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Jil Sander’s spring/summer 2012 collection.
Jil Sander’s spring/summer 2012 collection.

Minimalism at Milan Fashion Week

Fashion insiders' favourites show crisp, muted, minimalist styles.

There are certain fashion collections that you know are at the top of every fashion insider's priority list just by the clothes you see them wearing as they dash from venue to venue. Prada, Marni and Jil Sander are the fashion pack's favourite go-to labels for their own wardrobes.

In the heat of Milan, journalists are still rocking the vibrant colours of Sander's summer collection, the electric blue trousers are a sure bet for next summer as well, and anything with a bit of fluorescent colour in it. Marni's fabulous silk prints from the autumn collection were spotted in every row at Consuela Castiglioni's show, proving she is a perfect choice for daywear. And no fashion person is worth their Twitter following without having at least two Prada skirts, bags and several pairs of Prada shoes at their disposal. For example, Anna Wintour, the editor of American Vogue, rarely wears anything but Miuccia.

So what do we expect to see them wearing next season? At Sander, everything was based on a crisp white shirt, which the designer Raf Simons worked into poplin dresses, no-nonsense doctors' coats and graceful, long shirtdress ball gowns. Everything was in white save for the paisley print, graphically updated in fluorescent and black for lean, tailored skirts and tunics. The paisley even appeared as jewelled clips (a surprise as the label is not noted for using jewellery) on the slim belt of a tailored dress or pinned to earlobes. At the show's close, you were left with a lasting impression of the cool presence of Grace Kelly hanging over the designer's drawing board.

Castiglioni's Marni collection featured pure, architectural shapes with short A-line dresses layered over lean organza skirts in pretty pastel hues. The mood was ladylike, but in Castiglioni's hands she made it look a little off-kilter and interesting. It was a remarkably pared-back collection for the house, with just a few graphic oversized polka dot or naïve floral prints on coats, dresses and shorts, and 3D-textured summer patterns on tailoring, but judging by the amount of Marni worn by the audience, there's going to be no problem selling this next season.

The white and ice cream-colour palette gave a sweet flavour to the collections in Milan, but the crisp fabrics and loose silhouette mean that this is anything but sugary. MaxMara, for instance, presented minimalist chic and maximum sophistication with a streamlined, rather athletic look. Nude, gold, white and aqua were perfect for safari-inspired separates, skinny pedalpushers and sporty jackets. Similarly Christopher Kane, the designer of Versace's younger line Versus, presented pastel hues in sporty silhouette.

The question frequently asked to British press around Milan was whether the British designers had designed anything sporty, given it is hosting the London Olympics next year. The answer had been no, until the London-based Kane decided to transform the courtyard of the Versace headquarters into a baseball court and present a parade of sweet, young models with their hair roughly pulled into ponytails who came out wearing sporty white polo dresses graphically outlined in black, and pastel tennis dresses with their skirts cut into ribbons.

The collection brought a fresh, youthful, athletic alternative to a city that has mostly turned its attention to adult fashion.

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