MILAN - More and more high fashion resembles an extreme sport, the X Games of glamour. Everything is amped-up: furs, glitter, nice Italian tailoring

New York Times News Service (c.2013)

MILAN - More and more high fashion resembles an extreme sport, the X Games of glamour. Everything is amped-up: furs, glitter, nice Italian tailoring. Even the language wears extra padding.

This was especially true at the Oscar ceremony, where the red carpet is, after all, a marketing arm of the fashion industry. Dior, Prada and Giorgio Armani were the night's big winners ("We did well," an Armani executive said before the designer's show here), but between the frantic commentary of cheerleading pundits and the mad race to wear spectacular fashion, you are less aware of a star's charm or personality than an empty space on the carpet.

In Milan, because of the sheer number of outfits on a runway and the blinding amount of redundancy, you can see and not see. Dolce & Gabbana showed 75 looks, nearly twice as many as other designers. Half the collection was in the rich red and gold patterns of Catholic icons. The other chunk was in bourgeois-looking tweeds.

But the problem was not that the opposing selves refused to meet, or that the church pieces looked like costumes - some were dazzling. Rather, it was the sense of waste. How many of these garments will be produced? And if only a selection of the runway pieces winds up in stores, what are the many reviewers at the show or online really reviewing?

The public knows that much of fashion is smoke and mirrors. It's also entertainment and part of the social-media contract, with Twitter feedback increasingly used by companies to decide which styles to push. At Ferragamo, the designs of Massimiliano Giornetti can be generically sophisticated, but you have to give him credit this season for emphasizing sleek coats and a sexy pair of lace-up boots with a semi-detached pump. They're visually grabbing, ideal for digital imagery.

Still, the most arresting fashion has a strong human element. It's not shamelessly touting brand power. Nor is it all brain, which was the problem with the Jil Sander show and, to a lesser extent, Tomas Maier's collection for Bottega Veneta. Peter Dundas is a somewhat underrated designer, but his Pucci show was full of unfettered charm. He nicely reprised the house's 1960s Otto print for silk tunics and blouses, and kept the silhouette short and breezy, using wool shorts and stick-thin suede boots. So far, he's one of the few fur-friendly designers to think playfully, turning shaved marabou or curly sheepskin into chic fuzz balls.

''Languid is the word," said Angela Missoni of her deceptively simple collection based around pajama dressing. Well, PJs are in the air. They also suggest a longing for a more realistically intimate connection with fashion, and that's what Missoni offered with gorgeously soupy coats in cashmere and alpaca knit, silky pants and jackets that appeared to be printed but were in fact knitting bonded with chiffon.

Marni looked as if it had been abducted by Prada mavens. Except for a lighthearted shag coat in autumn-lead shades, the collection was as dark as it was drenched in fur. Maybe the company's new partner, Renzo Rosso, who was in the front row, will help restore some of the Marni funk.

Though black with silvery white was the dominant tone at Armani, and the collection retold the boy-girl theme, there were some good switch-ups. One was the low-slung cut of trousers, mixed in with the more classically elegant Armani tailoring, and another was the everyday use of black velvet. Rather shrewdly, Armani also stuck to lightweight fabrics, and throughout the collection used a man's vest in clever ways, glazing it with smoky sequins or violet petals for evening.

Despite misgivings among women about wearing wool (it's too hot), Maier made a statement with it at Bottega Veneta. Boiled, bonded or washed, the wool left a dry impression, though it gave him the precise shapes he wanted, especially for belted coats with a '40s flair and skirts with raised, fluttery pleats.

There were also a few slim black dresses lightly mixed with black duchess satin, and one in black wool twill with a flat knitted bodice set at a slight diagonal. These were more successful, to my eye, than the collaged or pleated numbers.

Sander's collection was all about control, and, as her press notes stated, the shapes indeed cut "a regal figure." She also used the word "incorruptible." I knew what she meant, from the serene lines of the clothes, but I thought: impenetrable.

Why does control obsess designers? Again, the effort to create rigor seemed another case of extreme thinking, without a drop of emotion. Strangely, she had a gem of that buried in all that minimalist wool - a silky brown coat in beaver that was rough on top and smooth on the bottom. That bewitching piece could have been the starting point for an entire collection.