Get Ready for a Fashion Vibe Shift

There’s a change underway in fashion. The safe, swaddling allure of quiet luxury, the sort of luxury that was as much of a local specialty as risotto alla Milanese, seems less and less consequential — a sort of relaxed, neutral approach to self-expression that no longer jibes with the increasing urgency of the world. That seems less like a panacea than a surrender.

It started in January, back in couture, when John Galliano’s Maison Margiela show with its extreme theatrics and heightened emotions acted like a wake-up call after seasons of being stultified by camel. Continued in New York, at Willy Chavarria, who set a family-size table of sartorial intention. And in Milan, was picked up by Francesco Risso at Marni, who boiled fashion down to its essence so it could begin again.

Papering in white a cavernous warren of rooms under a railway track, so it resembled some sort of petri dish, Mr. Risso birthed a very chic primal scream. The shapes nodded to paper doll versions of couture tropes, so the New Look skirts, cocoon dresses, egg coats all looked as if they had been made of construction paper (or a leather or wool version of it) and a flocked velvet print resembled a scribble. Outerwear had a cave man hairiness and mini dresses were covered in finger paint swirls. These would not be easy garments to wear, but they sure jolt you out of your torpor.

Marni, fall 2024.Credit…Top: Simbarashe Cha/The New York Times, bottom, Giovanni Giannoni/Marni

As a result, they leave a lot of the more — well, normal, for want of a better term — clothes on many runways looking like remnants of a different time, like wardrobes for masters of the universe with bolt-holes in New Zealand where they plan to sit out the apocalypse in solo off-the-grid splendor, and fah! to the rest of the world. That’s no longer such a good look.

The Gucci Gamble

Or so I felt, anyway, watching Sabato De Sarno’s second Gucci show. There’s nothing wrong with what he is doing: It’s crystal clear and succinct. Mr. De Sarno believes, very strongly, in the leg, tailoring and the fragile slip dress (it’s a trend here, along with leopard, thigh-high boots and fluffy shoes). He believes in shorts and the platform loafer. But he’s very up front about the fact his ambitions aren’t much greater than making very nice clothes. It’s one, not bad, thing for a designer to refuse to be a dictator. Another for him to be so reticent that without a logo he might disappear. That approach has taken a brand that used to be one of Milan’s magnetic poles and rendered it minor.

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