Muddy colours dominate the Milan catwalk

THE MIGHTY MaxMara showed both its mainline collection and the younger Sportmax line in Milan yesterday. Both labels are much loved in Italy - the company is the only one to rival Armani in profits year after year.

The formula for MaxMara mainline is simple. Take the trends turned out by more directional labels - namely Gucci and/or Prada - and turn them down for wider public consumption. It works season after season - beautifully made clothes that won't frighten the less fashion-literate customer.

Some cause for concern for any consumer, however, might be that the palettes for the next millennium look likely to be decidedly muddy. Sunday's Prada show featured acres of sludgy hues. MaxMara travelled a similar route, withshades of caramel, honey and sage. There were plenty of coats, of course. The label is famous for them: long, narrow and in softest cashmere or more sporty, knee-length and with big, soft hoods.

The hippie-chic look was still in evidence, if more subdued. Sweaters and skirts in mohair and suede were pure Annie Hall in flavour - for evening they came appliqued with tarnished silver and gold.

The Sportmax show as usual offered a less classic look than its big sister, but colours were similarly downbeat. The ubiquitous fleece made an appearance. More worrying was the return of the rugby shirt, worn over sloppy pants and full skirts - a little touch of the great British youth club has arrived in Milan, it seems.