The bi-annual Milan menswear fashion week, Milano Moda Uomo, is always a thrill to follow, and this year is no different. Four tightly-packed days of shows offered a plethora of contrasting styles and preoccupations, with a variety that is satisfying – even overwhelmingly so.
There were debonair suits and silk pyjamas, throwback roll necks and futuristic foil, cowboy-inspired ensembles and biker outfits, Oriental accents and tropes like the dapper Englishman and even the hunter-gatherer.
The colours displayed this season make an apropos parallel to the diversity seen throughout the Milan menswear shows. As though summer is already here, we saw the usually subdued Neil Barrett put out saturated reds and yellows, and Versace sending out a brutish model in a powdery lilac coat. Fendi and Gucci dipped their looks in the flavourful palette of ’70s Italian wallpaper, giving even the rainbow colours seen in Vivienne Westwood‘s whimsical fare some serious competition.
Even the colour blue, used so heavily in Fall/Winter seasons, turned up in all hues: the faded denim of Roberto Cavalli, the midnight shades of Ermenegildo Zegna, the plasticky aquamarine of Dirk Bikkembergs, the pastel periwinkle of Versace, the mélange of cobalt and navy of Missoni; the list goes on.
Amidst this heterogeneity, however, was a clear through line: luxury. It sounds like no surprise: these are top of the line designer brands! But when even Vivienne Westwood‘s collection looks polished, this is news. There wasn’t one look that seemed “intentionally shabby”; even designers for which an earthy ruggedness is part of the aesthetic, like Giorgio Armani, Calvin Klein, and Dolce & Gabbana, communicated that through richly appointed furs, tailored denim, and fine, glossy textures.
THEMES & TRENDS
Which brings us to one of the most recognisable trends in the Milan menswear shows: the use of shiny material. Besides the reflective foil used by Calvin Klein and Donatella Versace as shorthand for the future, the glossy fabrics so frequently employed this season were analogues for luxury. Dress pants from Ermenegildo Zegna, Corneliani, Daks, and Emporio Armani had silky finishes that caught the eye. Even Canali, whose profile is generally muted, walked a model out with glossy combed cowhide jackets in brown and navy.
Coupled with this trend is a departure from androgyny, so popular on the SS16 runways. Throughout the collections here in Milan was a distinct emphasis on manliness, machismo, and masculinity. This was best captured in the serendipitous double nod to the wild West, with Antonio Marras citing as his inspiration a dusty Italian town established simply for filming spaghetti Westerns, and Dolce & Gabbana paying homage to the great Sergio Leone.
Marras‘ men, clad in tight-fitting vested suits pieced together from several cloths, were sometimes threateningly masked with ornately embroidered bandanas. While Dolce & Gabbana‘s take on the cowboy was verging on cartoonish, their models showed off chiseled physiques in overalls that constitutes underwear in most minds, and at times invoked an almost animal virility in their furry satyric leggings.
Other designers asserted masculinity via established tropes. Giorgio Armani and Jil Sander draped large scarves and sarapes over their hunters, the latter even dressing models like bowmen of medieval times. Diesel Black Gold, Les Hommes, Emporio Armani, Dirk Bikkembergs, Philipp Plein and Costume National all channeled the rebellious biker, fitting their models with full black leather ensembles, top-heavy jackets that broadened their V-tapered backs, as well as chaps bearing contrasting patterns where guards would traditionally be.
The dapper gentleman, another popular trope, is no fop this season. Dirk Bikkemberg‘s evening wear consisted of a white blouson under a full-blown Motocross bodysuit, a zip-up windbreaker cape and a bow tie. The Brioni man earns a fur-lined parka hood over his double-breasted suit. Daks did dress a model in an Edwardian shirt that’s all sheer save the front panel and cuffs, but it served only to accentuate his hunky physique. Many of Canali‘s models walked out with hands gloved in leather and hair slicked back, wearing squarish glasses and ties firmly secured to their collars – exuding a self-effacing but definite masculinity that reminded us of Clark Kent.
Even the romantic man exuded a distinct manliness. Prada‘s sailors, albeit slight in stature, seemed ready to hop on the deck. Capes – another key trend this season – gave them a sweeping gallantry, a dramatically heroic feel. Marcelo Burlon, Ermenegildo Zegna, Giorgio Armani, and Diesel Black Gold all used capes to that effect.
Most notorious is Thom Browne‘s full camouflage collection for Moncler Gamme Bleu. The models had an eerie air of menace, with their faces covered either in paint or balaclavas. With the Paris terrorist attacks of last November still fresh on our minds, this intense demonstration of masculinity was perhaps too much to take.
OUR FAVOURITE DESIGNERS
It certainly is hard to pick winners and losers in Milan – the shows were consistently intriguing, marketable, and beautiful to simply look at. Props go to Dolce & Gabbana, whose comprehensive 79-look collection had barely a false note. Their “live broadcast”, taken on tablets and phones by the models of themselves walking down the runway, was a tribute to Sergio Leone fitting of the #selfie era we live in.
Versace‘s 60-look collection was also consistently breathtaking, a performance so good you wonder where her head was in summer. The colours alone – a silvery grey, a pastel blue, a soft lilac, and some ski-resort foil – are enough to put her on top of the deck. The ensembles were sporty in the most classy sense, and so flattering to the male form. Donatella’s moto jackets, in pristine white or classic black, paired beautifully with skin-tight leggings, and with suit and tie – just one example of an intra-collection fluidity and harmony that requires the expertise of a longstanding designer.
Last but not least, the most underrated of Italy’s houses – Salvatore Ferragamo. Massimiliano Giornetti‘s genius was hard to ignore as each model walked down the runway looking like Fellini-era movie stars. There is wonderful warmth to his designs, perhaps from the saturated ochres, burnt oranges, and reds he employs, but perhaps also from a perfect execution of proportion that makes every ensemble so genial to the eye.
Long coats ended just above the knee, and despite being paired with skinny cut pants, they never seemed heavy. Sometimes they came with flared collars and plackets that flowed freely to the footfalls of the models, adding to that easy charisma of a leading man. With an eye for colour and pairing, busy interlocking geometrics, impressionist portraits, and classic checks and stripes fit right into the larger ensemble, never upstaging the whole look nor going to waste. The fabrics were luscious – the kind you wish you had your hands on – adding a nuanced luxury that didn’t weigh down the carefree attitude of the collection. Bravissimo, Signore Giornetti.