Carola Long: 'Scarlet shoes have a talismanic quality – think of ‘The Red Shoes’ or 'The Wizard of Oz''

When it comes to attending the international shows, anyone who says they don't care what they wear is either lying or has a wardrobe worthy of Paris Vogue's Carine Roitfeld. Every season, more attention gets paid to the fashion crowd's ensembles, and with style bloggers swarming outside the shows, judging one's outfits like camera-wielding Simon Cowells, even the most carefree dresser can get panic-struck. My tactic is to play it safe with a nod to current trends, black and classics – this season offers the perfect cover for anyone who secretly loves a uniform – but at Milan Fashion Week it struck me that this was a rather joyless strategy.

In Italy, of course, there were recurring themes, but box-ticking dressing came second to creativity and colour and wearing beautiful designer pieces that really are distinctive and arresting enough to transcend trends. However, in terms of channelling some of this sartorial joie de vivre, there was a theme that stood out: red. Whether it was a Celine bag or Isabel Marant's Escarpin suede stilettos, in a season heavy on the camel, grey and navy, these flashes of colour really lifted an outfit. Scarlet shoes, in particular, have a talismanic quality — think 'The Red Shoes' or 'The Wizard of Oz' – they draw you in and whisper of magical fashion powers.

The "bit of red" that had me – and another fashion journalist – gripped with the kind of urgent monomania that only strikes at the shows, were a pair of red trousers worn by an editor from US 'Vogue' (so chances are they weren't from the high street). On the catwalks for autumn/winter, red leather cropped trousers appeared at Isabel Marant, flares at Pucci and, left, cropped red tailored trousers at Givenchy. Sadly, the only "homages" I could find on the high street were in a cheap shiny fabric that looked like a fast food chain's staff uniform. Another observation from Milan: sometimes there's nothing like the real thing.

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