MILAN, FEBRUARY 25, 2017
by SARAH MOWER
It looked like the 1940s, it walked like the 1940s, but Tomas Maier wasn’t admitting to it. Rather, backstage he was talking about starting his women’s collection with “a silhouette—like an illustration—with a strong shoulder.” Never mind, Maier should just relax and bask in the ’40s feedback. Any offering of a glamorous feminine look with structured polish about it is a surprising rarity on today’s runways, and the dresses that appeared towards the end of his show were shining examples of it. The puff-sleeved, high-waisted midi dresses in dusty blue, yellow, and pink (looks 50–54), worn with sheer black stockings and hairdos set in a wave, sent women whispering and pointing as they passed. Dresses like that are flattering, instantly framing the wearer as a vintage movie heroine in her own mind.
The finale that followed included some of the most spectacular evening gowns of the season—a floor-length gunmetal column under a magnificent black cape (worn by Joan Smalls), and a tissue-fine bronze pleated dress with smocking at the waist and an antique gold corseted fishtail. All of them were the kind of high-status Academy Award–worthy looks that set minds speculating on whether there was time for them to be airlifted from Milan to Hollywood for tomorrow night’s Oscars.
Granted, Maier is usually categorized as a modern-minded tailor. Most of the collection focused on just that: a sequence of double-faced cashmere blanket capes and double-breasted coats in spice color (one of the latter in a curly textured fabric like a Steiff fur). Amongst them were an outstanding clean-cut black jumpsuit and a slick black dominatrix leather tailored skirt suit, which—with only a tiny leap of imagination—could have almost stepped out of Ridley Scott’s original Blade Runner. All in all, it was the kind of collection that would have kept Helmut Newton very happy in his heyday of shooting Yves Saint Laurent in Paris Vogue.
Yet that was only the half of it, because the rest was the Bottega Veneta menswear collection for Fall. How to describe it? Sober and sparse, yet occasionally dandified with bow ties. The male and female models seemed to belong to parallel worlds. Here we can agree with Maier; they didn’t have a ’40s look at all. That, though, posed a question for Maier to resolve in coming seasons. Showing womenswear and menswear together (which is increasingly happening in these cost-conscious times) in one long catwalk show can swiftly lead to audience fatigue. The age-old convention of the single-file runway show is being broken down all over the place, and that’s another story of the season. Tomas Maier, as creatively accomplished as he is, could give thought to rethinking the format so there’s more of a relationship between the sexes next time.