Milano! This is the fashion week where air-kissing is amplified, one too many Aperol spritzes are consumed, and everything is ‘Fantastico!’ It’s the week where big ideas start to take shape as we enter the latter stages of the season, and the big Italian houses get to throw their weight around. But the question everyone always asks is: ‘Where is the new blood?’  

In a week that also saw the swearing in of a young a new, young prime minister in Italy, there was a wind of change blowing in Milan, with an emphasis on young talent, new creative directors and directions and new investment by fashion conglomerates like Renzo Rosso’s Only the Brave and LVMH. “We’ll do it”, said Renzi on Twitter, talking about the tough task he faced to turn around the country’s economic fortunes. Similarly, that’s the brave front that Milan’s fashion industry is displaying. Like their country, many of these houses are simply too big to fail. 

It has become a designers’ cliche to say that they envision a ‘strong woman’ in their clothing. But for a group of female Italian designers, it rings true. They design with nuance – and a sensitivity to how a woman wants to feel. Miuccia Prada led the charge in this respect as she did a volte-face from last season’s face-off, face-on collection and instead immersed herself in Fassbinder films like Lola and The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant.  And so the collection simmered and bubbled with a latent sensuality - sheer dresses spliced with fur, revealing geometric-printed Y-front underpants and slick ‘n’ sick shearling jackets. Inside a soundproofed set, an orchestra thrashed out music by Kurt Weill compositions with an unsettlingferocity. Despite the uneasy mood, Miuccia has a knack of ensuring you leave a Prada show fervent with desire, giving you a viable alternative to pre-conceived notions of elegance and chic. 

Consuelo Castiglioni at Marni was also anti-chic with her tribal-skewed sportswear. Shell suits were elevated, proportions were exaggerated, and skirts came embellished with a cascade of feathers. Despite the genre clashing, there was a little something for everyone, and if the clothing proves to be tricksy, there’s always Marni’s unwaveringly sturdy bags and shoes, spotted frequently among the fashion crowd.  

Power and the glory

Less latent was Donatella Versace who unapologetically designs for a specific type of woman – one with big hair and a short hemline. That’s what we got with Versace’s latest collection which had a hint of military and featured bias-cut frocks with strategic slits up the legs, paired with Brigitte Bardot hair. That whiff of ‘60s also found itself at Gucci, where Frida Giannini did her version of mod attire. That mood will be an easy sell on the high street, and a hit with girls who like to Tumblr blog images of Jean Shrimpton. 

Fendi has been building up momentum over the past few seasons with Karl Lagerfeld and Silvia Venturini Fendi at its helm. Even staunch anti-fur editors can’t resist the technical supremacy of his Roman house.  What they do with fur and other fabrics is often astonishing. This season, outdoor expeditions and unexplored frontiers inspired the texture-heavy collection, where bomber jackets and hulking, hooded parkasfeatured. The talking points were Cara Delevigne holding a fur doll of Karl Lagerfeld in her hand as she opened the show and robot drones flying around the runway to give the live-stream experience a whole different perspective – both perfect for today’s Insta-fashion culture. 

For further theatrics, Dolce & Gabbana created a fantasy fairy tale, with their own troop of female cloaked knights to rescue stray princesses. It was a departure from their Southern Italian, sun-soaked sojourns but no less fantastical. Roberto Cavalli turned the heat up as models circled around a ring of fire. As Renzo Rosso’s Only the Brave fashion group considers moving in for a majority stake in Cavalli’s mainline, you couldn’t help but read too much into the ‘playing with fire’ analogy. There’s clearly a market for Cavalli’s va-va-voom razzle dazzle. As there is for Pucci’s embellished bells-and-whistles prints, which took an animalistic turn this season. These designers don’t cater to shrinking violets.

Big hug

For a quieter side to Milan Fashion Week with less jingle jangle, look no further than Tomas Maier at Bottega Veneta, who impressed with his quiet ‘puzzle’ dresses, trompe l’oeil pleats and earth-toned textures.  Missoni took comfort seriously and layered up their women in lumberjack jackets, gilets, trapper hats, cosy knits and flat boots – it was the collection equivalent of a big hug from an old friend.  After Jil Sander’s third (and final) departure from her namesake label, the brand seemed to flail without a creative director, but as a stop-gap collection, this chalky pastel collection full of well-conceived coats will still entice the customer. 

The loudest story undoubtedly belonged to Jeremy Scott’s debut collection for Moschino. The show was also the tardiest, owing to Katy Perry’s late arrival. That didn’t dampen the enthusiasm for Scott’s Fast Fashion as he played with the McDonald’s logos, sent Spongebob Squarepants down the runway and riffed on American food packaging with prints on ballooning dresses. It divided opinion. What mattered though weren’t critics voices but the fact that Scott’s phonecases and sweaters went on sale immediately to a rabid crowd of fashion lovers looking not for faithful reinterpretations of  Franco Moschino’s work, but for a fast-fashion hit. They were served exactly that. 

Young label Au Jour Le Jour also knows how to dial up pop culture as it played on pet-blog culture with cute embroideries and prints of kittens and puppies on ‘60s-inspired silhouettes.  In a city where whimsy isn’t exactly rife, it struck a sweet note.  There’s a more serious young gun in Marco de Vincenzo, as it has just been announced that LVMH has taken a majority stake investment in this ex-Fendi designer’s label.  His flair for experimental fabrications showed, and it got the crowd excited for more.    

More of Susie Lau's writing can be found here. 

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