When did luxury come to mean novelty? More and more, these Milan menswear shows feel like a showcase for the next new trick, whatever it is the house feels will propel them forwards.
Fendi is a house that embraces novelty. At the centre of its autumn/winter 2018 catwalk was something like an airport baggage conveyor belt. A baggage handler wearing a jumpsuit was pushing a luggage trolley piled with cases from Fendi’s recent collaboration with Rimowa, a fellow LVMH house. As they walked, models picked up pieces to carry with them. No one claimed the Fendi logo baby cot. A couple of models wore mini umbrellas as hats. Po-faced this was not.
Creative director Silvia Venturini Fendi had collaborated with the Scottish graphic artist Hey Reilly for this collection. Reilly has amassed 77k Instagram followers for work that shows images of brand logos cut up and corrupted. Backstage before the show, he was hidden in a corner. “Silvia was completely open,” he said of their collaboration. “She gave me the logo and said, ‘do what you want.’”
The result included T-shirts printed with surrealist imagery. “They are completely random things,” he said. Reilly described the first image. “It’s a pile of bricks, a fried egg and a screwdriver.” Beneath it was the word “FAMILY”, the first letter in the double F of the house logo. “You can think whatever you want. People think that means family because you’re building a home, you’re feeding a family. You think that, I think I’m throwing a brick through a window.”
Reilly described another. “Dice, horse, yarlsberg.” The horse was stood on a chunk of cheese. Another had a snail crawling on a football, which was placed in a frying pan. They were clever pieces aimed at a luxury consumer who has no care about meaning.
Silvia Venturini Fendi said of Reilly, “I think he shares some values with us. Irony, but clever irony.” She said the collection was about codes and identity, and her fondness for airports and the people that can be seen there.
Out on the catwalk, there was novelty in the stitching of padded jackets, and with the quilting lines set on a diagonal. Many of the bags and accessories were covered in the double F logo, like those you could find right now at any major airport concession.
Towards the end, a young model emerged in a roomy suit. It was of a wide check, and had great character, like a kid who had been dressed smart for his first trip alone. The considered cut showed that for novelty to truly resonate, there also has to be depth.
Earlier in the day, Giorgio Armani sent out an assured collection that played to his strengths. Soft tailoring hugged the body. Trousers were cut wide before a slight taper to the ankle. In this velvet-heavy season, Armani showed it as a fabric not of novelty but of class, especially in some end-of-show tuxedos. And with that, the sparse Milan menswear schedule draws to a close. The focus now moves to Paris, where there are so many shows, brands will be fighting for oxygen.
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