At the Versace menswear show in Milan, energy was everything. It was the brand’s first since September’s Tribute collection, a womenswear show to commemorate the 20th anniversary of founder Gianni Versace’s death. Archive pieces were faithfully recreated, ending with supermodels Carla Bruni, Claudia Schiffer, Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford and Helena Christensen in metal mesh dresses.
It happened four months ago, but the show created a forward propulsion within the house that is still palpable. Here, artistic director Donatella Versace played with prints and pattern, cutting them up and reappropriating them on a range of strong product. Velvet shirts came in an archive heraldic print, as did a padded velvet jacket of wide and deep quilting. Want it more normal? Later it came in orange nylon.
Sharp plaid tailoring echoed the look at Charles Jeffrey Loverboy in London a week ago, and had similar vim. The plaids often came cut up, with clashing colours on a quilted lumberjack shirt or a women’s blazer. Then quick, it was on to the next idea. Schoolboy V-neck sweaters were worn under slick tailoring, trousers cut short. Versace football shirts hugged the body. The final look had a black Versace dressing gown. Many of the models wore a new pumped up sneaker, the stacked sole of which was in the pattern of a chain.
Before the show, Donatella Versace seemed happy and relaxed. For a year now, various rumours have swirled about possible succession at the house. If there were a succession, it would be with Ms Versace’s approval, since the family still own 80% of the company. Let’s see what happens. Suffice to say, this was a collection of which she should be proud.
For the past year, Gucci have shown men’s with its womenswear. Buyers from the major men’s say their Gucci business is booming. The Gucci model is the clearest argument against the existence of separate men’s shows, since the men buying its garments don’t need to see them on a menswear catwalk. The economics are clear: save money on a show, profit more from sales.
But these brands still can’t quite kick the men’s show habit. Gucci held appointments to show its pre-fall 18 collection, which will enter stores before its catwalk collection and hang around longer. Pre-fall collections tend to be commercial, and such was the case here. Rare was the piece that didn’t have the brand’s name somewhere on it. The lettering was usually in fonts that look like the opening titles of 70s TV shows. Often they were also sewn with a patch of a rabbit or a pig, the kind you used to buy for kids clothes from a local haberdashery. The sort of haberdashery that’s long since shut down, most likely replaced by a Starbucks.
A cotton crewneck sweater was knitted with an Italian phrase that translated as “copy of a copy of an idea”. Nearby were a pair of stretch leggings. I have never before considered the construction of a pair of leggings. There are four panels, two at the front and two at the back. These Gucci men’s leggings were printed with a psychedelic natural scene. Thanks to the placement of the fabric, a large grasshopper emerged from the seam of the crotch. Out of the butt seam, a lily in full bloom.
Corduroy pants came in vivid shades of yellow and pink. A velvet blazer had been woven with the pattern of double Gs. Many garments — the back of tracksuits, a T-shirt — were decorated with a Latin phrase that translates as “perpetual privilege”. Such are the new signifiers of luxury. This was Gucci’s first collection since it announced it would no longer use fur. The breadth of product here shows no fur is no loss. Three years after creative director Alessandro Michele began his reign, it is clear there is much more of this rich seam to mine.
“It’s herringbone on herringbone on herringbone on herringbone on plaid,” said a member of the Ralph Lauren design team. He was talking about a look of layered cloth. These are the garments, in order of his description: coat, suit, waistcoat, tie, shirt. It was in the most pleasing moment of the Ralph Lauren presentation, along with a coat of herringbone that was wide enough for the pattern to almost disappear. It was a lovely thing.
Nearby, a cluster of models were dressed in the relaunched RLX, it’s sports range which was now being aligned with the high-end Purple Label. It’s the latest example of sportswear infiltrating the higher levels of luxury. The garments were suitably ramped up: technical fabrics mixed with more traditional and tailored ideas of sportswear.
Velvet: a fabric that’s back in play. Emporio Armani offered a velvet crash course, which is really pretty obvious. Velvet on the top half: go for it. Bottom half: be careful. Men and velvet usually equals eveningwear tuxedos, but we are now in a decorative menswear era. Velvet bombers: they could very well work.
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