The final day of the Milan spring/summer 2014 menswear shows traced an arc of extremes.
On the one hand, there was Giorgio Armani happily eschewing the design trickery that can blight his work and instead seemingly taking pride in his own legacy via the figure-hugging soft tailored jackets that first made his name; the cardigan jackets and the patterned knits that felt so welcomely familiar. Treading old ground? No. Because we haven’t seen such pieces for a while, and because Mr Armani sent them out with such conviction.
At their best, these clothes made you appreciate the effects of Armani’s design, the way the fluid cloth of a soft herringbone suit hugged the body, sitting tight down the spine and forming a strong shoulder and chest. It’s a cut that played havoc with tailoring back in the 1980s, a soft but masculine silhouette that made the suits of Savile Row seem archaic, and it could have the same effect today.
Yes, there were still some unnecessary diversions, the kind that occur when Mr Armani attaches any sort of bib front or unneeded double-breasted buttoning to tops, but they were few and far between.
Meanwhile, the collection sent out by Z Zegna’s designer Paul Surridge was the youngest and freshest show of the week. With Stefano Pilati’s debut at Z Zegna’s parent Ermenegildo Zegna one of the big hits of the Italian shows, the junior line, which had previously felt like the lone fashion voice in such a traditional company, had new purpose. In these directional clothes – sleeveless jackets, thin knits of various rib, pyjama jackets, soft but sharply creased trousers – the models actually looked their age, rather than like teenagers playing adult dress-up (as they do in many of the shows). Who’d have thought it? Zegna: the hotbed of innovation in Milan.
At the other end of the spectrum, however, was DSquared2. It was so traumatic, I’ll just type what happened: Curtains pulled back to reveal a tropical scene with a crashed wartime plane, overgrown with plants; centre stage was a waterfall, underneath which stood a model in tight white swim briefs, presumably meant to be a pilot coping with the traumas of war by acting sexy.
What followed was a procession of the sort of clothes you’d expect to see on a budget airline flight back from Majorca, from white trousers cropped mid-calf to vests. The final model had a real parrot on his shoulder, the bird enduring the hundred-odd flashbulbs fired by the photographers at the end of the catwalk. Then, in place of identical twin designers Dean and Dan Caten, identical twin boys – who looked less than 10 years old – dressed in their image were sent out to take the bow. The designers themselves eventually ran out to join them. All I could think was, “get me out of here.”
Sometimes prayers are answered. As of Wednesday, menswear moves to Paris.