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June 29, 2012 6:40 pm
The London Olympics start in less than a month – but Italian designers began celebrating the sporting spirit early at their spring/summer 2013 catwalk shows.
Miuccia Prada, for example, featured endless sports blazers in her collection, while every pair of trousers had wide inner-leg stripes, together providing an ideal national wardrobe worthy of any opening ceremony. Donatella Versace opened her show with seven hunks in boxers’ shorts or skimpy briefs, imperial frieze dressing gowns and faux Lonsdale belts (think Rocky Balboa goes to ancient Rome); and Giorgio Armani paraded a quartet of sleek rowers in shorts and jerkins in his signature “three dimensional” zigzag print, as well as a team of five dandies in matching truncated double-breasted jackets and pleated shorts.
“I could have gone for that old idea of healthy style; the Great Gatsby at a polo game in the Hamptons,” says Armani, who is dressing the Italian Olympic team. “But I wanted a modern impeccable elegance. There’s nothing like a big sports win to improve a country’s mood.”
The new athletic chic means a looser silhouette than usual, the better to contain muscular torsos and legs. Appropriately enough, the front row of Calvin Klein’s show was filled with US sports stars (the Knicks’ Amar’e Stoudemire, the Rangers’ Henrik Lundqvist and the Giants’ Victor Cruz), all applauding designer Italo Zucchelli’s exaggerated shapes in high-tech fabrics, from a classic jean jacket radically renewed in ozone blue suede to an angled beige biker jacket that referenced sci-fi action heroes.
A more refined sportswear trend appeared at Neil Barrett, whose dandified striped cricket blazers looked much too elegant for Lord’s, and at Brioni, where models in bow ties and midnight blue tuxedos played croquet, as others in slinky silk jerseys and jute linen jackets competed at pétanque.
From the idea of sport, it’s but a short mental leap to leisure. The name of Tod’s latest key shoe – a lace-up in soft Amalfi lemon or blood-orange suede – said it all: the Riviera.
Thus, Dolce & Gabbana went to Sicily via “real people”– native-born Sicilians ranging from burly pre-teens to muscle-beach Lotharios and proud rural gentlemen – in silk print shirts inspired by puppet theatre characters, and rugged cotton shorts and tank tops in sun-dried hues. A holiday feel also informed the printed tops that recalled, strangely, bruised papayas, at Marc Jacobs, interspersed with a Mad Men-like collection of suits. Colours derived from Mediterranean deck chairs: ochre, azure and mint green appeared at Gucci, where every model sported loafers in variations ranging from pristine white calfskin to pigeon egg blue crocodile, without socks.
“I wanted this idea of vacation, fun and freedom, especially given the complicated times,” explains Frida Giannini, Gucci’s creative director. “These colours may be a little eccentric but they bring more joy.”
At Burberry, there was a similar mood on the catwalk, which was dominated by a metallic symphony of turquoise flight jackets, pink trenchcoats and high-gloss shirts. “I like something serious, with gravitas and heritage, yet also fun and decadent,” says Christopher Bailey, chief creative officer, explaining the steely-hued leather bomber jackets with contrasting arms and torso that won the biggest cheer of the Milan season.
At Salvatore Ferragamo, creative director Massimiliano Giornetti sent out a seaside dandy look reminiscent of the colours of a Damien Hirst medicine cabinet artwork but inspired, according to Giornetti, by Los Angeles, so that safari jackets were reimagined in tangerine with curaçao blue piping.
The bubbling Olympic effect was also felt in the use of inventive fabrics (athletic gear being known for its technical innovations), which appeared in collections from Fendi to Jil Sander. Fendi had suits made of a remarkable nylon silk with tensile “memory”, which allows jackets to remain almost entirely crease-free; Sander offered crisp, super-fine wool redingotes, which the eponymous designer – returning to her house after a seven-year hiatus – said were specifically meant for those who need to look elegantly smart when they step off a long-haul flight.
More than half of the pieces in the Ermenegildo Zegna show were made of silk, historically unheard of in men’s fashion. Similarly, Bottega Veneta’s collection was composed of organza and spongy silks, its finest moment a quartet of muddied floral print looks with one version covered in silk organza. “I think making menswear in women’s fabrics is a very interesting challenge,” says Tomas Maier, its creative director. You could almost say it deserves a gold medal.
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