JOURNEY TO THE EAST. After flirting with sporty silhouettes, Milan Men’s Fashion Week blurred the lines between luxury and active wear with a pinch of Eastern influences
Today, we live in the world of Instagram.
At least most of us do.
And a common dream for members of this group—whether we acknowledge it or not—is to travel around the world and bask in the exciting cornucopia of culture, fashion and whatnot. Of course, this being the 21st century, this ideal doesn’t sound as far-fetched as one might imagine. Traveling is no longer something reserved for respite, for pauses in what is considered an ordinary life. It is, instead, a normal part of life. To a certain extent, it is a natural evolution of how our ancestors used to roam the Earth. Now, we simply travel for a more diverse list of reasons—but we are constantly mobile, nevertheless.
One way to manifest that notion in fashion is through applying distinctive ethnic or tribal motifs. Dolce & Gabbana took this path in a rather extreme manner, having splattered its collection with a variety of Chinese cultural references, from peacocks and pagodas to white cranes, bamboo and more. Yet, the styling was very worldly, so to speak. Think of blue silk tops and black crepe the chine pants—both emblazoned with images of bamboo stalks and robins or jaybirds—paired with a casual pair of stripe-patterned espadrilles.
This sense of East-meets-West also transpired in Missoni’s offerings for the season. Insistent in its portrayal of a globetrotting Missoni man, models wearing the brand’s outfits strutted on a catwalk strewn with flower petals. The collection included a number of Indian-inspired pieces, from eye-catching Madras-checked scarves to exotic bead necklaces—altogether, these invoked recollections of director Wes Anderson’s “The Darjeeling Limited.” The collection’s real tour de force, however, was the sartorial technique that made the Ikat-patterned suit for the opening look and the Madras-colored knit sweater possible, not to mention the snug knit shoes.
Coincidentally, Madras check also pulled the crowd’s attention at Ermenegildo Zegna Couture’s runway. It wasn’t just the color or the plaid design that did this, but also its lightweight qualities—which certainly piqued the interest of ex-head designer Stefano Pilati. In fact, lightness and near weightlessness were among the elements that the seminal designer wanted to achieve in this particular series of creations. The last part of the show unveiled all-white outfits, mostly deconstructed as to drastically reduce the weight but not compromise the silhouette. These new “Broken suits” were almost see-through and moved with such fluidity, thanks to the use of refined silk.
If lightness was what Ermenegildo Zegna Couture aspired for this season, wearability and durability seemed to be Bottega Veneta’s theme. Ever so conceptual, Tomas Maier raised the bar for sporty nuances in high fashion by crafting luxury activewear pieces. The hiking boots, mountain sandals, weatherproof jackets and parkas—each is a travel-ready essential. Moreover, the German creative director didn’t pick a certain country, location or culture for the setting of his collection, but opted to depict nature in its entirety: It wasn’t just hills and mountains, as some selections were perfectly suitable for leisure time at the coast.
The cheeky and fun Canadian twin designers of Dsquared2 followed suit with their wide-ranging interpretation of surf culture. Board shorts were reinvented in bright-hued leather; tank tops took on studs and fine mesh; shoes were straddled with thick laces, akin to hiking boots. A more intriguing subject, though, was how the models didn’t only use spray-on tans, but also wore Japanese tattooed bodysuits. The finale walk even had several models strut in nearly see-through bodysuits and scanty thongs.
The ocean as a background also made an appearance Antonio Marras’ collection. But what about urban travel? How would one reimagine this particular setting for the season?
Despite its well-guarded reputation for minimalistic design, there was something rather “manipulative” in Calvin Klein Collection’s craftsmanship. The beautiful silhouettes of the suits easily beguiled observers into seeing beyond what meets the eye. The most vexing, and at the same time thought-provoking, display of craftsmanship which then-creative director Italo Zucchelli infused into the collection is the reimagining of several materials. The denim was never just denim, but stone wash jacquard denim instead. He even did a sweatshirt made of this very material, but with a back cut resembling that of a denim jacket. There were also a number of jackets and pants with Velcro strips, on which big pockets were slapped on—most likely a modern incarnation of cargo jackets and pants. For this one, practicality trumped aesthetics, which is in line with the basic concept of active-wear.
If there is one article of clothing that has recently entered the gray area between active- and luxurywear, it is the biker leather jacket. This traveling essential was extensively remodeled for the spectacular runway of Philipp Plein, which featured stunt bikers and car racers along with rapper Tyga. Brand ambassador Lucky Blue Smith, wearing a studded white jacket with black long sleeves and ripped jeans, led the procession of models. A profusion of leather and denim in striking shades of black, red and white filled the show, before it ended with a bang—a monster car grinding a row of cars in the middle of the audience.
Milan Men’s Fashion Week spring/summer 2016 had, of course, some noteworthy exceptions from the rising active-wear trends. Etro toyed around with the idea of eggs in both shapes and patterns. It gave birth to the idea of button-less suits and lapel-less coats with clean and smooth outer shapes—just like an egg. Gucci stayed in the gender-bending zone, and daringly borrowed untrendy pussy bows, among other details, that really challenged the notion of masculine styling. Last but least, Prada playfully injected some boyishness to most of its looks: very short shorts with above-ankle socks (a bit like a boy scout’s outfit), cute white bunny and rocket graphics, and oversized tank tops and big backpacks. Perhaps Miuccia Prada will be seen as a visionary who moves away from youth-oriented fashion and instead initiates a child-like styling movement. As with anything in fashion, only time will tell.
This article first appeared in DA MAN Style Spring/Summer 2016. Get your copy here.