Milan Fashion returns to elegance with Arbesser, N.21September 19, 2018 10:11pm

MILAN (AP) — Milan Fashion Week launched Wednesday on a note of optimism with news that sales have reached pre-crisis levels.

The Italian Fashion Chamber says sales are expected to reach 90 billion euros ($105 billion) this year, matching levels of a decade ago, with exports driving growth of 3 percent.

More numbers: The September spring-summer womenswear previews are the highlight of the Milan fashion calendar, and the fashion chamber boasts that the 60 runway shows, 80 presentations and 44 collateral events this time around make it the biggest in the world.

Highlights from Wednesday's shows, including Jil Sander, Arthur Arbesser, Moncler and Annakiki.

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SEEKING SUSTAINABILITY AT ARTHUR ARBESSER

Milan-based Austrian designer Arthur Arbesser takes eco-sustainability seriously in fashion and life.

Italian ceramics inspire the swirling patterns and textures on garments, like a pleated skirt with a swirling pattern worn beneath a masculine check jacket belted at the side.

For Arbesser, the world of ceramics represents "rawness and a certain glamour. It is also the process of ceramic, to go from something basic like clay and turn it into something beautiful, like a shiny sculpture."

So he combined basic, raw textiles, like an unfinished linen, with more showy sequins arranged in a print. He said he wanted to give a signal about the importance of sustainability in fashion by incorporating organic textiles — while also conceding how difficult it is in this era to remain sustainable.

"I tried this summer to live without plastic," Arbesser said. But he had to give in to plastic water bottles while traveling for work with collaborators in Tuscany in the 40 degree Celsius (104F) heat. "It is not easy."

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JIL SANDER'S MANTLE

Lucie and Luke Meier have taken up the Jil Sander mantle, literally and figuratively.

The designers presenting their third womenswear collection for the fashion house have shown their mastery of the Sander minimalist aesthetic but have developed the confidence to imbue it with some nostalgia. Hitting the target: A long crocheted white dress with slits for arms like a yesteryear mantle, over a sheer white skirt.

There was no inspiration beyond the simple line.

The looks were clean, bearing the codes of uniforms with tunics, trousers and big shirts, but with feminine touches, like pleats, layered body-hugging knitwear and crocheted pieces that portrayed both power and delicacy.

On shirts and dresses, the designers created oversized, arched cuffs that gave an architectural whimsy to the looks. Denim was set off by trailing sheers. Fringe gave weight and movement to a light skirt. The colors were basic, whites, gray, blue, browns and sage.

Extreme platforms finished the looks, or flat booties with slightly gathered toes. Handbags were practical square purses or oversized shoppers, held impractically sideways.

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ANNAKIKI'S FASHION GLITCH

Chinese designer Anna Yang's Annakiki's collection popped with youthful energy.

The young designer founded her brand in 2012 and was showing in Milan for the fourth time, drawing a dedicated crowd to the temporary exhibition space La Permanente.

Yang has her finger on the youth pulse. Her looks were fun with a hint of rebellion. In her notes, she said her style was the result of a "fashion glitch" giving way to innovation.

An off-shoulder pink dress with a shiny finish suggests party. She employed blurred prints with her name to great effect, including a shirt-brief combo in black and white enhanced by a big green ruffle, which could have been a skirt but instead was worn across the shoulders. A pink anorak appeared to be covered with candy dots.

Yang plays with luxury, employing PVC as a liquidy textile on puffy-sleeved blousons worn with pleated skirts. And she has tapped into the younger generation's love of streetwear, with athletic trousers worn with a cropped jacket, or knit briefs and bra top under a silvery overcoat.

The color palette of bright pinks and greens, contrasting with black and neutrals, including denim, but never plain, decorated with beads.

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N.21 PARTY GIRL

Alessandro Dell'Acqua's party girl looks for N.21 are black, essential and elegant. And then the palette changes to camel, coral, pink and greens — emerald and lime. But the constant throughout the collection: dresses.

She may start off with a straight dress. But then she dresses it up with a beaded dress of repeating triangles. Or a feathery overlay that give the looks movement. Or a glimmering rhinestone accent piece.

Silhouettes were disciplined and tailored, from pencil skirts, to pretty cocktail dresses with long ribbons flowing like streamers from the back, to fuller dresses with big ruffle hems and modern racing backs.

Dell'Acqua said this season marked a purposeful turn away from streetwear that has dominated runways in recent seasons. "I wanted to return to real dresses, because it is also our duty to provide an education in creativity," he said.

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