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That sweaters-worn-with-tailoring movement that started at the London menswear shows continues apace in Milan. At Ermenegildo Zegna Couture, the label set up by the brand for Stefano Pilati, the opening handful of looks were shirt and tie, but things really started to make sense when they were swapped for a crewneck. Lose the tie and a new reality sets in.

Pilati said he was thinking about the purpose of the label itself. “We had discussions about how the business was going,” he said, “the fact that we have leadership in made-to-measure and how we can present and translate it onto a catwalk. I was like, guys, our line is called Couture.” Hence tailoring focused clothing that was real, but elevated.

It’s the right move for the label, which had previously tried to be a fashion driver, something that had not gelled with the tailoring backbone of the Zegna business. Here for the most part were actual pieces rather than styling ideas, at its best when the mood was understated. A long line, single deck, double-breasted jacket looked great over a crewneck sweater; a sweet zip-up bomber had cashmere sleeves. The softer it was, the more covetable the garment, especially a grey wool knitted jacket and a cardi-jacket that looked right for an elder gentleman tending his garden — life goals.

Elsewhere there was a concentration on highly realised fabrics: jacquards that mixed together pattern, fil coupé cotton poplin shirts. Is it too much like Oscar the Grouch to wish there’d been a bit less of it? The complexities sometimes jarred the overall precision. A few of the sweaters were embellished and beaded, which is fine, but not something that goes anywhere. Models came with numbers attached somewhere on their clothing, presumably a riff on couture shows of yore where each look was numbered. It was an unnecessary trick, especially for anyone looking at these clothes in image alone. But Pilati seemed in a good place. This new approach suits him, and the brand.

Over at the showrooms of Brunello Cucinelli, it was all sweaters worn with tailoring. Cardigans too — is this something new for him? No, said the representative, there are always cardigans here. Oh. But there are less ties than before, right? More sweaters? Yes, said the representative. Phew.

Cashmere trackpants are already a big seller for Cucinelli. Here there were more styles of sneaker, new softer tailoring, a slam dunk for customers of this very cleverly cultivated world. Zip across town and Ralph Lauren Purple Label was approximately 60 per cent sweaters, which were apparently hand-knitted to give them volume and also lessen the weight. When there was shirt and tie, such as that worn with a grey flannel suit, it was like playing camouflage in Prince of Wales check. Distractions were everywhere, such as some skis that were for some reason inspired by the dashboard of Lauren’s Bugatti, or good ol’ male supermodel Lucky Blue in a shaggy dog shearling like he’d been attacked by a collie.

But standing at the back, minding his own business, was a model in a charcoal car coat, worn over a simple charcoal crewneck. He looked ready to quit the joint and head out to brunch somewhere in Manhattan. That’s right everyone, it’s the weekend. Real life is happening outside this bubble, right now. The look was crisp, clear, precise and the best in the room.

A quick mention for Iceberg, where British designer James Long made a strong debut. He connected both with the vivid optimism of the brand as well as its technical abilities. Rainbows went across everything. Long hand-drew a Mickey Mouse that appeared on sweaters and sweatshirts. He was particularly happy with fine knits which changed the direction of pattern all in the same piece. He fits with the label, they seem to like him. Everyone, for once, was happy.

For more reports from the shows, go to our fashion weeks page on FT.com

Photograph: Catwalking.com

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