In Milan, feminine wiles cede to Prada's urban chic

Frankie Morello proposed casual sensuality while Fendi went for a languid feel and Dolce & Gabbana were all flouncy femininity as Milan Fashion Week got into full swing Thursday.

But Prada was having none of it, dictating stripes and solids in simple shapes cut from Japanese cotton for spring/summer 2011 in a collection full of eye-catching colour clashes.

Models for the quirky label came out on stripey platform tennis shoes, carrying faux furs - striped or white or both - with their hair slicked-down and wound into twin chiffons at the nape, some sporting striped sombreros slung behind them.

Those wearing coloured plastic glasses looked as if they were on their way to a maths exam.

The venue, a paragon of industrial architecture featuring poured concrete and steel for the catwalk, with the photographers crowded into essentially a three-sided cage, lent an aura of urban chic to the collection.

Fashion blogger Bryanboy, spotted wearing a Prada sweater mixing black and white with coloured stripes and perched on Japanese-type clogs, said he was among those who offered designer Muccia Prada a robust accolade when she came out after the show.

"It wasn't avant-garde at all," he told AFP. "It was very safe."

For Frankie Morello's show, an expanse of white sand replaced the catwalk and the models played with their unkempt hair and flirted with the photographers, swaying their hips like nobody's business.

One had an electric guitar slung over her cutaway swimsuit, two others showily smoked cigarettes.

At the other end a metal 1960s-era Airstream caravan served as the backdrop to a beach scene with three hunky guys drinking beer, working out and comparing surfboards while a young woman with her hair in curlers sized them up.

Designers Maurizio Modica and Pierfrancesco Gigliotti said the mise en scene fell somewhere "between mirage and reality".

Making good on a promise to allow lingerie to "claim its space," they let the waist of a pair of broad-gauge fishnets rise well over the edge of size zero jean shorts, or a denim bra to be worn on the outside, or simply sewn on upside down as a design feature.

Denim met chiffon in a jean miniskirt with a long cream train, or in breast-revealing tops over microshorts.

To send home the carefree message, the models came out in oversized T-shirts at the end, playfully emptying bottles of water on the designers' heads.

Fendi achieved a more restrained, languid air, with calf-length flared skirt dresses and ruffled organza frocks, though suggestive jungle calls and drums played in the background.

Copious sleeves - raglan, flared or structured "lantern" sleeves - contributed to the look of cool sophistication.

A prim blue suit with short sleeves, slightly puffed, was made less demure by a thigh-revealing slit up the front.

Flowers were everywhere as Dolce & Gabbana rolled out their D&G second line for younger customers from behind a flower-bedecked stage and down a catwalk lined with flowerbeds. Even the invitations came with packets of zinnia seeds attached.

Flouncy, feminine creations in a multitude of floral patterns floated to the floor while jaunty red-chequered kerchiefs evoked summer picnics.

Trousers were cut wide and flared, stopping at mid-calf. A peasant top with oversized side pockets gave off a similar casual, somewhat retro vibe.

Meanwhile overalls worn without shirts or bras had a naughty air, as did a pair of red leather hot pants.

"Modern elegance" was the theme for Ermanno Scervino, boyish in the deconstructed men's shirts, while geometric shapes defined the woman of the future.

Lots of leg was on display under microskirts and short shorts, whether for daytime or evening.

Materials were of understated elegance - ultra-light leathers, Swiss cotton poplin and white organdy.