Armani explores connection with nature in ethereal looks

A model wears a creation as part of the Salvatore Ferragamo Spring-Summer 2020 collection, unveiled during the fashion week, in Milan, Italy, Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)

Giorgio Armani makes an environmental statement with a collection titled "Earth," exploring connections with nature.

MILAN — Milan designers are presenting fashion as essential. That no longer refers to must-haves, but to a distillation of ideas, discarding excess in collections and by example in wardrobes, to discourage waste.

Giorgio Armani's collection presented on Saturday, the fourth day of Milan Fashion Week, was both earthy and ethereal, with myriad natural references the designer said were meant to create closeness with Mother Earth. Angela Missoni left each guest a solar lamp with a note, "Join us in holding hands with the sun, we are at a crucial point for our planet and we need to take action."

The Italian brand Twinset put a sign in its window during fashion week: "Don't Buy. Please Don't Buy." The message reflects the fashion world's recognition that rampant consumerism is bad for the planet, a reality that fashion houses still must balance with economic realities.

To drive home that message, Livia Firth's Eco-Age consultancy has launched the #30Wears campaign to help focus sustainability-minded consumers on buying only apparel that gets repeated use — 30 wears as a minimum.

Highlights from womenswear previews for Spring/Summer 2020:

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GIORGIO ARMANI'S TRIBUTE TO MOTHER EARTH

Giorgio Armani said he wanted to make an environmental statement with a collection titled "Earth," exploring connections with nature.

The 85-year-old designer did so through color, mixing earthy coffee brown with royal blue, black with shell pink and ice green. Sheer floating volumes and intricate artisanal hand-beading emphasized the connection with humanity.

The collection expresses "a desire for nature" and the need to safeguard the planet, Armani said before the show.

The looks incorporated natural references like banana leaf and orchid prints, dragonfly jewelry and butterfly beading on evening wear.

The collection had more of a couture feeling than ready-to-wear -- something that perhaps Armani was signaling when he took his bow wearing a suit rather than his standard Milan runway sweater or T-shirt.

"Our job is to propose solutions, look at the past to review it, correct it if necessary, and emphasize it, as I have done," he said.

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FERRAGAMO'S ELEVATED CLASSICS

Salvatore Ferragamo's looks for next spring and summer have an essential, even monastic, quality, with soothing colors and clean silhouettes. Designer Paul Andrew might even call it an antidote to sports and streetwear that has swarmed runways in recent seasons.

The Ferragamo 2020 co-ed collection "is more about elevated workwear," Andrew said backstage. "There is clearly a demand, a feeling, that people want to be comfortable and at ease, but I never want to engage with, like, hoodies with Ferragamo written on it."

The looks had a casual feel, including knitwear tucked into short tennis skirts with a concealed athletic pocket, hooded anoraks reinterpreted as flowing dresses, high-waisted trousers cinched with a belt, knit and crocheted dresses that revealed just a little skin. Andrew said he was trying to recreate the memory of a 1980s southern Italy holiday, captured in a family photo of him and his brother wearing floral Bermuda shorts.

Andrew also revamped the 40-year-old Ferragamo Vara heel, renaming it Viva and giving it a slightly bigger bow in matching material and a sculpted heel in a tear-drop shape inspired by architect Richard Serra. The new shoe was worn at times with leather socks.

"After three years working with Ferragamo, this is the first time I need to engage and embrace this house icon and make it feel modern and relevant for a new generation of consumers," he said.

The collection won kudos from front-row guests, including actors Tommy Dorfman, Camila Mendes, Hari Nef and Dylan Sprouse.

"You do luxury. Not everyone can say that," Nef, a former model, told Andrew backstage.

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MSGM CELEBRATES 10 YEARS

To mark the 10th anniversary of his MSGM fashion brand, Massimo Giorgetti is putting aside his streetwear roots and focusing more on the free-spirited Italian tailoring side of the brand.

"I am moving a bit away from streetwear without negating it," Giorgetti said backstage. "Without streetwear, I wouldn't have arrived here."

The collection, a sort of retrospective, took ideas from previous collections and gave them a new twist "without nostalgia or a sense of déjà vu," he said. That meant a focus on color, blurry prints, volumes with big bows and peasant ruffles and rattan slip-ons. But no branded sweatshirts, ironic T-shirts or sporty attire.

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MISSONI'S SUMMER ROMANCE

Angela Missoni showed her new menswear and womenswear collection poolside, at the outdoor swimming pool called "Bagni Mysteriosi," or "Mysterious Baths."

The companion his and her looks pegged him as a dandy in a neat knit suit or plaid 1940s trouser matched with a striped bowling shirt and hip Dad sweater, and her as a free-spirited hippy, with long flowing sweaters, sheer beach cover-ups and floral suits with a scarf knotted loosely on the neck.

Models carried baskets covered with Missoni knitting and filled with plants, as if coming from a farmer's market. And during the finale, the each carried their own solar lamp to light up the runway.

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GCDC GOES KAWAII CUTE

The new collection by GCDS exudes kawaii -- Japanese for cute or loveable -- at a Harajuki level.

Neapolitan designer Giuliano Calza continues to impress the fashion crowd with his tongue-in-cheek collections for his four-year-old youth-oriented brand, which retails in over 300 stores globally including a Milan flagship store. GCDS stands alternative for God Can't Save Streetwear or Giuro Che Domani Smetto, Italian for "I swear I'll quit tomorrow."

The collection was titled Khawaii -- combing cute with the Pacific island. That left open ample room for interpretation, from ironic swimsuits fashioned from crocheted bear faces worn with knee-high pink boots trimmed with ruffle to 1980s workout outfits, a series of Jurassic Park emblazoned looks, anime prints and Hello Kitty tribute boots and mini-skirt.

For Calza, the description "cheeky" is quite literal -- as a few models had to tug on their mini-minis to keep them from exposing too much on their runway walks.

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