>> I think I seriously offended certain Milanese people with my Six London shoes, which I wore yesterday in this neon n' beige outfit cobbled together from Yoox finds.  There were real detectable looks from people, which combined shock, bemusement and revulsion, on a day when the city was rammed with Venetian carnival partakers wearing masks, costumes and tossing confetti about.  Oh well, trust the fashion carnival to try and usurp the bigger picture as though we were the centre of everyone's attention (ludicrously, I did overhear a fashion show goer say "Oh my god, don't the Milanese know it's FASHION WEEK?").  I can't say that I'm able to go about town discreetly wearing these fluoro bad boys but at the very least I can comfortably walk to and from appointments easily, whilst carrying with me a whole lotta platform.

There was supposed to be some deep and meaningful analogy between the two different carnivals but once again, I'm on the road back to London for a day before heading out to Paris so hopefully you know the score and realise this is in fact a gratuitous piccy post to say that I'm alive, clomping about merrily and eating a lot of gelato along the way.         

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(Photograph by Mr Newton for Harper's Bazaar US)

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(Photograph by Tommy Ton for Style.com )
(Wearing Marni coat, old KTZ paint splatter sheer sweater, Giles skirt, Valentino bag, SIX London designed shoes)

>> I never seem to be able to make it to the Met Museum in New York to catch their annual fashion exhibition biggie as it is normally timed in between fashion weeks.  I very nearly spanked a ton of air miles on a ticket just to see the McQueen exhibition last year but then decided that mother Lau might want to make it to the USA one day, so I'd better save them up for a rainy day.  A preview event of the upcoming Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations exhibition has wetted the appetite and may just be the primary excuse for a random trip to NY come May.  The reasoning for pitting Miuccia Prada against Elsa Schiaparelli was fairly logical – both are female, Italian and both questioned the notions of good taste in their time.  What stumped me was how the exhibition would be presented and how the two designers' work would interact with each other.  That question was duly answered at the preview as Harold Koda and Andrew Bolton, the curators at The Costume Institute thoroughly explained the outline of the exhibition alongside a few working examples of Prada and Schiaparelli pieces.  

The parallels between the work were actually far more literal than I thought they'd be.  A baroque swirl on a 1937 Schiaparelli jacket matched up with another more recognisable bit of baroque on a Prada S/S 11 dress. The use of art nouveau patterns in Prada's S/S 08 looking uncannily like Schiaparelli's 1937-8 ensemble.  What's more interesting is that it's unlikely that Miuccia ever took conscious and direct influence from Schiaparelli's work.  The seven thematic themes will include Hard Chic, Ugly Chic, Naif Chic, The Classical Body, The Exotic Body and The Surreal Body.  The mere fact that an exhibition includes a section entitled Ugly Chic is worth the plane ticket for me to go and take a peek and I'm glad that the curators have addressed the bravery of both designers to question sanctioned chicness.  Koda recounted a little anecdote about Schiaparelli admonishing someone for making fun of her mismatched shoes by saying "You wouldn't know chic if it hit you on the head!"  The exhibition will also explore the distinct differences between the two women in the theme "Waist Up/Waist Down" with Schiaparelli gravitating towards ostentatious jackets and Prada maintaining a preference for skirts.  This is quite evident in these paired up examples here that the Met provided.  Whilst there are uniting features in these pairings, it's also clear that the two designers' aesthetic and process poles apart.

What's more intriguing will be the videos directed by Baz Luhrmann where simulated conversations between Schiaparelli and Prada take place.  The situation is of course fictitious but the words will be taken from Schiaparelli's biography and interviews that Prada has done.  I can't quite visualise this part of this namesake part of the exhibition so there's really only one way of finding out how this dead and alive convo is constructed.  See you in the inevitable ticket queue! 

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Elsa Schiaparelli, Harper's Bazaar, Feb 1935 by Andre Durst // Prada, Autumn/Winter 2002-3 by David Sims

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Elsa Schiaparelli Evening Jacket, Winter 1938-0 // Prada, Autumn/Winter 2004-5

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Diana Vreeland in Elsa Schiaparelli, Harper's Bazaar, April 1937 by Louise Dahl-Wolfe // Prada, Spring/Summer 2005 by Toby McFarlan Pond

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Elsa Schiaparelli Suit, Autumn 1938 // Prada Ensemble, Autumn/Winter 1999-2000

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Elsa Schiaparelli, Vogue, September 1938 by Horst // Prada, Spring/Summer 1999

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Elsa Schiaparelli Jacket, Summer 1937 // Prada, Spring/Summer 2011

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Elsa Schiaparelli, Vogue Paris, February 1927 by George Hoyningen-Huene // Prada Autumn/Winter 1996-7

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Elsa Schiaparelli Evening Ensemble, 1939 // Prada Dress, Spring/Summer 2004

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Elsa Schiaparelli in Elsa Schiaparelli, Autumn 1931 by Man Ray // Prada, Autumn/Winter 2004-5 by Toby McFarlan Pond

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Elsa Schiaparelli Evening Ensemble, 1937-8 // Prada, Spring/Summer 2008

As beautiful as the seven bouquets arranged in perspex cases were (they're the handiwork of Antwerp-based florist Marc Calle apparently), they felt needlessly funereal at Raf Simons' finale show for Jil Sander today.  I suppose they could be celebratory as well, with each bouquet representing a year of Simons' tenure at Jil Sander.  The final standing ovation and the tears, genuine on the part of Simons, weirdly false when it came to certain members of the audience, too contributed to the atmosphere where we felt pressurised to mourn the loss of Simons.  Was I the only one that was a little giddy, feeling like this finale was brimming with possibility?   

Yes, it is an end of an era but it's also the beginning of an exciting trajectory of Simons' career.  Wherever he goes or does will still be hugely influential to fashion, as his contribution to Jil Sander has been for the past seven years.  I guess I never saw Raf Simons, as someone who was deadlocked to the brand of Jil Sander, despite the magnificent work he has done there and instead, he could well leave an influential imprint at two or three more places should he wish. Not that there I'm saying the show should have been devoid of emotion but let's tone down the dramatics and start anticipating what's around the corner – Raf Simons is well and alive and has the ability to take his skill and vision and apply them to any number of houses in addition to continue doing so for his own brand (Raf Simons womenswear – imagine that eh?).  It is an end of sorts but also a new beginning for Simons as well as for Jil Sander, which will see the return of the brand's founder.  Something else to get excited about.   

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The collection itself was in fact a delicate continuation of what Simons has been exploring for the past three seasons – exploring mid twentieth century couture through a sharply finessed looking glass.  The delicacy of lingerie-inspired palette steered clear from what's going on in the rest of the season and had most of us swooning at how Simons had progressed to a point where he's comfortable with conveying ultra femininity in his work.  It was difficult to get away from the Dior allusions, especially in the use of gravity defying volume, best seen in the coats that the models clutched together at the chest and in the gathers of fabric around the hip in synthesised corset dresses.  If we have been reading it correctly, that Simons has been "auditioning" for the creative director role at Dior and if it is to be that Avenue Montaigne will indeed be his next workplace, then we can get REALLY excited about what's around the corner.  Imagine some of these dresses in a Dior show.  

I'll stop at that wild speculation and say that I also did find myself reminiscing over some of the key moments of Simons' collections for Jil Sander – the S/S 08 sunset colours, the ripped textures of S/S 10, the flat boots and short shift dresses proposed in A/W 10-11 and then the onslaught of stellar collections from S/S 11 to S/S 12.  These collections filtered down to real shifts in the way women dressed and there is no doubt that Simons will continue creating these shifts.  This show wasn't an adieu, but an au revoir, as in we'll be seeing Simons again.    

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It seems like an odd thing to have flown into Milan and on the first day, post about what is essentially a young designer initiative.  I do still have a flood of NYFW/LFW stuff to go up but all in due course.  First up is a call to action by Vogue Italia and The Corner who have teamed up to present the second edition of a group of eleven designers, all given editorial and prime e-commerce positioning.  Yoox Group's collaboration activites are numerous and for some reason, generally slips by unnoticed, without creating too much of a fanfare.  The Vogue Talents Corner project was feted last night with all eleven designers displaying their S/S 12 pieces, which are currently available to buy on The Corner and then a small preview of their A/W 12-3 collection, ready for me to get stuck into discovering.  Some of the names were new to me and some were familiar and thankfully all formed a potent selection that was splendidly varied.  The Corner is probably one of the big e-commerce power players that does tend to go for a more directional buy in terms of its stock and so adding these eleven designers to the site feels fairly seamless.  As Federico Marchetti, founder and CEO of Yoox Group pointed out, The Corner is there to take risks and for these eleven designers, hopefully the risk pays off. 

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Mungo Gurney – Yes, that is the designer's actual name and no, I stupidly didn't ask him where it came from.  I did glean that Mungo is only one collection in and already the S/S 12 collection is in Browns Focus, Luisa Viaroma, No.6 in New York and now The Corner.  His collection is primarily print focused with an emphasis on vibrantly colour blocked swimwear.  His sophomore A/W 12-3 collection is still fairly print focused but the colours are slightly more muted and detailed.  He'll be doing an event to properly present the whole collection back in London after fashion week so I'll hopefully get the chance to ask him what exactly is the deal with his name. 

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C.B. Made in Italy – Cecilia Bringheli isn't the only brand doing slippers but her's are especially well crafted, made in a small factory in Northern Italy and designed to ensure maximum comfort for the wearer.  She chooses her patterns and prints wisely and a pair adorned with a watercolour floral from the S/S 12 collection are particularly fetching. Tweeds, checks and wools dominate her A/W 12-3 crop of slippers but it's these richly hued suede ankle boots that look mighty appealing. 

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Leitmotif – I became familiar with Fabio Sasso and Juan Caro's work through their menswear collections at Pitti.  I predictably fell for their prints that combined baroque and gothic inspired patterns, lifting and collaging them into imaginary landscapes.  Incidentally, they've become my go to answer whenever people quiz me about up and coming designers based in Italy.  Their S/S 12 collection is a riotous trip that is saved by the fairly simple shapes.   

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AI_Andrea Incontri – I already wrote about AI's S/S 12 collection of odd uniformity and it's pleasing to see some of those pieces on TheCorner.  What started off as a disciplined accessories label only recently forayed into simple garments.  AI has now shifted into adding one wardrobe cornerstone at a time – first the bag, then the cotton t-shirt and now the coat – which were made in collaboration with Hapsburg, in a project that explored the shade of loden.  Speckled leathers that look like stingray sparkle their way on to little pouches and wristlet bags and then on to shoes, another new addition. 

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Hexa by Kuho – I've attended a few of Korean-born designer Kuho Jung's shows in New York and S/S 12 was by far my favourite one with his unusual fixation on Russian military badges.  In what was a fairly minimal and precise collection, a splay of badges came bursting forth and was visually appealing in a weirdly literal sort of way.   

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Vernissage – You might be sick of animalia gracing jewellery but Illenia Corti and Matteo Mena don't look at the obvious species of the animal world to focus on.  They sit somewhere between fine and costume jewellery, applying the principles of handcrafted, non-identikit way of working to their pieces.  Everything has a precious antiqued look to it and yet there's a playfulness to pieces like the firefly ring and earrings which actually have movable wings. 

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Benedetta Bruzziches – The one and only pure bag label in the mix was definitely intriguing.  The chesterfield inspired quilted bags looked at first like a witty take on the Chanel 2.55 but then in other parts of the collection, you have a fox head winking back at you as well as a chalk paper shopping bag complete with a to-buy list written on the side.  It's hard to see what exactly is Bruzziches' bag niche but perhaps she's still finding that out herself.     

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Joanne Stoker – This ex-architect turned shoe designer twinkled her way into my life when I saw her beautiful, completely NON-gimmicky shoes that have LED lights in the heels.  This Cordwainers graduate impresses in her other designs that mix up unusual resinned inlays with a plainer upper.  This is clever shoe collaging with stunning effects.  I feel a post coming on titled "Stoked with Stoker" as I'm sure to revisit her work soon enough. 

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Ricostru – Hurrah!  I score my first Guangzhou-based designer by way of Riko Manchit Au, whose label Ricostru (from the Italian word for reconstruction), seeks to readdress refined basics for the women, whilst maintaining a low carbon footprint.  I got to converse in a few words of Cantonese and also find that Ricostru actually already has its own boutique in Shanghai. 

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I also got to see the jewellery by Rosalyn Citta Paramitha, a friend of Au's with whom she studied at the Institute of Marangoni.  These sculpted metal shards go hand in hand with the pure lines of the Ricostru pieces. 

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Pedro Lourenco – This young Brazilian designer needs little introduction as he bravely burst on to the Paris calendar a few seasons ago and is in fact, currently preparing for his proper A/W 12-3 show.  I think his pre fall collection is probably his most mature yet where glacier prints are spliced into knit dresses and wool coats are subtly dyed to look like frost had bit into the shades of blue and peach.  The tricksy pieces from his S/S 12 collection are perhaps not a true reflection of where Lourenco is at now, design-wise but we shall see in about a week's time. 

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Shourouk – Shourouk's jewellery instantly caught the eye of details maven Tommy Ton, who would probably have a ball shooting some of these pieces.  This Parisian-based jeweller honed her skills at Galliano and Chloe before starting out on her own and progressively becoming more daring with the composition of her bling-heavy pieces.  For A/W 12-3, she has ventured into pinked edged handbags which equally get a heavy dose of paste and sparkle that are prompting the magpie in me to hope that TheCorner will continue to support her work.   

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