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Something Bold

The fall collection Christopher Bailey showed for Burberry Prorsum on Sunday was pretty and poetic, featuring the striking coats the house is known for and some distinctive accessories. Here, one of the former, worn with a giant bejeweled necklace and...

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One of Burberry Prorsum by Christopher Baileys striking coats worn with a giant bejeweled necklace and a knit cap
The fall collection Christopher Bailey showed for Burberry Prorsum on Sunday was pretty and poetic, featuring the striking coats the house is known for and some distinctive accessories. Here, one of the former, worn with a giant bejeweled necklace and a knit cap.

From an English designer's poetic take on British style to an Italian duo's riff on Queen Elizabeth and their countrywoman's Asian touches, the Milan collections were a truly international affair.

Burberry Prorsum: Now that's more like it. After a couple of seasons fumbling for direction in tough-chic/hard-glam territory, Christopher Bailey sent out a Burberry Prorsum collection that was fresh, cohesive and lovely, not to mention a major reminder of what put him on the map in the first place.

Backstage postshow, Bailey said the paintings of L.S. Lowry and "poetic romance" were his guiding factors. Maybe so, but another was quite obviously Burberry's rock-solid signature outerwear. Bailey wisely homed in on the house trenches, cocoons and military coats that at once anchored the collection in Burberry traditions and gave him a controlled outlet for his intended motif: pretty, poetic sobriety, perhaps with a dose of cleaned-up grunge thanks to some knit caps. He gave classic jackets a gently beautiful twist in coppery tweeds, feathery chenilles and silk wool dégrades, all of them done in a gorgeous palette of muted earth and jewel tones referred to backstage as "drab fab." Underneath the topcoats were more updates of the house's roots via tiered shift dresses and baby-doll tunics worn over ultralong silk bellbottoms. The latter made for a striking long silhouette and nodded at Bailey's beloved Brit "It" girl look but moved her into a more modern, subdued moment — one in which the clothes play quietly and accessories, like Bailey's giant bejeweled necklaces, can steal the scene.

D&G: Considering Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana's flashy, frisky oeuvre, "The Queen" — Stephen Frears' 2006 cinematic depiction of England's Queen Elizabeth II — made an unlikely inspiration for their fall D&G lineup. And what an unlikely collection it was. The boys didn't just wink at Her Majesty in all her dowdy countryside glory; they looked at her with full-on Cheshire-cat grins, transforming their girl in a most unexpected way: modestly. Still, that's not to say it was stuffy — anything but, in fact. The good-humored ode began with plaid and lots of it. Celtic fare such as blouses and kilts, seen through a Seventies lens, was made even more discreet by lowering the hemlines to midcalf, keeping everything above the waist covered up and topping the look off with a kerchief fit for a blue-blooded granny — plenty amusing, if the least realistic of the terrific accessories on offer. From there, the plaid-on-plaid action continued with blazers, tunics, bell-bottoms and delightful ruffled dresses that morphed into billowing, floor-length chiffon versions, paired with velvet bedroom slippers, to close the show. So, while the inspiration might have been mature, Dolce and Gabbana's interpretation was like a sweet bird of youth.
Alberta Ferretti: The runway backdrop at Alberta Ferretti — an oversize Taotie mask motif taken from ancient Chinese bronzes — indicated that the designer would be taking her audience on an Asian jaunt. The first look out, however, a simple blue shift with a slight pouf at the back, sent the message that any glance eastward would be understated at most. The influence did pop up ever so slightly in her jade velvet frocks, alluringly accented with copper highlights in the drapes and folds. But the more obvious tale spun here was Ferretti's typical romantic one in which she shows her prowess with softly ruched and gathered gowns. This season, she offset them with structured coats, which hit the mark, and tent-shaped accordion-pleated dresses, which didn't. Her palette consisted of rich peacock-feather purples, magenta and greens, and her motifs included evocative swirling prints, the latter looking unmistakably westward in the direction of Edvard Munch and Gustav Klimt.

Gianfranco Ferré: "The aesthetic lexicon is a sort of alphabet that evolves over time," began the show notes at Gianfranco Ferré, "assimilating new concepts, yet never wavering from its essence." What a loaded opening considering that creative director Lars Nilsson was dropped just a week ago for attempting to make a clean break, aesthetically speaking, from the house's heritage. According to Michela Piva, ceo of Ferré, the company relied on the opinions of key journalists and retailers to judge Nilsson's work, and she claimed their verdict was his efforts "didn't reflect Ferré's design codes." Riva also added that, "after five difficult months," the company settled on a design team to do the job.

And indeed, this fall outing captured the Ferré philosophy. There were his requisite architectural shapes — sweeping collars, sculpted sleeves; those billowy, white blouses, broad cozy knits, and nods to men's wear. The problem, however, was that, in the team's hands, the Ferré signatures became anemic, watered-down versions and most of the collection ended up feeling like Ferré Lite. Take, for instance, the excessive folds, flaps and straps sprouting from the shoulders of tops and frocks. And what exactly was one to make of the brass-knuckle jewelry? Of course, the collection was presumably scraped together in about 10 days, after Nilsson's abrupt departure. But in the end, a genuine Ferré closed the show as Mariacarla exited in a pair of pants topped with an organza blouse from the late designer's fall 1990 collection.
Pringle of Scotland: In her two-year tenure at Pringle, Clare Waight Keller has successfully put the company on the fashion map by taking the brand's knitwear heritage to new heights and rounding it out with easy and refined ready-to-wear basics. Fall was no exception as she worked dapper outerwear into egg-shaped coats, hooded tent styles and billowing trench coats over slim pants or short skirts. Her knits focused on shapes and textures of the easy, cuddly variety, such as a loose poncho sweater with satin insets, cable-knit jackets in a chic black-and-navy combo or open-weave dresses with little ruffled sleeves. Both fashionistas and Ladies Who Lunch can get their fashion fix here.