MILAN, Italy -- The curtain opened over the weekend on a somewhat subdued fashion scene here. Fireworks may come later, but most of the spring shows were modest affairs, introducing designers' second- and even third-string collections. The clothes were friendly, lighthearted, familiar and less expensive than the main lines, which will be shown toward the end of the week.
Gianni Versace weighed in with two collections. One, Versus, introduced in his new retail shop on Via San Pietro all'Orto, mixes the wild and romantic prints for which he is famous. Jeans jackets with soft bouffant party dresses, pale colors with bold black-and-white graphics. At $400 to $1,200, the prices are half those of his regular collection. There are other Versus shops in Hong Kong, Japan and Korea.
To introduce Signature, another collection, in his company headquarters on the Via Gesu, Versace hired some of the world's best-known models, including Linda Evangelista, Naomi Campbell and Cindy Crawford, to pose in his exotic print blouses and scarfs, often set off with jeans. Nailhead-trimmed belts and handbags were prominent accessories.
Valentino was in California attending to Elizabeth Taylor and her wedding dress, but his staff carried on with a low-keyed fashion show for Oliver, his second line. It was an intimate show for clothes in the $600 to $700 price range, some 40 percent less than the regular line.
There were plenty of calf-length skirts interspersed with the above-the-knee styles, but the presentation did not call undue attention to longer hems. The finale emphasized bell-shaped short skirts in colors like orange and pink. The most arresting detail was the substitution of a laced-front bra for the more predictable T-shirt or tank top with tailored suits.
There is nothing fuzzy about Giorgio Armani's approach to spring dressing. Nothing frivolous, either. Though his Emporio collection is 35 percent less costly than his regular collection, with suits averaging $650 to $700, he does not give it short shrift. The clothes are clean and forthright but not severe.
Jackets curve gently, skirts swing. Pleats contribute to the softness of these tailored clothes. The designer has no need for gimmicks or even decorative effects. A small handbag looped through a belt is one of his few extras.
Colors are varied within a very soft palette with Armani's usual beige tones. Day clothes include jackets with trousers, shorts or very short skirts. Evening dresses are very short and pale with full skirts, and there are some playsuits in jersey with bare or wrapped midriff areas. Jeweled jackets over cutoff jeans are his only trick, but he is entitled to one. It is an endearing collection, and was presented with style in his Via Borgonuovo headquarters.
In showrooms around the city, manufacturers presented their collections quietly to store buyers. Etro, the fabrics house, introduced its first collection of ready-to-wear. Designed by Anne-Marie Berretta, it focused on classic suits in eye-catching patterns like a peach, green and yellow plaid and a flying-horse print.
Iceberg, a sweater house, expanded into suits and evening dresses. Pandas with winsome eyes and cheerful Mickey Mouse figures decorated many of them.
Franco Moschino, who thinks the world wants clothes, not fashion, dramatized his position in a suit printed with the words "FASHION FASHOFF." He presented it with baby-doll dresses and long jersey shifts in his showroom.
Zoran, who opened a plain white store on the Corso Matteoti that repeats the stark interior of his Greenwich Village loft, showed his minimalist styles informally. Elastic waists, loose coats and soft cowl tops were repeated in satin, chiffon and his favorite cashmere. Everything is meant to be mixed together.
Dolce & Gabbana opted for a real fashion show and a real theme. The theme was sex and the symbols were Sofia (Loren, spelled the Italian way), Gina (Lollobrigida) and Rita (Hayworth). The names were embroidered in red beads on bare-midriff sweaters, the seat of red leather shorts or on red leather jackets.
The basic design was the girdle or corselet, shown plain or with decorations. When a short wrap was thrown over it, black garters attached to black stockings were visible. Shoes were high-heeled mules with masses of paillettes glued to the vamp.
Some foundations were in terry cloth, some in satin and some were covered with net appliqu'es. The girdles, or at least the garters, were obvious under short tulle dresses. This fashion show could have easily been offensive, but the designers, Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana, managed it with rare good humor.