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Milan’s men’s clothing shows signs of a renaissance

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MILAN – If 15 months away from live fashion has taught us anything, it’s that watching fashion digitally is as satisfying as pretending to have dinner while looking out a restaurant window. “You have to see it, smell it, smell it,” said Nick Sullivan, Esquire’s creative director, on Saturday afternoon in a hot pan in Milan.

Stopping to smoke a cigarette next to a few streetcar tracks following a Dolce & Gabbana show, Mr Sullivan pondered his decision to join the trailer traveling to the shows the creators are starting, with great caution. , to be staged here and in Paris, as these cities slowly emerge from the darker days of the pandemic.

“Digital can be fantastic,” said Sullivan. Yet like a good meal eaten with the eyes alone, it invariably makes you hungrier. Milan relies on its position as Italian capital of fashion for its economic health and cultural vitality.

“For me, the resumption of live shows instead of digital events is particularly relevant because it gives meaning to what I’m doing and a sense of reality,” Giorgio Armani said in an email. “It’s also important for the city.

“Milan is a city that lives on gatherings, be it Fashion Week or Salone del Mobile,” he added, referring to a giant furniture fair that injects millions into the local economy.

Not only the titular ‘king’ of Italian fashion, Mr. Armani proved to be a prophetic industry leader when, in February 2020, he made the controversial decision to cancel his live-action women’s show and organize one behind closed doors without an audience.

“I had this hunch that putting on a show at that point might not be a good idea,” Mr. Armani said. “It’s hard to express because, in the end, what I did was follow my instinct, the same instinct that has guided me all my life.

These instincts prompted the creator to be the first among his colleagues to announce a return to live entertainment, a significant gesture of optimism in one of Italy’s hardest-hit regions – and in a city with high rates of Unemployment have reached new heights, hotels are half empty and vacant, and the windows of the Golden Quadrangle, the epicenter of luxury consumption in Milan, are barricaded.

Not everyone agreed with his decision to forgo a show. “Some even criticized me, saying I was exaggerating,” Armani said. “But time has proven me right, and now for the same reason I think it’s important to go back to live shows to give a sign of hope and restart our system.”

In many ways, the resumption of catwalks here – Etro, Armani and Dolce & Gabbana were the barometers – and in Paris is a foray into the future of global fashion. While digital and its toolkit are clearly here to stay, there will almost certainly be a return to live shows and fashion weeks which, especially at the start of the pandemic, have been the subject of criticism. as emblems of glut and also potential super-diffusion events.

“Live shows are a must,” said Alessandro Sartori, artistic director of Ermenegildo Zegna, during a preview of his spring 2022 menswear show at Zegna headquarters. “Since then, we have learned a lot about digital as a tool. Very early on, Mr. Sartori turned to shows shot in the form of films, discovering hidden talents as a filmmaker and screenwriter along the way.

“We found that digital helps broaden and deepen the experience of the fashion audience,” he said. “But maybe we don’t need shows with 1,000 people who nobody knows why most of them are there. Maybe we have shows with 300 people, but those are the good 300. ”

It’s unclear who it might be, but anyone lucky enough to be in on the action will find that designers weren’t wasting downtime cleaning the sock drawer. Mr. Sartori’s 15-month hiatus resulted in some of the most creative designs of his career. For a long time, Zegna was like Ever Given, an immutably stuck monster waiting for the tides to change. Lockdown turned out to be the tide.

Shot in a labyrinth outside Turin, the Ermenegildo Zegna collection has extended the experiments that the designer began a season ago in clothing forms which, although not new, which he deploys in ways that challenge our reflection on the traditional boundaries between work and play, inside and out, which modify the tropes of clothing as markers of class.

The boiler combinations are obviously not for the boardroom. Or they weren’t until Mr. Sartori gave this most polished piece of clothing a makeover, transforming it into bespoke modular elements that read as connected, and which are rendered – like a sartorial trompe-l’oeil – in processed calfskin as fine as paper, recycled vegetable fibers, hemp or wool jacquard with abstract patterns and in colors that barely register as such. That is, with the exception of the roses that ASAP Rocky, among others, seems to like.

Some of the more delicate elements, like the internal adjustable belt closures on the kimono-style jackets (and with the single-stitched kimono sleeves), looked miserable, as did the slingback sneakers and protective rubber hems on the pants. wider than the Oxford. Bags. Personally speaking, the point of the lockdown pounds that many of us have added is not to succumb to stretchy clothes but to lose them. “Clothes can be overbearing,” a front row wag said. Is it so bad?

Desks – get up and go to one – have become a pretty abstract proposition over the past year and a half, at least among those of us fortunate enough to have paid jobs. At Prada, it sometimes seemed like dressing for work wasn’t high on the list of design considerations. This was still the case for the spring 2022 collection. Namely: a collection built almost entirely around what looked like shorts or onesies.

Miuccia Prada and her collaborator Raf Simons wrote in their pre-show notes about utopia, personal freedom and the childish joy of “going to the beach”. Without wanting to rain on anyone’s vacation fantasy, reality tends to creep in. Eager like all of us to feel liberated and carefree, it seems premature to bring out the shovels and buckets of sand.

As always, there is often a lot to admire about the way Ms. Prada, in particular, alters the proportions of clothing to conceal and reveal different elements of the human form. This is especially true when she dresses for men. Next to Rick Owens, no designer tries more consistently and incisively on the fragility of masculinity as a concept. (Remember Mr. Owens ‘collection with cuckoo cutouts exposing guys’ genitals?)

Here, the models’ skinny legs stepping out of cropped pants under square jackets looked like a meta-commentary on the fragile construction of gender binaries. For both men and women, pant legs are empowering and protective. Remove them and suddenly the wearer seems freer, of course, but also more vulnerable.

It seems certain that the boys at TikTok will eagerly embrace this Prada collection, just as the label’s demons will take hold of plunging-edge bobs (and zippered storage pockets) and nautical motif prints (mermaids, octopuses, anchors) looking like a vintage tattoo flash. Those who look to Prada for the enduring basics that are in fact the foundation of the brand will have to wait until next season, when the offices reopen and the designers, along with the rest of us, are once again confronted with the reality of the brand. workplace.

For Walter Chiapponi, the designer of Tod’s, realigning this reality was a strengthening starting point. “I’m pretty punk,” Mr. Chiapponi said during a preview of the collection held at Tod’s headquarters in an elegant palace on Corso Venezia.

Tod’s would hardly seem like a good place for a punk sensibility. Still, with Mr. Chiapponi the latest in a succession of talented menswear designers (most notable of them Andrea Incontri), the brand may have found a good spot. Ripping and then recombining sleek elements from a sportsman’s wardrobe – zipped canvas jackets, others rendered in an abbreviated safari style or suede or parachute nylon windbreakers – he made a strong case for bring in the outside. khaki shorts, please.)

Mr Chiapponi took inspiration from playboy adventurer Peter Beard and, indeed, pointed out a mandatory mood board pinned with images of the industrious photographer and columnist who, while nowhere near as hereditarily rich as his obituaries and his legend had it, never worked at a desk job a day in his life. “I love the beauty of this kind of freedom,” Mr. Chiapponi said. Isn’t that all of us?

Duty, rather than freedom, was on Giorgio Armani’s mind this season, as he ran an industry he helped create from the pandemic. “Let’s not forget that ready-to-wear was invented in Milan in the 1970s, another moment of crisis that Italians overcame with flashes of fantasy, invention and hard work,” he said. -he declares.

Fantasy was rare in Milan this week, unless you counted the acid trip motifs and the Emerald City palette of Kean Etro’s delightful spectacle set live on a dusty and disused downtown railroad tracks. Mr. Armani’s show was also presented in person, in the 18th century palace where some of his earliest shows were held and where he still lives, indeed, above the shop.

As if to remind everyone how fresh the Armani look used to be – in the bygone era of the “American Gigolo” where all the soft and sexy elements of Milanese style (adapted from Neapolitan tailoring) were new to the world. – he took it over for a group of 80 guests. At 87 years old and recently recovered from a broken arm in a recent fall, Mr. Armani looked fiery and vigorous like never before. Her clothes also looked cooler than they have been in years.

The balance he found between finely proportioned pants, with their slightly dropped crotch, offset by light, neat silk bombers or unlined jackets, spoke of an invigorated Armani. A child of wartime Italy annealed by harsh experience – he died of starvation and was temporarily blinded as a child by unexploded ordnance – Mr. Armani has a lot of backbone.

When asked during a post-show meetup why he thought returning to live shows was so important, he put on a confident smile. “Because I love it!”

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