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The Milan collections emphasized personal style

“Reality-based” and “wearability” can be dirty words in the fashion industry. They’re often used to describe collections that editors and critics deem too commercial or without substance. Fashion is an art form, after all. And, thus, designers craft stories of inspiration season after season, connecting their work to a film, painting, novel, or historical period. But the reflex to judge those without may overlook the real power of clothing. These are pieces to be worn every day, that foster our creative instincts in the real world. They are the foundation for personal style to blossom.

During the final days of Milan Fashion Week this season, 28-year-old Maximilian Davis was among several designers whose vision for autumn was cemented in reality and in the act of getting dressed. His offering, the fourth in his tenure as creative director at the Italian fashion house, showcased his immense skills as a designer with brilliant architectural cuts and sensual, body-positive silhouettes. Though he referenced the 1920s-era Ferragamo archives, Davis’ designs were rooted in something much more modern and refreshingly straightforward: a captivating wardrobe for intelligent, influential women whose worlds move fast. The angular cut of a knit skirt styled with an oversized v-neck jumper and cardigan gave movement to what could’ve been another stiff, ladylike ensemble this season. Outerwear was boxy, with some shorter jackets rendered with drop-waist belts that could elevate day-to-day looks in any woman’s wardrobe, whether anchored in casual jeans or feminine dresses akin to those Davis showed that glided through space like jet streams.

Bally’s Simone Bellotti, too, understands how to navigate the delicate balance between function and fantasy. This season was his second as creative director of the Swiss luxury label, and it’s become evident that his takeover of the brand is one to keep watching. Bellotti has range, which he explored further this season through sophisticated tailoring married with touches of quirkiness. In this collection, there were pieces for executives and debutantes, intelligentsias and rebel punks. The new Bally wearer, if not yourself, personally, is someone you want to be and be with. She’s not afraid to show off the fur lining of her structured dress by pulling up the hem with safety pins at the waist. She may be wearing a delightfully strict, professor-ly tuxedo dress, but she does not care about your opinion. With these daring, personality-driven garments, Bellotti is giving women a whole palette of styles to play around with. And that includes some major accessories, too: his pointed ballet flats will no doubt be a must-have shoe next season, and the bag jangling with bell charms is catnip for all the newsletter girls whose shopping lists are bible to a particular swath of new-gen clotheshorses. This collection was full of personality, but also possibilities. Any wearer can make it their own.

Finding confidence and beauty in the act of getting dressed each day was the core message of Matthieu Blazy’s moving fall collection for Bottega Veneta. The catwalk featured natural woods and warm lighting, dotted with giant Murano glass sculptures of cacti meant to evoke a desert landscape. Blazy noted backstage that he and his team intended to handcraft an entire collection around “the idea of making something beautiful out of the everyday.” He wanted to celebrate both maximalism and the quotidian, as well as “the transformative power of flowers growing in the desert and what can be written after a fire. It’s the idea of hope.”

The cocooning outerwear and layered separates spoke to someone, anyone, who commutes to and from the office, a person who prides themselves in keeping their sartorial self intact no matter the 9 to 5. Blazy’s sublime quotidian comes through in the swing of a dress hem, with a dropped tube of fringe around the knee, or of the sway of a pant leg, with a front pleat and a baggy cut. It’s in the weird folds of a too-big turtleneck sweater and the asymmetrical pleating on a knit top and matching skirt.

These designs are wearable and grounded in reality, but what they’re not is boring. With his balance of simplicity and speciality, Blazy hit the reality-meets-fantasy note of the season hardest thus far and did so with unbridled emotion. He gave us space to choose our own adventure when we get dressed, to think about our closets as a safe space and a place where transformation can happen, even with a T-shirt. As he said post-show, “Dressing is what makes us human. When you know nothing, you try and make something out of yourself.”

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