Milan catwalks offer dream of exotic escapes

From visions of far-flung rainforests to travel back in time to the Roaring Twenties, Milan Fashion Week has been all about escapism - offering a welcome respite from a mood of economic gloom in Italy.

Gucci's Art Deco style, Alberta Ferretti's jungle themes, Prada's 1950s race track models and Moschino's matadors have been some of the most striking features on the catwalks this year, taking spectators to distant worlds.

"The collection interprets the freedom of a contemporary traveller who sets off for far away destinations because she knows her roots and identity," read a statement put out by Trussardi for its new spring/summer 2012 lineup.

The glitzy Trussardi show at the Renaissance-era Sforza Castle that dominates the Milan city centre featured models in explorer outfits with luxury luggage who took their places in airline seats after sashaying down the runway.

Frankie Morello's kitschy new collection "Souvenirs d'Italie" also centred on the theme of travel - this time featuring Italian landmarks like the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Colosseum and Michelango's David statue.

The last runway for Dolce & Gabbana's second line D&G - a retro riot of colour and figure-hugging foulards inspired Vogue Italy editor Franca Sozzani - an elegant attendee at the shows - to think back to the Dolce Vita.

She said the dresses were like the "Golden Age of Capri and Portofino."

But Stefano Tonchi, editor of US fashion magazine W and former editor of the New York Times Style Magazine, said he has had enough of all the retro.

Italian fashion "should think big and open its eyes and stop dusting off the aesthetics of the past," he said, quoted in La Repubblica daily.

"It should concentrate on the contemporary: on art, on cinema, on music. Look at the present," he said, calling on young Italian designers to "confront with more conviction the themes of our era and our culture."

Some designers have stood out this year with stand-out original work, including Versace with its selection of latter-day mermaids, as well as Bottega Veneta with a collection featuring an eclectic mix of fabrics.

It is not just the collections that have been engaging in a good bit of escapism - attendees have been every bit as creative in their get-ups.

Chinese actress Yang Mi attended the Gucci show drawing attention with a vivid red gown from the fall collection and fashion students have packed into many of the shows, wearing everything from military jackets to ponchos.

Even in fashion-conscious Milan, the crowd attending the catwalks has stood out including women with heels bigger than their lapdogs and shade-wearing men in lounge suits sipping champagne even on regular workday mornings.

It is a scene that frustrates Sozzani, who vented in her blog from Milan.

"I'm sorry fashionistas, but change your wardrobe starting today please. We've had enough of your impossible visions," she wrote.

She called for: "Taste, elegance and a bit of understanding that fashion is fantasy and creativity but has nothing to do with the circus."

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