Listen to this article
Donatella Versace has unity on her mind. Her menswear show for autumn/winter 2017, she said, was about brotherhood, men coming together for a positive common cause. It’s an intuitive proposition. In her womenswear, Versace has connected to a new audience by talking about the power of women, and their intrinsic strength. The women’s narrative fits with the story of Donatella herself. Now, she seems to have found a way to tell that story for men, too.
The fashion that told the narrative was a mix of tailoring and more informal clothing, the common theme of major label menswear. Here was a new suit block, cut sleek to the body. Tailored coats had volume from a pleat back, nylon trenches had their shape exaggerated by a tightly belted waist. Then there were shearling coats worn over plaid shirts, blanket coats that wrapped the body, nylon zip-ups with a new print rather similar to the cover of Michael Jackson’s Dangerous. Most compelling were coats and knits that took from African textiles, especially a white coat with a repeat pattern in black of squares inside squares, interlocking.
The opening model was black. The catwalks in Milan have finally become more diverse, and this was a strong statement of how this should be a normality. Just before the show, I walked past a demonstration in Piazza Sempione. It was a fenced-in crowd, mostly dressed in black, who were chanting and waving flags with the initials FN. I googled: they were supporters of Forza Nuova, a far-right party. How terrifying, and how important is every single authentic statement of acceptance that any cultural form can make.
At Marni, Francesco Risso made an excellent debut that had a simplicity, charm and freshness. Wool houndstooth coats were crumpled. A patch pocket duster coat was like that of a janitor. The horizontal beige stripes on a pale blue sweater were picked out in black. Pleat pants had great volume. Some suits looked like pyjamas. The collection had great energy.
Backstage, Risso said hello, but then was grabbed by Renzo Rosso, whose OTB Group bought a majority stake in Marni in 2012, then took full control of the brand in 2015, with founder Consuelo Castiglioni quitting last year. He wanted a picture with Risso, “for my Instagram,” he said. Then Risso’s mother came and grabbed him by the cheek. Someone else greeted him. I got his attention back. “I’m all over the place,” he said. “A bit like this collection.” He meant it in a good way — he wanted it to be a hodgepodge of ideas, reflecting different personalities. I said to him that it had the right sense of naivety. “Yes that’s exactly it.”
Today’s discussion: pants. Things are getting really wide from the waist down. It’s something that was seen often in London (Craig Green, E Tautz, Liam Hodges, Per Gotesson), and is now solidifying with the Italian big guns. Wide pants were dominant at Ermenegildo Zegna Couture last night. Today they were all over Emporio Armani and the showroom of Brunello Cucinelli. No small fry.
We are talking pleats that are single, double or triple. They were all over Emporio Armani, and most convincing in formal cloths. By now it should be no novelty that the prevalent mood in menswear is a formal/casual mix, and here a soft structured double-breasted blazer looked interchangeable with a zip-up technical jacket, sneakers on the feet. The wide pleat pants acted as a unifier.
Brunello Cucinelli had already debuted his AW17 collection earlier in the week at Pitti in Florence, but he brought the pieces to Milan for those of us who were in other lands. The headline story: pleat pants. “Trousers really do change the outfit,” said Cucinelli, talking through a translator. “You have a blazer that is very tapered, and then it starts getting wider with the trouser. The silhouette is more flattering.”
Indeed, the look was roomy and relaxed, though the trouser still tapered to hold at the ankle. They looked great in corduroy, though maybe pleats were less necessary on denim drawstring pants. Other looks matched blazers with trackpants. Another signifier of this casual shift: Cucinelli was suggesting hiking boots for wearing in the city, as have many others in Milan. But whenever fashion takes on something functional, there’s always another option. Go and buy the real thing, from a brand like Scarpa, instead.