1940s classics inspire Fendi's Lagerfeld in Milan

Fendi's models emerged into a black hangar at Milan Fashion Week on Thursday dressed like characters from an Italian neo-realist film with black and white stripes, knee-length skirts and aprons.

The 1940s - at least for Fendi director Karl Lagerfeld - are back.

The spring-summer 2012 show started with the whirring of a film reel and the primly-dressed models began sashaying past to the sounds of film classics, their hair swept back in big manes and wearing giant tinted glasses.

The designs featured plenty of apron, smocks and tunic style dresses with hints of embroidery and see-through fabric. The colours were very muted - mostly black and white with some beige, pastel pink and khaki thrown in.

But the cuts were wild - including asymmetrical skirts, cut-out shoulders, big frilly aprons and knitted jumpers with see-through backs.

The array of handbags ranged from a humble purse to a giant rock-encrusted bag and even a sparkling green-and-gold number.

One of the strong points of the collection was a perforated suede-hooded jacket, but the design that drew the most "aaahs" from the crowd was a peacock feather dress that was certainly attention-grabbing, if perhaps impractical.

The German-born Lagerfeld, 78, who has his own fashion label and is also the creative director at Chanel, emerged after the show in his trademark sunglasses, ponytail hair and black leather gloves to a standing ovation.

Founded in 1925 in Rome, Fendi is now owned by French luxury giant LVMH.

The Max Mara show earlier on Thursday had a feel that was both retro and futuristic - harking back to the ever popular 1950s with pastel turquoise, beige and mint-green dresses, as well as experimenting with mixed fabrics.

Max Mara defined the collection as: "Pure and linear, athletic and minimalist, tailored and crafted. It designs a new futurist silhouette."

The fashion house said the tones that dominated the show - sky blue, sand beige and cloud white - were inspired by "the colours of the desert."