Show some suits, but then spin off somewhere else: this seems the theme of the spring/summer ‘14 menswear season, in Milan at least. Increasingly, brands are deflecting attention from tailoring to their technical sportswear. It’s like designers are saying, “who wants to work anyway?” After all, those that still have jobs spend much of their day distracted by thoughts of their life outside the office. How else to interpret the amount of desk-time spent on social media instead of spreadsheets?
At Gucci, thus, Frida Giannini majored on windbreakers and tech hoodies, worn with tight trousers that were an update of the riding pant. Many of these pieces were individually desirable, and some were convincing. Suits were often cut from technical fabrics, which were there to substantiate the editorial, rather than retail, story. But there was another idea running through: floral prints, as seen on suits, trenches and shirts (the latter a sign that when the collection lands in store, the florals will be profligate). Towards the end a silk floral top appeared, and there was a sigh of relief.
The old Gucci decadence! That’s what’s been missing! Suddenly everyone realised how rarely the word “luxury” has cropped up the past few days. And it was hard not to think: Maybe it’d be nice to see some jaw dropping opulence on the Gucci catwalk once again.
Well, it wouldn’t happen at Emporio Armani, where suits were also quickly dropped for sportswear – fair enough for a brand that is at its best when mining the athletic masculine idealism of its ‘80s glory days. See, for example, zip-up blousons and zip-up waterproofs. Yet there’s a young generation of fashion consumers desperate to wear a designer logo, as seen current craze for bootleg T-shirts that look authentically printed with the logo Cèline, but say in small letters beneath, “Dion”. It’s a joke, but logo desire is in the air once more. The Emporio Armani icon is one of fashion’s heavyweight signs. They should unleash it.
Coincidentally, there’s also something of a weight-related issue happening among menswear’s footwear brands, though in the opposite direction. It started in London with Nicholas Kirkwood. Here in Milan, the invitation isn’t just to look at the shoes, it’s to pick them up and marvel at their lightness.
So there were super-light shoe/trainer hybrids at Hogan, while at Church’s the broguing was so vehement it punched right through the leather. But in the lightness stakes, current winner by a mile is Tod’s, with the ultralight sole for its Sartorial line that makes a traditional looking lace-up feel as slim as a ballet slipper. One problem: they can only be bought in a Tod’s Sartorial salon, complete with whisky bar, of which six will be opened around the world in the coming year.
But for everyone else, there’s still lightness in Tod’s regular collection, especially appealing formal styles, like a lace-up or monk-strap.
Meanwhile, the brand also had some unexpected bag news: men are increasingly happy to carry a shopper. It’s a very male version, granted – slightly squat, but with an open-topped tote fastened by just one popper – but it’s becoming one of their men’s big sellers. By contrast, suit-friendly briefcases in Milan were barely anywhere to be seen. Such is the menswear market today.