Is a little bit of that Tom Ford turbocharged rock 'n' roll style seeping back into Gucci? Certainly, the latest collection from his successor, Frida Giannini, suggests that the spike-heeled vixen is back, but she is not of the smouldering kind that Ford pushed. The bouquets of flowers that marked Giannini's early collections have completely disappeared in the last couple of seasons and for autumn, the Gucci girl strides across the concert stage wearing silver tunics, micro leather mini skirts, shimmering metallic black androgynous tailoring and big, square rock-star sunglasses. Giannini's Gucci girl has attitude; her lean jackets are short, her trousers are lean and her needle-heeled, thigh-high leather boots are aggressive - this rock chick is a creature of the night. That said, Giannini still wields a feminine touch, working oversized polka dots, stripes and chevrons in black, electric blue, purple and fuchsia into belted crepe de chine dresses with kimono sleeves and T-shirts.
The new Pucci girl also has a bit of that sassy attitude, channelling the big fur jackets and skinny pants beloved of Italian women, but the new boy Peter Dundas helped to define the Roberto Cavalli woman, so we shouldn't be surprised. However, it was brave of him to use so few of the house's famous signature prints. The Oslo-born Dundas spent a couple of years at Ungaro before moving back to Italy, and now he is the latest in the Florentine label's revolving door policy of hiring designers to give those whirling psychedelic prints a faster spin - except he didn't.
Pucci without prints is like Dolce without Gabbana: unthinkable. However, Dundas made his mark with one graphic flash motif zigzagging down a dress or tunic, offering a leitmotif to the collection, which used a lot of diagonal detailing. The more complex signature patterns were rendered in such subtle khaki green and brown tones that you might almost have missed them. There was a lot more of Dundas in this collection than Pucci, with body-hugging bands of swathed fabric and plenty of fur. We shouldn't be surprised; his predecessor, Matthew Williamson, also eschewed print in his debut collection and went on to give the label some of his boho charm. The change might not be ideal for continuity, but the Pucci customer will never get bored. Every three years she will discover something new and refreshing to tempt her.
Blumarine is another label pushing the lean look. The designer Anna Molinari tends towards sugary sweetness in her collections, with lashings of frills and crystal beading, but this season she opted for more minimalist shapes - tuxedos, reefer jackets, masculine-cut coats and leggings. In fact, there were even a few sober city coat and dress looks, which was rather startling for her and probably surprised her game-show-hostess-filled front row, but the subsequent array of multicoloured leopard print outfits and logo T-shirts ablaze with bling, redolent of 1970s Fiorucci, brought us safely back to Blumarine territory.
Up to this point there had been a gentler, more relaxed mood sweeping through Milan, with the emphasis on allure rather than sexpot. Tomas Maier at Bottega Veneta caters to a sophisticated clientele who will appreciate the fluid languor of the new collection. The jewelled halternecks and straps that crossed bare backs were about as sexy as he got, but his brand of sexiness is chic rather than sassy. He has moved on from the stylish 1950s Doris Day shirt dresses of recent seasons towards a slender rectangular silhouette that peeled open at the back (seductive, but subtle) and enveloped the torso in fine silk twill. Straight silk velvet dresses, too, featured straps that slipped insouciantly off the shoulder. There were a couple of cashmere and silk bouclé coats, but this was mostly a dress collection beautifully executed in shades of lilac, grape and elephant grey. It was demure and timeless, right through to the final few long dresses in rippling chiffon pleats knotted at the shoulders and teamed with beautiful diamond bangles.
There was a time when a catwalk show was an excuse to parade an endless choice of handbags. Bags got so big and decorative that the clothes barely got a look. Now the days of the It-bag are over, much to the chagrin of the big accessory houses. Bottega Veneta and Gucci built their fortunes on their bags, but neither house showed one - they were all back at the showroom. This season, the focus is on architectural shoes and jewellery, and the amazing jewels at Bottega Veneta are an exciting new venture for a label founded on beautifully tooled leather.