Barbie's Italian Holiday

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

c.2014 New York Times News Service

MILAN — Flattened like a panino by the crowd waiting to get into the Moschino show at the Palazzo Serbelloni last Thursday evening, I was reminded of the notorious Black Friday stampedes at Wal-Mart.

“Can this possibly be worth it?” I thought. As the model Coco Rocha came through, fans screamed and advanced for a closer look, compressing strangers into positions more intimate than those shared by some spouses. I have no doubt that if a truly famous person had arrived, as pop star Katy Perry did almost an hour late last season, there would have been a fatality or two.

When we finally broke through and took our seats, the big-box store analogy made more sense: There were Moschino-branded Barbie dolls on the front-row seats, and hot-pink hand mirrors for hoi polloi.

My hopes weren’t high. But when the lights went on and the music amped up (including “Two of Hearts” by Stacey Q, 1986), my spirits couldn’t help soaring.

Jeremy Scott’s first full collection for the company had likewise drawn on U.S. symbols of instant gratification — McDonald’s, SpongeBob SquarePants — but the one he chose this time had the advantage of being unequivocally, if not uncontroversially, sexy. You might not want your daughter playing with Barbie and feeling woebegone about unrealistic body proportions but why can’t Mommy, who has worked through all that, have a go?

Certainly a pussycat-bow blouse covered with hearts, a toweling turban or a black-bordered tan miniature trench could all be wardrobe picker-uppers. Even if we’re not quite ready for the return of the pouf skirt (really more like a pincushion here) or a Juicy Couture-style pink sweatsuit recalling the Hilton sisters circa the turn of the millennium, or to roller-skate down the runway of life like one model, Charlotte Free.

As they say in comedy, Scott committed, and his production, if not flawless, was certainly poreless.

The behind-wiggling designers of DSquared2 also know how to put on a show, and the theatrics of their presentation, held Thursday afternoon at the Alcatraz discothèque with boogying models and a short film beforehand, were hotly anticipated during this long, glossy slog called fashion month.

Seeing the catwalk sylphs wearing primary-school patterned or fluttery black-and-white ball skirts with white tops and in one case a denim jacket, their hair slicked into ponytails and with studious glasses, I couldn’t help wondering if the influence of Jenna Lyons, the president of J. Crew, had reached as far as Milan: Boyfriend jeans. Color blocks. Simple pantsuits.

Lyons, though, never would have signed off on the spare tire of pink feathers adding to the negligible circumference of one unfortunate midsection.

“The roof! The roof! The roof is on fiy-ah!” Grandmaster Flash warned over the sound system.

It was rainy the next day as I picked my way through a park to the introduction of Giambattista Valli’s ready-to-wear line, Giamba, at the Palazzina Liberty.

This was an old-fashioned show, as civilized as Moschino had been rowdy, with a pride of well-groomed Italian elites in the front row. I would not have been surprised, raising the old iPhone that has become a limb extension, to get my wrist slapped by one of them, and quite rightly, too. For Valli showed clothes worthy of respect, and occasionally awe: baby doll dresses that despite their extreme headlines avoided, with artful A-lines, being lewd or cloying. White eyelet whispered above a black ground. Pink metallic flowers suggested childhood enchantments.

Down a soft, white shag carpet padded icy blue platform heels, the legs above encased in polka-dotted white stockings, the golden hair above that floating over the shoulders.

Here, it seemed, was Barbie’s dream house after an expensive renovation.

The fellows at Fay, Tommaso Aquilano and Roberto Rimondi, continue to be fascinated with the unlikely muse of Charles M. Schulz. His character Woodstock was emblazoned on their clothes for this fall; and for spring, there is Lucy Van Pelt, looming around the side of a sweatshirt and patterned over a jacket — adorably, for a 6-year-old.

Windbreakers and shorts declaring “Fay Time” and pullovers with zippered packs appended at odd angles were some of the other outfits appearing incongruously under the grand chandeliers of La Società del Giardino, an infelicitous contrast of centuries-old grandeur and craftsmanship with immediate cheap fashion fixes.

“How I love the sound of clinking money!” Van Pelt sighed aptly in her psychiatric booth. “That beautiful sound of cold, hard cash! Nickels, nickels, nickels.”