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The opening day of the Milan shows for spring/summer 2016 continued London’s story of work that is best when reflecting reality. At Ermenegildo Zegna Couture, Stefano Pilati sent out a collection of clarity and conviction. His theme was the lightness and transparency of fabric, but what mattered was the believability of the clothes themselves. Suits had a languid line, the trousers loose. Zip-up blousons stopped at an exact point at the waist. Many of the looks were monochrome — all black, all white. A madras check elevated things further.
The evening before the show, we met for tea. Pilati had spoken about his desire for easiness and fluidity from the cloth. He also wanted to use madras in a way that wasn’t preppy. This meant a zip-up from tailoring cloth woven grey on the upper side, madras the lower, the check visible faintly through the body. One summer coat came with an exploded madras, another the check micro-sized.
Pilati talked about his relationship with fashion as he approaches his 50th birthday. When he moved to Berlin a few years ago, he thought he would mature into a constant uniform of Charvet shirts and old Helmut Lang jeans, taking himself away from the jolts of fashion. It didn’t last. Almost immediately, he went out and bought a men’s skirt from Yohji Yamamoto. Fashion still holds a pull over him.
Pilati’s current work is to introduce this fashion mentality to Zegna, a sober label favoured by men of middle age. It’s something he will manage if he continues in this vein, cutting silhouettes that are no-brainer in their appeal. The collection felt assured and adult. Pilati himself said he’d wear it. There’d be many men who would agree.
Wearability: there were some great utility pocket jackets at Marni, neat blazers, good sweaters. It was that look of considered thought: matching a buttoned-up blue shirt with a darker tone tailored trouser, cute oversized ribbed sweaters. Stores favour the brand because it’s an easy sell. It’s only the second time Marni has shown its menswear on the catwalk, upgrading from its previous presentations. There’s reality here. Maybe there could be a bit more excitement.
It was a good season at Emporio Armani, where the sports details were present and correct: cuffed pants, cupro zip-up hoodies, trenches that looked technical but were actually silk. Paisley was a repeat motif, tailoring was double-breasted, colours were blue, grey and green. It worked.
A quick spin round some presentations. Brunello Cucinelli showed a fine balance between tailoring, like an ultralight herringbone blazer woven in cotton, and casual zip-ups, like a waterproof silk blouson, or a perforated suede jacket. This designer has long been walking the tailoring/sports path — it feels a very Cucinelli season.
Across town, Ralph Lauren returned to Milan with his Purple Label. It was great to see his work again in the European show context, though of course not much really ever changes in the Lauren world — a compliment. If anything, this presentation was a chance to refresh on his flamboyancy, now taken for granted. Alongside the pinstripe tailoring and business suits, a model was dressed in a denim safari suit, open but still belted. Beneath was a striped sweater, on his legs some apple green chinos. Let’s recap: denim safari jacket; apple green chinos. Another wore a croc zip-up with orange jeans. Nearby was a guy on a woven leather zip-up, his pants vivid yellow. Interesting how a designer can be so defined by unexpected ways with specific colour.
Versace’s menswear has been having particular recent success by reflecting its own special reality. It’s spring/summer 16 collection was especially nimble, going from tailoring to tracksuits via a desert tour of safari pockets and draped lengths. Oh and some underwear too. Unstructured tailoring still held a strong V silhouette, while blousons had been slashed like a Fontana. Those tracksuits were particularly desirable. Each had Versace’s Medusa logo at the chest, a knowing decision recognising the place that Versace intersects with cult brands like Palace Skateboards and Supreme.
Their models ran the gamut. Among them was Lucky Blue, a 17-year-old with 1.1m Instagram followers and young girls following him around Milan. Alongside him were Ivan de Pineda and Chris Walters models now in their late 30s, not household names but immediately familiar to anyone who read the early issues of Arena Homme Plus in the mid-90s. It was great to see a spread of age on the catwalk, reflecting some form of reality.