Fall 2011 Milan and Paris Fashion Recap

europe Fall 2011 runway

Photos: Imaxtree

Looks from the Alexander McQueen, Versace, and Prada Fall 2011 collections

Ask a fashion editor what they think about a season, and they'll always tell you to watch Europe. It's not that New York's shows aren't important; if anything, the city is a breeding ground for hot new talent and trends. But Milan and Paris are home to the grand ole labels, the brands that started it all. So to them we look in order to get a more rounded view of Fall.

If New York was all about color, '70s and '90s, romanticism (with a Dickensian twist), and, yes, baroque inspirations, Milan and Paris reached back to the '40s, the mod '60s, the disco '70s, and was filled with tough mistresses (the leather-clad variety) and war-brides. Color played a major role in Europe, but black was still prevalent. (It is Fall after all.) Emanuel Ungaro was dark and sexy, while Peter Dundas at Pucci sent out a slew of dark dresses (with heaving bosoms).

Louis Vuitton offered up one of the best collections of the season—a high-end fetish show complete with corsets, handcuff bags, and lace-up high boots. It was naughty and delightful, but still perfectly on brand. Sarah Burton's Alexander McQueen collection (themed "Ice Queen") also referenced S&M, strapping on leather harnesses atop the stunningly beautiful gowns. Versus' corseted boning and leather tops and dresses, Ungaro's leather dresses, and Givenchy's sheer skirts over thigh-highs all lent the season some edge with its sex.

europe Fall 2011 runway

Photos: Imaxtree

Looks from the Louis Vuitton, Miu Miu, and Haider Ackermann Fall 2011 collections

Retro looks—and, as in every season, there were plenty—harked back to a variety of decades. Gucci naturally referenced the '70s, its pre-Fordian glory days. Prada went '60s mod, with graphic plaids, drop-waist coats, and shaggy furs. Bottega Veneta opted for a more reigned in nod to the decade. Miuccia Prada's secondary line Miu Miu trotted out '40s war-brides with Victory Roll 'dos and well-defined shoulders. (Not to mention those house-dresses.) Marni went even further back in the fashion time-machine to the '20s, with flapper silhouettes and furs tossed casually on top of outfits.

Which decade to choose? Clearly, whichever strikes your fancy.

Fur, which made an appearance at the New York shows (Rag & Bone, Derek Lam) was out in major force in both Milan and Paris. Crayola-hued pelts hit the runways at Gucci, Fendi, Versace, Céline, Emporio Armani, Christian Dior—the list goes on and on. Some shows—like Yves Saint Laurent, Burberry, and Balmain—sent out fur accents on the shoulders and sleeves.

Other trends from New York carried across the Atlantic as well—tuxedo jackets (at Chanel, Balmain, Stella McCartney to name a few), capes (Chloé, Hermès, Lanvin, Rick Owens), and ostrich feathers (Yves Saint Laurent, Matthew Williamson, and Ungaro).

The surprising hot body part for the season? The chest, but not cleavage. Keyhole tops were standard on the runway, popping up at Reed Krakoff, Marni, YSL, and Pucci, as well as blazers worn sans chemise (or sans buttons) at Haider Ackermann and Balmain.

In all, Europe was just as eclectic as its Yankee counterpart. The collections weren't united by any one underlying theme, unless you consider the rampant front-row gossip about the house of Dior a theme. With so much overshadowing the European shows, it was a testament to the clothing that collections like Louis Vuitton, Alexander McQueen, Haider Ackermann, Stella McCartney, Prada, and the like rose above and still grabbed everyone's attention.