MILAN, Italy -- Renato Balestra and Andre Laug looked to the exotic Middle East and masculine suit shapes Monday as the inspiration for their collections in the Italian ready-to-wear fashion shows.
Balestra set the tone of his collection with amplified Arab love songs as his models paraded out in elaborately embroidered wool kaftan jackets over brown velvet skirts and printed silk blouses or brown and beige above-the-knee dresses and above-the-ankle pants.
'These lengths have been selling well and will continue to sell well,' said Ellen Salsman, fashion director for Saks Fifth Avenue in New York.
But Balestra also showed classic silk dresses for day wear with quilted vests and jackets worn with low-heel shoes for a balanced look.
For evening, he added a touch of the Far East and showed oriental printed kimono jackets, putting some glitter in the line with evening gowns of flowing print chiffon and veils over small pillbox hats.
A more classic note was struck by Laug, who showed once again he is a master of the two-piece suit and coat dress.
Laug styled his collection along masculine lines, taking his inspiration from the 19th century French novelist George Sand, and added that feminine touch with rich fabrics.
His tweeds were thick as carpets but soft to the touch, the printed silk brocades exquisite and the luxury was hightened even further through lavish use of cashmeres, lace and mohairs.
Laug's day suits never date themselves, and this time featured tailored jackets just below the waist over straight skirts with side pockets. He added a bit of whimsy with bright colors such as tangerine orange and fuchsia for the jackets over classic gray skirts.
For his coat dresses, Laug used capes for cover-up topped by a man's hat, an accessory he described as the key to his daytime look.
Shoes were once again low-heeled pumps that went well with the man-styled pants.
The transplanted French-born designer did a complete about-face for his evening clothes, showing ball gowns in pale printed brocade, moire cocktail dresses under tunic tops and blouses with small white or ruffled and pleated pastel collars -- a purely romantic look that contrasted with the severe masculine line of his day wear