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On the Via dei Condotti, the restrained fashions in the windows of luxury stores contrast with the sun tops
and beach shorts of visiting tourists.
Dolce & Gabbana, whose new collection was openly religious, featuring images of southern Italian
churches, had in its window a white lace dress that could have served for a first communion. Valentino,
whose design duo has drawn on religious iconography and has shown covered-up clothes, had a cardinalred dress, plain, ankle length and with long sleeves.
Even Céline, a French brand, had a focus on sobriety, with black shirt, skirt and brogues in its window.
But the new store on Via Borgognona opened by the hot talent Fausto Puglisi showed a more flashy style
with bold punk plaids. His “sober” dresses, presented like religious robes on the runway, yet split down one
side, have been worn on stage by the singer Beyoncé.
Marigay McKee, chief merchandising officer at Harrods in London, was in town to view new collections and
judge the AltaModa’s young designers.
She sees a turnaround in Italian style, with customers moving away from the ritzy Roberta Cavalli and
Versace toward more sporty or “moderate” brands like Brunello Cucinelli, Zegna and Loro Piana, the fabric
company that was just purchased by LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton.
“Some of the overstated bling has become a bit irrelevant, and Italy is beginning to understand how the
world is working,” Ms. McKee said of the progress of a brand like Bottega Veneta, with its more
“intellectual” appeal. She also said that Asian customers at Harrods judge quality by studying the inside, not
just the look, of luxury garments.
The idea of simplicity in materials and an emphasis on craft were the focus of the work of students at the
Accademia di Costume e di Moda here.
Their end-of-term work included kimonos, fashioned not out of sumptuous patterned silks, but out of the
raw cotton fabric known as ghinea, which was then dyed and decorated.
Other student projects that focused on simplicity were re-creations by third-year students of classic
Neapolitan Christmas nativity scenes and by different versions of the classic shirt, which followed the
various inspirations of designers like Martin Margiela and Vivienne Westwood. At another event,
underscoring AltaRoma’s focus on craft, Ms. Fendi invited a new breed of artisan/artists working outside
the fashion system to display various offbeat objects in the historic Biblioteca Angelica.
Against the backdrop of thousands of ancient library books on shelves up to the vaulted ceiling, the work of
18 people was grouped under the heading of “Artisanal Intelligence,” an exploration of ways to develop
craft within the decorative arts. Their work included film, fine art, craft and sartorial inventions such as oneof-a-kind hats.
Two of papal robes, made in the same Neapolitan workshop since 1829, were on display, alongside a video
from Silvia Morini, who wanted to film the beauty of liturgical costume. Another dreamy video called
“Celestial” was produced for Ludovica Amati, who showed clothes among other objects that focused on art
rather than fashion.
If Rome was not built in a day, it is unlikely that any abrupt change in style is going to take effect
immediately. But fashion always holds up a mirror to society and its time.
“Maybe there is a moment when we want to focus on other things in life and give fashion a different
meaning to clothing,” Ms. Venturini Fendi said. “Women are thinking and dressing more ethically. This
pope is what we all needed.”