So far Milan's autumn fashion collections have been a rather grown-up, covered-up and restrained affair. So it was a relief when it came to Roberto Cavalli's show to see that he hadn't abandoned his free-spirited, rock-chick gypsy to join his peers.
When the world's most glamorous women want to look hot, Cavalli is their first choice. His signature style - sexy, brazen and blinging - hasn't changed much since he started out 40 years ago. His rock 'n' roll, fringe-meets-animal formula still works, although he has cast it into a darker, more decadent world for autumn where the mood is somewhat menacing. His wildcat prints in silk chiffon are shadowy and worked in black and inky dark tones. His bodysuits and jackets gleam in dark metals and his lacquered leathers at times resemble mediaeval armour. There is still the tribal vibe, the feathers and trailing scarves, but there are also stunning Art Nouveau embroidered silk and velvet devoré dresses and trousers in rich tones, all of which give those glamazons plenty to wear.
Cavalli's roots are in the 1970s - an era that also has served Missoni well as a source of inspiration for its long, loose, knitted layers. Tai and Rosita Missoni founded the famous Italian family knitwear label in the 1950s and their daughter Angela became the creative director in the mid-1990s. Nevertheless, it is the 1970s boho spirit (a particularly successful period for the house) that appears most often on Angela Missoni's catwalk.
This season that boho mood is sugary and dreamlike, starting with raw-edged tweed and patchwork python maxi coats and feathery trimmed knits. There is a fairy tale theme here - a pastel palette (in a season when colours are generally bold), shimmering textures and whimsically drawn illustrations printed on blouses. Long skirts are grounded by biker boots and chunky hand-knits that are tuck-stitched, degradé-dyed (one colour merging into another) or lattice-woven. The techniques, used on loose, boyish silhouettes, demonstrate the house's artisan skills at its best, especially the grey mink jacket worked in cable knit pattern.
Etro is another Italian family firm based in craft, this time, printing. The designer Veronica Etro imaginatively puts together exotic patterns, often based on tapestries and richly coloured oriental carpet motifs, in eclectic mixes. Shiny materials, tartans and Donegal tweeds are also thrown in, and out of that emerges a nice, easy style of dressing that abandons the hippie trail without embracing the new restrained mood.