Milan Superlatives: Jil Sander, Versace, and Pollini Are Spring 2009 Standouts

The rest of the week will be dedicated to Paris, but below we spotlight three especially memorable collections from Spring 2009 Milan Fashion Week. Also feel free to tell us YOUR thoughts on Spring 2009 so far. Intrigued? Disappointed? Indifferent? We want to know!

JIL SANDER: Strongest Collection

Raf Simons delivered a discreetly captivating collection that smartly reinvented Jil Sander’s Teutonic hard/soft dynamic. Finding seasonal boundaries irrelevant, Simons focused on tailored cohesion, while ennobling the conceptual and functional value of that fickle decorative standard, fringe. He proved that it could be dynamic: spectacular, diagonally draped columns of it unexpectedly gave new possibilities to shifts and full-length eveningwear. When worn over pantherine bodysuits, fringe created elegant textural drama; as the sole, swingy “fabric” of cutaway shifts, it served as this season’s Lace, underscoring the limitless possibilities of peek-a-boo textiles in clever hands. Even when Simons delegated fringe as a standard trimming, its result was an exciting experiment in color contrast, length, and illusion.

While Simons’ compelling take on “fringe fashion” stole the show, Jil Sander’s Spring 2009 collection also offered reinvigorated classics. Unified by beautifully cut, timeless closet staples like neutral drop-lapelled blazers, tunics, and slit dresses, these were clothes built for investment dressing. On the accessories front, we saw exceptional, comically oversized handbags as well as petite, slim clutches; oddly enough, both worked equally well. What got people talking, though – aside from the coolly cubist aseasonal open-toed, zipped stilettos – were the exquisite earrings, which were simplistic silver and Swarovski fangs. Worn as a pair or even solo, they astutely complimented another sophisticated, logical, and uncommonly sexy Jil Sander collection — the greatest artistic success of Milan.

VERSACE: Most Pleasant Surprise
Several seasons into an era of revitalized, refined Versace, Donatella kept it classy and sweet for Spring 2009. The best looks came first and last: Natasha Poly’s “heart zipper” bell-shaped black mini dress was a knockout and the quintessence of the demurely flirty collection. A cunning white, croc-faceted dress with petaled alto-reliefs worked a similar stark magic, while the scaly, metallic armor-like dresses were positively reptilian. Elsewhere, Versace showed swanky day options for the jet-setting sensualists — the demographic who loyally anchor the luxury house theoretically have jobs, after all.Still Donatella knows Versace girls just want to have fun, so gracefully sculptural party dresses dictated the majority of the best looks. The novelty of the cordiform zippers will wear off, but the minimalist origami armature of the Francisco Costa and Balenciaga inspired numbers will endure well beyond next Spring. A few poorly chosen Mattel prints briefly killed the momentum, but the show ended on a high-note with ambitious variations on the pointed minidress theme.

POLLINI: Most Promising Comeback
Pollini has suffered a low profile in recent years, a misfortune that culminated in Turkish designer Rifat Ozbek’s departure earlier in 2008. However, with spirited Scottish designer Jonathan Saunders and high-end shoe provocateur Nicholas Kirkwood now helming it, the underdog luxury house experienced something of a minor rebirth last week.

Calling it “light and feminine, with a positivity about it” Saunders aptly summarized what the best Milan show you overlooked accomplished. In some ways, the new Pollini is an extension of his own line, heavy on graphical, optical candy and saturated color. That worked fine as Pollini has no signature visual ideal to upload, and Saunders will likely develop the brand’s reinvention in the coming seasons. Kirkwood’s shoes, too, bore the instantly identifiable trademark of his highly dramatic footwear, but fit well into the Pollini legacy. While the brand flies under the radar, one hopes that Saunders and Kirkwood will intensify their game to ensure that Pollini Fall 2009 commands increased interest and vitality. All in all, however, they debuted a very promising comeback collection to the Milanese runways.