Timeless elegance back in style as Fendi launches Milan fashion week

<span>Photograph: Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty</span>
Photograph: Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty

Some of the most stylish women the British fashion designer Kim Jones sees on the streets of Rome as he walks to the Fendi design studio are over 2,000 years old.

The classical statues of Rome were Jones’s muses for the Fendi show which launched Milan fashion week – along with 62-year-old Silvia and 36-year-old Delfina Fendi, the third- and fourth-generation women of the family whom he works with, as well as “women I know and women I see in the street”.

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Timeless elegance is in fashion again as an era of 90s nostalgia runs its course. Jones parlayed the languid grace of Rome’s statuary, with its elegant long robes and bare marble shoulders, into simple full-length sleeveless dresses. No draping, just a long fluid line in a fine knit fabric that rippled over the body.

“I wanted that very noble, Roman silhouette, but to clean it up,” Jones said. These feminine shapes came interspersed with tailored pieces, “because almost all the women I know wear pieces that come from menswear, since it’s an easy way to dress”. White shirts with crisp collars and a double row of buttons – one down the front, one tracing the spine – paid homage to Karl Lagerfeld, one of Jones’s predecessors in the Fendi design role, he said.

The catwalk looks had a covetable air of easy confidence: just a beautiful dress, an easy coat and a classic mid-heeled shoe. Some of the models wore gloves for a ladylike touch. Jones had the women take the catwalk at a leisurely pace, rather than the frenetic stomp that has become the fashion week norm.

“I wanted a pace that would look like they were just walking down the street,” he said backstage on Wednesday. Personality was injected via unusual colour combinations: duck egg blue, coffee brown, a sunny yolk yellow. “My thing is making women feel good about themselves. There is a confidence and a chicness around me in Rome. I look at what people wear in real life and think about how to make it a little bit more luxurious.”

Fendi is one of the few big luxury brands yet to ban fur, but with demand fading among consumers this catwalk was notably fur-free. The fur atelier worked instead with leather this season, crafting separates in colourful intarsia. Shearling was close-shorn, so that it looked like ribbed towelling.

Fendi was the first big catwalk show in a bumper Milan fashion week, in which a roster of 59 labels shows an uptick from 54 last season. The most hotly anticipated show of the week is Gucci, where new designer Sabato de Sarno makes his debut on Friday. A radical change of aesthetic is expected, as the brand attempts to win back affluent customers who had grown tired of the previous designer Alessandro Michele’s kitsch maximalism with higher priced, more classic designs.

Other key shows include the relaunched Fiorucci and Tom Ford, where a first outing for the new designer Peter Hawkings will be seen as a test of whether the Tom Ford look has legs now that Ford himself has exited fashion in favour of film-making.