Report: Milan Fashion Week

LOOSE INTERPRETATIONS. Long gone is the heyday of skinny cuts, as Milan men’s fashion week designers reinterpret straight and loose silhouettes in new forms and directions


Ermenegildo Zegna’s lengthened suit blazer

When Ermenegildo Zegna Couture’s spring/summer 2015 show kicked off last year, it signaled something fresh and decidedly new. Set on a stage dominated by a stark architectural construct with models standing in the shadows, the presentation looked like a scene from the epic films of yore that often portray soldiers lining up on a hill, ready for battle. And, this may well be the case in the field of menswear today, after a decade imbued with prevailing skinny-cut trends—ushered in by the audacious Hedi Slimane during his past tenure at Dior Homme. What seems to be in-trend now, as seen on Milan’s spring/summer 2015 runways, is a rebellious sartorial approach to building bigger volumes or silhouettes and to better freedom of movement. This is not to say that slim-fit has been thrown out the window, but that the current body-conscious approach is to walk a fine line between style and comfort.

The rise of athletic wear-inspired separates in a number of high-end brands certainly plays a part in this game. But in the end, it is the discerning interpretations of each designer that matter. Out of the many fashion houses sending their models to the runway in Milan, Ermenegildo Zegna Couture, John Varvatos and Calvin Klein Collection are perhaps the most aggressive in introducing this new paradigm in clothing and design.


Emporio Armani’s geometrical patterns

Stefano Pilati from Ermenegildo Zegna Couture cited architecture and space as the eminent theme and inspiration for the brand’s spring/summer 2015 collection. First on the runways was a long dark blue and black coat devoid of any embellishments and paired with understated no-lace black sneakers. On closer inspection, bits of fine tailoring materialized, including an eye-catching pair of wide lapels and high turned-up trousers’ bottoms—a nip of street-wear attitude embedded into formal dressing. The next several looks championed bolder stripes on lapels or collars, with a variety of lengthened proportions on long sleeves and blazers. The suits in beige, light blue-grey and textured black grabbed quite a bit of attention owing to the lengthened ends (slightly below the pants’ pockets), which visually enhanced the height of the wearer. The second part of the collection showed off a mélange of dusty colors—something that, arguably, only a true Italian could wear. But the overall cuts were rather straight and boxy; there’s no hesitancy in Pilati’s adaptation of architectural influences for this characterful collection.


Bottega Veneta’s relaxed styling

A powerful deconstruction of shapes also took shape in John Varvatos’ offerings for the season. The blazers in light colors of white, grey and beige were structurally poetic with heavy textures and patterns. Some were built using well-treated fabrics that draped flowingly along the wearer’s body contour; others caught attention by way of quirky cuts and uncommon yet stylish layering rendered by the namesake designer. The show’s opener was exemplary: A light grey patterned blazer with a dramatic cut at the bottom, paired with a one-buttoned vest and a loosely hanging scarf underneath. Such a play of mix-and-match and uncanny button arrangements on statement blazers was simply impossible to ignore. Generally, those blazers were unlined pieces, which are lighter, less restricting on the body, suitable for warmer days, but ultimately harder to create. A particular crowd-favorite would be the show’s closing look, which consisted of a uniquely “lapel-less” suit blazer complemented by two opposite-colored scarves, a wide-necked T-shirt and an arresting pair of shoes. John Varvatos couldn’t have done any better in infusing an air of chic rockabilly into ethereally beautiful suits.


John Varvatos’ closing look

If the previous season saw Italo Zuccheli experimenting with overly baggy pants and oversized tops, this time he skillfully orchestrated nude-colored clothing articles that really ran the gamut in terms of layering and combinations. But aside from the extensive use of that distinct shade, what was really striking is how Zuccheli successfully showcased Calvin Klein Collection’s innovation and adaptability to the athletic-inspired trends. In the hands of Italo Zuccheli, even basic items such as tank tops were elevated through skillful pairings—with a mesh tank top or mesh T-shirt, in this particular case. One has to admit that it was such an understated yet inspiring collection; the simplicity of shades disguised the richness of styling and tailoring. The same goes for the eye-catching neon-colored plastic outerwear pieces seen on the runway. With their rather boxy silhouettes, there appeared to be some sort of verve and fitness in the sartorial creation that is worlds apart from the skinny trends of the past.


Calvin Klein’s nude-hued ensemble

However, not every brand was jumping on the challenging-conventional-norms bandwagon. Dolce & Gabbana drew inspiration from the Spanish matadors and showcased a balance between a range of big-volumed tops and beautifully tailored slim suits. Italian favorites Emporio Armani and Gucci are two prominent names that heavily promoted stripes in their collections this season. While the former served up a dose of geometric illusions with stark yet covetable black-and-white combinations, Gucci’s runway looks were sleek and suave with a modern interpretation of nautical themes and sailor-inspired getups. It’s rather sad, though, to note that the latter happened to be designer Frida Giannini’s last menswear designs for the Florence-based brand.


Dolce & Gabbana’s boxy top

Another surprise—but a good one, indeed—came from Bottega Veneta. Designer Tomas Maier, who’s known for his well-organized clothing ensembles, was making a huge leap with his dancer-inspired spring/summer 2015 collection. If a year before he had sent dapperly suited models stomping their feet with confidence on the catwalk, this time the opening look was a snug cashmere pullover and loose silk shorts. The German-born creative director discerningly pushed the envelope and cited two male ballet dance figures, Nureyev and Baryshnikov, as his inspiration. Concentrated freedom of movement was expressed through loose shorts or rolled up sweatpants in pastel colors; sleeves were rolled up, too, and each top is intentionally half tucked in, sending off a slightly slouchy vibe that would not look out of place in a totally relaxed atmosphere.

In Maier’s perspective, this kind of styling exemplifies how modern men dress up nowadays. Style and comfort are no longer “frenemies,” and comfortable dressing is no longer a crime of fashion. If those points were previously still up for debate, Milan’s men’s fashion week proved them unflinchingly true. And, once again, the designers helped underline the fact that we wear fashion, and never the other way around. So, why sacrifice comfort for style?