If fashion holds a mirror up to society, what does the looking glass have to say about the state of Italy?
In the days before Milan Fashion Week, the Pope resigned; by yesterday, the end of fashion week, the election had politically split the country with no clear winner. Italy now finds itself rudderless soon to be without a head of the church or head of state.
The clothes said it all, apparently anticipating all of the above. First off, the sheer volume of black, from power player Giorgio Armani to the quirkily offbeat Marni and the master of the art class, Bottega Veneta; all suggested not only dourness and a sense of restraint, but a country in mourning.
As Miuccia Prada put it backstage after her beautiful show: I was thinking a lot about impossibilities and how you cant abandon your fantasies. Her collection seemed to have intuited the mood of a nation amid a deep recession and tough austerity measures with her humble knits and demure skirt suits devoid of surface embellishment. The only decoration was in jet black. Although there were a few punches of gold, rich furs and the occasional flash of optimism with pale pink and blue gingham.
Marnis Consuelo Castiglione said of her almost all-dark show: I wanted something melancholic, romantic, severe with the menswear fabric and soft with the fur. She had even had the backdrop painted with a haunted-looking forest of bare black trees silhouetted against sepia.
And what about Punk? Or Vunk, as Donatella Versace called it. The irreverence, swagger and potent anti-establishment references were all there in her brilliant collection that saw aggressive red, searing yellow, lacquered vinyl, silver chains and lethal silver nails as fastenings on skin-hugging clothes that demanded attention. Was this a reflection of Italys angry, unstoppable, unemployed youth? She said it was as if the spirit of punk was born today, with no reference to the past.
And what of Italys maximalist designers, the Roberto Cavallis and Dolce & Gabbanas of this world? Interestingly, both took their inspiration from Italys rich and magnificent past. Cavallis inspiration hailed from paintings by grand masters, Caravaggio and Rubens, while Dolce & Gabbana took their golden mosaics straight out of the Norman cathedral in Monreale, Sicily. This collection might have been even more spookily prescient had the designers been inspired by artwork inside the Vatican, home of the out-going Pope.
Never say fashion has nought to do with real life.
If this all sounds a bit depressing, it really wasnt. Here were clothes all round - that scored so highly on the desirability factor, that in terms of its fashion industry at least, Italy has something to be truly proud of.