Milan Fashion Week

At Milan Fashion Week’s menswear shows, Prada seeks the naive and Marni bursts with hobo colour

The first menswear shows of the season took place in Milan at the weekend, and it seems that the 1970s are back in all their flared and fuzzy glory

PUBLISHED : Monday, 16 January, 2017, 1:15pm
UPDATED : Monday, 16 January, 2017, 1:15pm

If turmoil brings innovation and renovation, Italian menswear is in for a creative burst.

Fashion houses are continuing their reboot of Milan Fashion Week menswear offerings, with notables like Bottega Veneta and Gucci sitting out this round, preferring to combine menswear and womenswear previews next month. That is making room for a plethora of newcomers.

The data indicates that menswear is worth the rethink. Euromonitor market research forecasts that between now and 2020, growth in sales for men’s attire and accessories globally will outpace that of women’s. Last year alone, Italian menswear produced 9 billion (HK$74.27 billion) in revenue.

Here are some highlights of Saturday’s menswear previews for next autumn and winter on the first day of Milan Fashion Week.

In search of naivety

Miuccia Prada was in search of the naive for her new collection. She found herself in the 1970s, a world of leather and corduroy, oil landscape paintings and natural amulets.

“That is what came out. I didn’t want it, but it came out naturally,” Prada said backstage, adding that the 1970s were “a very important moment for protests, for rights, for humanity”.

So the corduroy leisure suit with big pockets, the soft cashmere sweaters with fuzzy reproductions of landscapes, the furry shoes sticking out from the cuffed bell bottom pants and the hand-knit pullovers mimicking a stained glass window are all her expressions of normality.

And the collection, in its simplicity, is her protest against excess, the modern need for everything to be big. The collection also featured womenswear, including leather jackets with stud detailing, slit leather walking skirts and brimmed corduroy caps.

Amulets of shells, stones or branches that Prada said she plucked from the woods herself accented the looks for both men and women. Colours stayed in a 1970s design palette of brown, tan, rust and orange, breaking out for richly hued purple and blood-red furs. Bags included hard cases or oversized document holders in cowskin.

Courting millennials

Dolce & Gabbana have surpassed themselves, moving the young millennial crowd that has populated their front row in recent seasons onto the runway. Pop star Austin Mahone, dapper in a tux with tapered legs, set the mood, dancing up and down the runway throughout the show, in front of attendees including Sylvester Stallone’s three daughters. Dolce & Gabbana’s show was titled “The New Princes” and it’s clear that they are catering to a young, selfie-savvy generation raised on social media. In an ultimate branding move, the designing pair created images of themselves in the style of the FaceQ app,on jackets and sweaters. Alongside the brand’s trademark tailored suits, the new collection includes zany plush animal head hoods and backpacks, and Rasta knit hats or crowns over baseball caps, fun-loving Harajuku touches for a generation that prizes its juvenile side. Jeans and jackets were covered with appliqués, with motifs from crowns to hearts emerging as decorative emojis.

Cross-cultural

The new Versace man is both a traveller who means business and a sportsman who knows how to relax. His suits fit close to the body, paired with dark glasses and two-toned sneakers, topped with double-breasted overcoats, knitted blanket jackets or belted trenches.

After hours, he relaxes with hoodies under bomber jackets, worn with the day’s trousers or athletic pants. And on the weekend, he hits the outdoors in plaid shirts and shearling coats. Models crisscrossed the runway beneath arched gates, suggesting a Middle Eastern market. The exotic vibe also was reflected in ethnic patterns that cut diagonally along jackets, or were put tile-like on bombers. Versace’s neoclassic Greek patterns were replaced this round with photographic prints of classical sculptures.

Rumpled iconoclast

Marni has taken a rumpled, colourful turn. The new Marni man, as imagined by creative director Francesco Risso in his debut season, is something of a light-hearted vagabond.

The brand’s heritage fur appears in hats that have the appearance of colourful wigs, as square tufts on jacket sleeves, wisps on collars and finally, in their full glory, as fluffy overcoats.

There is a geometry to the looks, reflected in the square cuts of the suits and the plaid and checks of the prints. Woollen suits have a rumpled, train-hopping feel. Tops project optical illusions, created from mismatched patches of striped fabric. Sweaters feature naive 1970s graphics, tucked into high-waist, big-fitting corduroy trousers. Quilted trousers in pyjama prints are paired with bomber jackets. The effect is that of an iconoclast, which seems influenced in some measure by Risso’s last employer, Prada. The designer, who studied in Florence, New York and London, took over from the brand’s creator, Consuelo Castiglioni, who stepped down last October, citing personal reasons.

Classics reinterpreted

Giorgio Armani has reinterpreted classics through the decades with a modern edge for his youthful Emporio Armani line. Armani is hewing to the traditional menswear and womenswear calendars, but blurring the line on the runway. Many of the looks were feminised, like flowing knitwear or curved hemlines on short jackets. Trousers tended to be ample and pleated, and Armani employed luxurious fabrics like velvets for men and lots of fur, both as trim and full fur coats.

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Double-breasted suits with soft hemlines and loose trousers recalled a 1940s cool, while fur collars on overcoats harkened to a 1970s mod. Armani mixed geode-like patterns with plaids, sticking with greyscale to black for a contemporary urban feel. Thick, furry neck warmers framed the face, while moulded brim hats topped the sophisticated silhouette. Hair was slicked back and footwear had thick traction soles. Bags included big pockets on cross-body halters. The colour palette was classic: grey, black, tan and olive green.

Monumental looks

Alessandro Sartori made his debut Friday evening as the creative director of Ermenegildo Zegna in a monumental style, sending his creations down a runway flanked by Anselm Kiefer’s towering installation of The Seven Heavenly Palaces at Pirelli’s cavernous HangarBicocca.

The looks exuded relaxed sophistication, as tailoring altered sportswear, and vice versa. Or, as the brand said in its press notes, Sartori’s “new aesthetic … evolves and breaks codes, relying on intense textures and keen constructions that define new functions”. Elasticised cuffs on trousers and gathers on jackets gave suits an active feel that was completed with sneakers.

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Felted cashmere suits had the simplicity of jersey, with quilted arms in contrast colours to create a vest effect over kimono neckline shirts. Nubby Casentino felt from Tuscany was created from cashmere and alpaca, suggesting ease but underlining elegance in loose-fitting suits. Cosy accents included high necks, big gloves and droopy caps. Colours tended toward grey, tan and black neutrals while turquoise and white popped up on leather jackets and large knits.

Back to the roots

He landed in America as a teen and thrust himself into the melting pot, where he had his first success.

The story of a young Salvatore Ferragamo, who started out making shoes for Hollywood before returning to Italy to launch his fashion brand, inspired French designer Guillaume Meilland’s debut collection as menswear design director. The clean looks followed Ferragamo’s journey from a carefree youth to the more put-together sophistication of an experienced traveller. Youthful touches included rough embroidery in contrasting kinetic lines on the backs of jackets or on shirts worn with tailored suits. The silhouette was boxy with square jackets over loose pants.

Boyish sweaters were tucked into trousers, or hung out of the back of jackets, for a dash-about feel. Bulky knit mittens exuded hominess. The collection is strong on the brand’s trademark leather garments, featuring flight jackets and biker jackets. Shoes included an American-style work boot with a thick sole covered with rubber studs, alongside finer Italian footwear. “I want to bring the idea of ease, of comfort, to menswear,” Meilland said backstage. “I want to get rid of conformity.”

Luxury activewear

Phillip Plein has found what he says is an untapped niche: luxury activewear.

On the first day of Milan Fashion Week, the German designer debuted his new Plein Sport line, which he only first envisioned last June after discovering that the biggest-grossing textile companies weren’t traditional fashion houses, but Nike and Adidas. “Active sportswear is one of the biggest segments, but we don’t have even one luxury alternative,” Plein told the assembled fashion crowd. Until now.

Gymnasts flipped in Plein Sport pants. Muscle-bound boxers shimmied in shorts. Skiers donned silvery parkas with black face masks. Female runners were clad in floral running tights and tops. A kick-boxer wore a midriff-baring neoprene top over tights. Dancers splashed in a pool of shallow water to the rhythmic beat of drums. While there was a collective groan of disappointment from the crowd when Plein, the Milan fashion world’s premier showman, announced last season he would be moving to New York with his main line, the designer showed he has plenty of party left for Milan.