Friday, February 27, 2009

Missoni & Ballantyne

Missoni Fall 2009, Photo by Giovanni Giannoni
By Suzy Menkes

MILAN: With soft shades of peach, apricot or powder pink, touched with blue, there was something sweetly appealing about Angela Missoni's exploration of the family heritage: knitting.

The snoods that draped like a nun's wimple around the face, the layer-on-layer of comfort clothing and the ultra-long scarves, their fringed ends sweeping the floor, made perfect outfits for global freezing.

There even seemed something Antarctic in those colors, suggesting streaks of sunset over the glacial ice. But Missoni's warm-up of fashionable knits was unmistakable. The point of the show was the weaving techniques that were projected on the backdrop. Geometric patterns on the woolly leg warmers, less abstract florals on dresses and tweedy mini-coats were faced off with plain surfaces, where texture was the message. Even the mule shoes had a nubby brocade finish.

Being a family company, there is yet another generation of Missonis to inspire and to make sure that a glitter of Lurex worked into mini dresses could take the clothes from an adult comfort zone to the party scene. Angela Missoni said backstage that her daughter Teresa had been the source of the draped headwear while Teresa's sister Margherita sat front row in a sophisticated version of the pink-tinged layers.

Ballantyne Fall 2009, Photo by Giovanni Giannoni

Ballantyne also went back to its roots, focusing on knitting rather than developing an all-embracing clothing line. But in an unexpected marriage of two cultures, the company's Scottish heritage and its distinctive diamond pattern was linked to 1920s artistic streamlining.

"Working with shapes and colors like a futurist artist," said the designer Dawidh di Firmo to explain the way that graphics lines were woven into geometric shapes.

Nature was the counterpoint to geometry, with butterflies and water lily petals worked in Ballantyne's exceptional intarsia techniques. But colors throughout were strong: purples brighter than in any Scottish hillside heather and dashes of orange and blue for a more urban take on the collection.

Suzy Menkes is fashion editor at the International Herald Tribune.

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