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Gucci and Jil Sander Design for 21st Century

October 4, 1996

MILAN, Italy (AP) _ Tom Ford and Jil Sander design with their eyes fixed on the 21st century. Their collections for spring-summer 1997 are free of the retro ideas that so often encrust fashion design with nostalgia.

When American-born Tom Ford came to Gucci several seasons ago, the label had slumped into complacency and sagging sales.

In his first season, he did little more than unbutton shirts, hike hemlines and color over the classic (read boring) Gucci shades. But the effect was immediate. Ford rocketed to fashion fame, and Gucci was securely back on the fashion market.

The secret of the Ford success is that he dared to chuck traditional fashion values, and project the line into the future of minimalist fashion.

His latest collection, presented here Thursday night, was another step in that direction.

The collection is based on three items: tunics, sweaters and pants. Where other designers in this round of previews confined fashion to an old-fashioned bedroom with frilly, transparent chiffons, Ford kept his women well-covered _ at least where thickness of fabric was concerned.

His studied sexiness came in the plunging necklines, daring slits, and ultra-tight stretch silk. The basic silhouette is large and loose on top, tapered and tight from the waist downward.

Colors are mainly avant-garde _ but not very spring-like _ brown and black. The style is simple, the impression definitely upscale.

Hottest items of the collection are the all-purpose sweater dress, short and with an off-the-shoulder neckline worn with high or ankle boots, and rear-grabbing lurex jeans with the inside seam split over high-heeled shoes.

Even skin-and-bones top model Stella Tenant looked sexy in the compelling outfits, aided by the light golden dew sprayed on her body and the dark, creature-of-the-night make-up.

The same studied sexiness was the keynote of the Jil Sander collection, which opened Friday’s previews.

The German designer, who along with Miuccia Prada is responsible for Milan’s post-glamour fashion attitude, paired down the night dress look to present sheer tunics over silk pants, and open, front-zip silk jumpsuits.

There are plenty of workday suits in the collection, with classic jackets and cuffed low-waisted trousers.

Evening wear is best in the chiffon gowns, with a slip dress underneath. The ensembles start as a V-necked shirt and end in a flowing floor-length skirt.

Colors range from steel-black to deep champagne and midnight blue with flashes of raspberry.

For a comfortable change from the awkward platforms and soaring heels in many of the collection presented this week, Jil Sanders opts for white loafers and demure ankle straps by day and night.

To combat concerns that the popularity of ultra-thin models on the runway has contributed to anorexia among young girls, designers organized a ``food is good″ campaign during the ``moda Milanese″ showings.

A huge poster at the Milan trade fair depicts a model avidly eating a bowl of pasta. An anti-anorexia party Wednesday night featured deliciously fattening food.

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