On the final morning of the Milan men’s shows for autumn/winter 2014, you’d expect a pause to assess the season so far – one of some neat ideas, and no great surprises – and indeed, that is exactly what Giorgio Armani provided.
There was much of the city-smart casual wear that has dominated the catwalks of Milan: suits worn without ties; tonal layering of the same shade in one look; smart trousers with an elasticated trackpant waistband. Aside from his signature soft-shouldered suits, there was particular interest in knits, from a zip-up cardigan (an Armani no-brainer) to a knit biker jacket (convincing), and even a muscle knit with a diagonal zip slashing through it (worthwhile experiment). It was Mr Armani in his comfort zone: creating pieces that please both customers and himself.
But wait – there’s a model being dragged down the catwalk in a straitjacket! For autumn/winter 14, Dsquared2’s show concept was a prison. Models lurked in cell doors, and because obviously jail temperatures are hot in January, they took their tops off. As they stripped or pumped muscle, out came some neat trend pieces. You know the drill by now: city coats, quilted jackets, trackpants (here in denim). On the soundtrack was Cypress Hill’s “Insane In The Brain”. It made me think I should try and get past the first chapter of Michel Foucault’s History Of Madness.
Then came the jolt. Z Zegna presented a fashion show unlike any seen at the Milan men’s show this season. And by fashion, I mean fashion: a fast, uncompromised, focused and thrilling parade of clothing. It was as if designer Paul Surridge had decided he had nothing to lose. Suits were skinny and striped or checked, with high buttoning jackets, and high cropped trousers, sometimes worn atop rollnecks, other times shirts of a different stripe or colour and – in this non-tie season – ties. As a styling touch, garters were worn on the bicep. It gave the outfits a strange and interesting tension.
The collection excelled in making tailoring seem young and relevant. It also presented commercial pieces – padded coats, neat sweaters – among those with a lifespan not much longer than the catwalk show. Its only real link to anything else that had gone on in Milan was those rollnecks, an omnipresent look. Otherwise, Z Zegna was out on its own. If only for energy alone, it could be the show of the Milan season.
Now, Paris awaits.