Milan Fashion Week SS20: The most talked about moments, from Jennifer Lopez's Versace gown to Gucci's mental health misstep

Italian capital delivered plenty of highlights 

Sarah Young@sarah_j_young
Tuesday 24 September 2019 15:44
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Gucci model stages mental health protest at Milan Fashion Week

Milan Fashion Week marks the mid-way point of a month-long sartorial spectacle as designers showcase their latest creations to editors and influencers alike.

Over the years, the city’s fashion shows have formed a habit of hitting headlines, from Dolce and Gabbana sending pregnant models and mothers carrying their children down the runway to the moment the original Nineties supermodels reunited for a show-stopping finale at Versace.

But this season, designers really upped the ante delivering some of the biggest moments from spring/summer 2020 (SS20) so far.

While the usual sartorial splendour unfolded, there was also a newfound surge of energy on the Milan runways with an art-themed fashion show, a pop icon's runway debut and models staging mental health protests.

And that’s before we even get started on the clothing which, after all, is what fashion week is all about.

With Milan’s stint done and dusted, here, we take a look back at some of the best moments from the event.

J.Lo broke the internet

Jennifer Lopez closed the Versace show wearing a remake of the dress she wore in 2000 

Jennifer Lopez sent social media into meltdown when she closed the Versace show in a remake of the jungle green dress she wore to the 2000 Grammys.

At the time, so many people searched for images of the now-iconic ensemble that Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google, said the website was inspired to create Google Image Search.

At the end of the Versace show, which riffed heavily off the palm print that has since become synonymous with J-Lo’s gown, Donatella's voice came over the sound system, saying: “OK Google, now show me the real jungle dress”.

On cue, Lopez stormed the runway in a new version of the dress causing pretty much everyone sitting on the front row to capture the moment on their phones and flood social media with snaps.

For the grand finale, the singer returned to the runway arm-in-arm with Versace herself, prompting rapturous applause from attendees.

Gucci model staged mental health protest on the runway

Model Ayesha Tan-Jones protested against Gucci's straitjacket-inspired ensembles 

Alessandro Michele's SS20 Gucci show was one to remember, but perhaps not for reasons the creative director could have hoped.

On Sunday, the luxury brand presented its latest collection in a stark, brightly lit room filled with plastic waiting room chairs and metal shutters covering the doors.

The show began with a number of models being transported down the runway on a moving conveyor belt wearing looks Michele said were inspired by straitjackets.

In an unplanned protest, model Ayesha Tan-Jones, aka YaYa Bones, who walked in one of the straitjacket-inspired ensembles, wrote the words “mental health is not fashion” on their palms ahead of the show, holding up their hands to the cameras as they made their way around the space.

Jones, who identifies as non-binary, later uploaded a video from the show on Instagram and explained that as someone who has previously suffered with mental health issues, they found Gucci’s designs deeply offensive.

Gucci responded saying the garment was taken out of context and was part of a broader concept about breaking free.

“These clothes were a statement for the fashion show and will not be sold,” the brand wrote on Instagram, explaining that Michele designed the clothes “to represent how through fashion, power is exercised over life, to eliminate self-expression”.

In response, the model chose to donate their fee to a number of mental health charities.

Moschino turned its models into literal works of art

Moschino sent models down the runway in wearable art (AFP/Getty Images)

Fashion designer Jeremy Scott is an expert when it comes to transforming his catwalk into a work of art and his latest show for Moschino proved it.

In keeping with the brand’s kitschy designs, Scott’s Picasso-influenced show saw models literally turn into pieces of art.

While some designs were more nuanced in their representation of the painter's work, others saw Kaia Gerber transform into cubist sculpture of a guitar, Bella Hadid sport a harlequin-checked Pierrot clown number and Joan Smalls resemble a matador.

“I think people need to get over the loftiness of when you call something art,” Scott said of the inspiration behind the collection.

“I am an artist — I just work through the medium of fashion, through apparel and models and the scenography of a show, but that doesn’t change the fact that I’m an artist.

The designer concluded by calling the debate an “old silly argument that people have had for so long”.

Silvia Venturini Fendi made her ready-to-wear debut

Silvia Venturini Fendi presented her first solo show since the death of Karl Lagerfeld (AFP/Getty Images)

Fendi’s autumn/winter 2019 show concluded with an emotional video of the late Karl Lagerfeld, who died just a few days before Milan Fashion Week in February.

Fast forward seven months and the fashion house’s SS20 collection marked a new era for the brand, one which saw Silvia Venturini Fendi take the helm and make her womenswear debut.

Originally creative director of accessories and menswear, Fendi – who is the granddaughter of the brand’s founders – showcased her first solo ready-to-wear show in a giant light installation.

It was perhaps fitting for Fendi’s first show since the passing of Lagerfeld to look to the 1960s for inspiration, since that’s when the fashion icon first started working with the brand.

Models walked down the runway dressed in retro floral dresses, crochet separates, a sepia-toned colour pallet and suits adorned with oversized collars.

In a recent interview with Business of Fashion, Fendi talked about life at the brand without Lagerfeld.

“Karl was with Fendi for 54 years, so it doesn’t sound ‘natural’ to refer to ‘the Karl Lagerfeld era.’ Now it’s just the way we all think here,” she said.

Prada rallied against disposable fashion

Prada delivered a collection inspired by the fashion industry's excessive waste (AFP/Getty Images)

For SS20, Miuccia Prada focused on simplicity and timeless pieces as a direct response to fashion’s excessive waste.

The designer said she was interested in style — not fashion — and set out to create clothes that would last forever.

“In this moment where there is excess and too much, and everybody is complaining that there’s too much fashion, too much clothes — I tried to work so that the person is more important than the clothes and the fashion,” Prada explained after the show.

“It’s a giant political problem that everyone needs to address in their own way and through their own efforts.”

As a business, Prada is working on its ethical credentials. In May, the brand announced that it would no longer use fur in its products, starting from this SS20 collection, and it became one of 32 fashion brands to sign up to the Fashion Pact — an initiative to fight climate change and improve sustainability — last month.

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