some are long and lean like tunics, others notable for their one button at the back that leaves an opportunity for bareness.
Ferre used knitted jersey to make the point that skinnier is better for fall. His black jersey, body-tracing long dresses -- worn with necklaces that look like gold sculptures -- made even a few of the super skinny models here look a little lumpy. And his new pants silhouette, with a high-rise waistline, leaves little room for one to stray from a strict diet.
Using a palette of mostly gray, black and white with bursts of color, particularly church purple, bright red and brilliant turquoise, it was clear that he also likes silhouettes that are easy and somewhat full. Virtually everything has wide shoulders and deep arm holes, and coats and jackets are often given fullness at the back with shirring below the waist.
One dress in the collection is sure to be copied by designers from Seventh Avenue to Paris. From the front, it looked like a chemise and from the back it looked like a dress with an open jacket. Washington model Gloria Burgess paraded the style, which was shown in intense violet, and Ferre left it on the runway so long, it was clearly one of his favorite styles as well as a hit with the audience.
Franco Moschino, who was the designer of the Cadette collection for more than five years and only got his own label last year, clearly was enjoying poking fun at his own clothes. Everything went down the runway in pairs. The same black dress shown on one model as a young woman might wear it -- with red shorts underneath -- was also modeled as her mother might wear it, with pearls and pumps. A strapless, fitted-torso red evening dress was also worn with a black turtleneck and boots. And a Chanel-style jacket was shown on one model with a dignified matching skirt, and with jeans on another model. The music, appropriately, was "I Am What I Am."
It's not difficult to figure where Moschino got the idea for showing jeans. After several seasons of little jean wearing over here, they have started to reappear everywhere. The heavy Levi's promotion during the Olympics no doubt had something to do with it, and so did the success of Bruce Springsteen's worldwide tour.
Many in the huge shopping crowds in the small district of swanky stores last weekend were dressed in jeans. Milanese women wore them under their short mink or squirrel coats or fake furs. Men paired their jeans with leather jackets, and kids wore them always rolled at the hem with down or boiled wool jackets and Timberland shoes.
If anyone needed help finding new ways to wear denim, mannequins were dressed in jean jackets and denim dresses in the window of the Thierry Mugler shop and in denim stitched with gold in the windows of the Krizia boutique. And it's only the beginning -- both Krizia and Ferre have just signed contracts to create their own lines of jeans.
Through the window of the Chanel boutique, it was easy to see a customer trying on a new Chanel jacket over her well-washed jeans. Moschino must have noticed it too.