June 23, 2014 2:30 pm

Milan Fashion Week: Menswear report 2

What is normal in menswear? It is a question that Miuccia Prada brought sharply into focus with her stellar Spring/Summer 2015 show. The focus was on normal pieces: blazers, shirts, sweaters. It was the first time in a long while that she put denim on the catwalk. There were no tricks or difficulties to set the collection off balance – no extreme shoes, no challenging cloth. The pieces were ostensibly normal. It is Prada’s current project to elevate such clothes with character and even aggression.

Prada have announced that in the next year, they plan to open another 50 standalone menswear stores, nearly tripling their current number. Those stores need stock, and this collection seemed to continue a reappraisal at Prada begun last season, moving away from catwalk novelty to concentrate on the clothes themselves.

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The key idea here was stitching: blazer, trousers, blousons and the like came in black or navy, the stitching around pockets or hems in white. Simple, but effective. Blue jeans came first with white stitching, then trimmed with brown leather. Spring coats, of light cloth and mid-thigh length, have been seen in many places here in Milan, and appeared often at Prada. Should a wardrobe refresher be required, they will make a good bet for next season.

Strange how simple things can take on such an attitude. The show reminded me in many ways of Craig Green in London, who made new luxury from simple cloths. There was something of that stance here at Prada too. All the gaudiness of the luxury industry is passé. What was on display here felt very new, and was sent out with intent. Mrs Prada wants to change the way men think about clothing. Again.

At Bottega Veneta, the new normality is shorts. As the models took their finale walk, I counted how many of the 45 models wore full length trousers. Just six. The brand, under the creative direction of Tomas Maier, is one of Kering’s biggest moneymakers. For shorts to dominate proceedings here is a major statement. Mr Maier also showed trousers rolled to various heights up the calf, and woven leisure pants cuffed high to leave the ankle permanently bared. Some of the shorts looked like nylon. It was actually lamb bonded with silk. Such are the ways of luxury today.

The shorts were balanced with a succession of great knits. A loose blue sweater looked faded by the sun, while another patterned like TV interference could have been thrown on at the beach as night arrived. Mr Maier also had an interest in knits that look aged. One grey sweater appeared to have been darned, as if the wearer was trying to give an old favourite new life. A thinner knit had little notches taken out of a hem, as if it had been nibbled by a moth obsessed with symmetry.

The ankle covering trousers? Loose, with a front pleat that sat close to the pocket, with a large turn-up. Backstage, Mr Maier was wearing jeans. Did he ever wear shorts? “At weekends,” he said, “all the time”. To what length? He put his flattened hand to just above knee height, the length he had just shown on the catwalk. Do as you would wear: a motto more designers should stand by.

At Calvin Klein Collection, there was a succinct encapsulation of this season’s sportswear mix. Actually, it is something that its menswear creative director Italo Zucchelli champions every season, it is just that everyone else is now catching up. His layered tanks, blazers and tailored trousers were in a pale pink he called buff. It is an alluring shade, one of the many pale pinks that have been seen in Milan.

The show had the tightness of a great editorial shoot, particularly the run of see-through plastic coloured tops. The term “editorial” is often used to describe clothing which is for runway only with never a thought of actually being sold. This is sadly true of everything here, since Calvin Klein Collection is barely sold anywhere in the world, save for the Madison Avenue flagship. Owners PVH see this line as a figurehead for everything else sold under the Calvin Klein label. Yet much of the work here was desirable and commercial. It is a shame it will never be worn on real people’s backs, not just models.

A couple of a days before the first presentation of Tod’s on the official schedule – it was previously held drop-in affairs over the course of a few hours – owner Diego Della Valle talked of a decision he had to make. “It was important to decide if we wanted to stay in accessories or style of life.” The choice was the latter, and over the past couple of seasons clothing has started to be introduced. An hour before we met, it had been announced that the Italian designer Andrea Incontri was the first creative director for menswear at Tod’s. Mr Della Valle said that actually, last season had been his first collection, as a test.

Notice that he calls it “style of life” rather than fashion. His are “light luggage” customers, the clothing intended for such regularities as “a one week trip to Asia”. Best here were the pieces of hand-drawn pattern, like the wavering check on an unstructured beige cotton suit, or a sweater with a pattern like a herringbone seen through a hall of mirrors. Other pieces do not quite fit the narrative. I would love to meet the executive who packs suede trousers in his carry-on. It is an idea that seems far removed from the normal.

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