I often wonder what the head of an atelier must think at the start of workroom construction before a show season. "You want this collar cut in what fabric???" "You want this jacket cut how much above the hip???" The pace in menswear is now moving more like the hare and less like the tortoise with the end results looking to be more like the celebrated reptile. However, what was often celebrated, often attractive in menswear, was the time it took to create and cultivate a tailored work of art. So if you look at today and see how quickly life moves then you either assimilate or retreat. Fortunately the pace of life, for some reason or another, proves attractive to survival so its not so much about retreating as it is about making sure you keep up with the pace. For this reason, adaptation is admirable to stay relevant technologically, socially and, if you are going to be hitting the technologically advanced social scene, fashionably.
So those atelier heads may scoff but they inevitably have to 'get it'. That causes me to ask "in what way is the familiar remaining relevant, if at all?" Reshifting, Restyling and Resizing the perspective comes to mind. Apparently, it came into the minds and onto the runways of the designers behind the darkly beautiful collections for men during the Milan Mens Collections for Fall 2013. Designers showed collections that were invigorated with traditional menswear silhouettes and styles executed in the impeccable Italian manner. It's impossible to look at Milan and not be enamored with perfect tailoring. However, instead of just subscribing to one movement, there was a mixture of trendy, classic, modern, country themes, military, luxury and leisure that all conspired together to create a crazy, sexy and cool Milan.
Tailoring was in high form at the classic houses of Salvatore Ferragamo, Brioni, Canali and Ermenegildo Zegna. Ferragamo was full of great dark-toned wearable pieces perfect for staple wardrobe building for new fashion enthusiasts while Canali had a touch of country gentleman, the Russian military and natty velvet suiting in its immaculate textured line-up that remained polished yet cozy. Brioni was tailoring perfection in trim shapes and familiar colors revamped for the luxurious needs of a modern enlightened man and the sublime tailoring at Zegna was nicely updated with perfect outerwear shapes and details and unconventional fabric weaves dripping in dark-hued luxe. Tailoring was also in high form at DSquared2, Giorgio and Emporio Armani, Bottega Veneta and Roberto Cavalli but fueled with a bit more exploration for the more expressive sartorial gent.
The clothes at DSquared2 were for the young informed guy who mixes the familiarities of tailored clothing and modern ways to wear it through layer and proportion. The cropped pants and cropped fuller cut dropped crotch jeans looked absolutely right when paired with the tack sharp shrunken plaid jackets & vests, tall brogues, skyward hats and studious eyeglasses. On the all black model casting it was a story of a dapper collegiate attuned to his ivy league rarity, perceived stereotypes and maybe a bit of jazz and conscious hip hop attached for good measure. Armani showed a tactile romp at both Giorgio and Emporio that was deliciously Armani in how he cut his new jacket made of a pristine quilting that hugged like a second skin. The cozy textured knits, soft strong velvet coats and cross-over pleat fluid trousers all in a romantic and sinewy color palette added balance and strength to the Armani man instead of softening him. Maier showed great tailoring at Bottega Veneta especially when executed in a wool reminiscent of leather in soft-tone pastels and the blanket plaid fabrics with abbreviated prints were really nicely done. Roberto Cavalli's tailoring was inky and sexy. For Fall he doesn't abandon his animal love though he tones down the print this season and opts for animal textures like croc, embossed reptilians and broadtail. Gucci was a bit cheeky this season with 'bird on branch' prints on jackets and pants, but still quite attractive; as always the 60' and 70's inspired tailoring was stellar and the color refreshing.
The Italian houses showed amazing outerwear this season. Moncler Gamme Bleu was super cheeky but also more plausibly wearable than previous seasons with the integration of Scottish plaids with tech sport elements and great cable knit pants and blazers. And speaking of tech and outerwear, Sporty Tech Chic was definitely on full blast in Milan. Calvin Klein's colors were inky and moody and the fabrics technical yet easy as sportswear got the ultra refined and sublimely textural treatment from Zuccheli's well-trained eye. Trussardi went into the woods with an outerwear heavy collection with sweet leather executions, a wonderful fall color palette and nods to hunting details.
Bally presented a luxed-out ode to sherpa style or Matthew Henson with fluffy fur trimmed & chunky knit revelry and pristine finishings, buttery leathers and novelty printed woven wool separates. Fendi showed a bit of everything like fat plush furs, textured knits, sporty luxe separates and plush suiting, complete with whimsy. A Fendi favorite of mine was a coat with a wool heat transferred into its buttery leather. Burberry Prorsum may be going through some winds of change but it's best when Christopher Bailey is not stifled. The fit of his vinyl outerwear was perfection. The cheeky sweaters with hearts and cozy spongey barrel-esque coats were fresh and looked inviting.
Milan was not without the progressives either; those designers that infuse whimsy, art and intelligence into their collections. Prada offered a collection of nice and easy fresh-shaped sportswear in great cropped proportions with a cool intelligent air and the right amount of 'something' that just made the simple clothing work. Iceberg livened up a dark Milan with wonderful Harlequin-esque prints on great-fitting sweaters and Marni showed artsy fun and smart clothing with whimsy, a favorite being a trim car coat with a pony back. I absolutely loved Raf but I'm oh so glad Jil is back doing Jil Sander. There were some great pieces in this collection with just enough topical design thrown in without forgetting the shape. These clothes were meant to be worn and loved when they're worn. The overly large collars were an interesting design element for a look without a scarf and the faded chalk-lines on top of the textured wools were appropriately minimal and fresh. Andrea Pompilio was for a conflicted geeky genius who loves art and has eclectic tastes. His print pairings were fresh and quite fun with the overall effect being very wearable and studiously refreshing.
It was hard not to see the Etro, Belstaff, Missoni, Kenzo and Varvatos shows and not want half the looks you saw. Etro was a wild romp through sultans, tapestries, harems, Byzantium, glam rock and technicolor dreamcoats. The paisley-printed velvets, thick herringbone-twill double faced wools and tapestry coats like expanded wall coverings were a no-holds barred mixing of cultural opulences that looked exhilarating and well-suited for being integrated with classic menswear. With Belstaff, don't go to the racetrack, integrate your racetrack into your closet! The techie leather pants were pretty damn near perfect and the racing and subtle military details on jackets were done in an attractive rib-quilted leather, wool and nylon. It was a superb quality outerwear romp in techie luxe fabrics for the sartorial gent who may know a thing or two about roughing it or even drag-stripping.
Missoni, like Etro, was oh so covetable. The perfect execution of 'knits as not looking like a knit' and the infusion of color, print and texture was inspiring. Kenzo was a fun dance through cheekiness, prints and whimsy on top of easy to wear shapes. Of note were some great sharp tailoring in shark-skinned flossy colors. John Varvatos' love affair with Rock & Roll still exists. He showed nice pieces for layering with that had great depth on their own like a popcorn treatment to wool coats and the seamless blend of colors on wools and leather that created an odd kind of artistic distressing. Marc Jacobs has the knack for pulling from all different movements and making a fresh 'not quite so discernible' look. There was a bit of cadet, a bit of rockabilly, some German/Northern European influence, some Teddy Boy, some punk and some Parisian intelligentsia. Those all conspired to create utterly wearable clothes like pared down cadet striped trousers, officers coats and Nordic knits.
Dolce & Gabbana, Versace, Vivienne Westwood and Umit Benan were all themed romps which show that a Milanese runway can highlight an experience. The experience on the Dolce & Gabbana runway continues from last season with artsy but conceivably wearable clothes for real men. The romantic touches, gorgeous embroidery and the religious iconography was kind of like a Sicilian's take on the Givenchy aesthetic but not to be confused with copycatting. Versace rehashed the houses 80's verve with full complete with Greek serifs, graffiti, all over animal prints, 'Meteorman' style spray painted and 'Haring' style block prints. A hidden sensuality was showcased as intricate lace boxer shorts and sleeveless tops were plugged under strong oversized menswear shapes like full robes and officer's coats. Vivienne Westwood was classically herself in that she channels the verve in London together with her tenured genius. She offered a variety of takes on punky and traditional British aesthetics all guised under a socially conscious green global agenda. Umit Benan didn't let his new stint at Trussardi slow his signature line down. He showed a tactilely interesting collection with great geometric fabrics, fuzzy wool plaid suitings and almost court jester-like approach to smart clothes that were fun yet had this incredible underlying sumptuous genius to them. For some crazy reason, the juxtaposition sort of reminded me of 'A Clockwork Orange or Batman's The Joker, both bizarre and intelligent.
Many looks to love from Milan for Fall 2013. Of honorable mention were the cheeky French chic with military and sporty touches at Les Hommes, the soft wool and nylon as blocky armor at Ports 1961, the geometric sliced sweaters and blocky suits at Neil Barrett and the balanced playfulness of funked up tuxes and dressed up punky plaids at Moschino. However, while a little more wild side is coming out of Milan it's comforting to know that the city can still be influenced to dress the world but remain comfortable in pleasing the attention to cut and craft held by the accommodating atelier.
*Photos Courtesy of Style.com.