A dynamic new modernism is starting to take hold in Milan at the autumn ready-to-wear shows. Graphic silhouettes, cut-outs, chrome detailing and a mix of sleek leathers and fabrics with a hint of techno made bold statements at both Versace and Gucci. Frida Gianini drew upon the golden eras of the 1970s and 1990s for her sleek, glamorous look for Gucci. A white dress with cut-out sides followed by a graphic white cashmere coat so straight that it could have been cut with a ruler, opened the show. The luxury of the label was in the sophisticated modern minimalism of the line and the pale blonde, camel, grey and white palette.
Body-conscious dresses had anatomical razor slashes that exposed brief flashes of skin, while the glamorous black dresses plunged at the back and were in-filled with snake-patterned lace. The camel-coloured jackets were based on the trench-coat construction with fur sleeves and the Gucci trousers slipped underneath were as skinny and hip as ever. The tone of the collection was quiet, with a hint of chrome for chokers and metal-plate belts, while ostrich handbags and flat clutches echoed the pale shades of the clothes.
Meanwhile, the tyranny of the platform is on the wane. Although the crocodile bootees and new pale suede thigh boots - a big story around the shows this season - featured shallow platforms, the patent T-bar shoes, while still high, looked far daintier without. The first hints of this modernist mood emerged last winter in the Prada and Jil Sander experiments with graphic shapes and minimalist contouring details. The Gucci and Versace takes on modernism, however, are more luxurious and alluring, as you would expect from two houses whose success lies in their modern, sexy attitude.
Historically, the Versace aesthetic was anything but minimalist, but Donatella Versace is much more of a modernist and minimalist than her brother ever was. She has visited the style in previous collections and is renowned for her precision cutting. Many of her body-conscious dresses this season feature graphic cut-out details and a distinctive use of folds and panels to create asymmetric proportions. Occasionally she used biker zips to bisect the body and colourful elastic inserts (filling the void of a cut out) to emphasise the graphic look of a suede car coat or a jacket. However, the vibrant colours and mirror-glossy leather indicate that Versace's vision of modernism is anything but low key.