Men’s – Mystery. Prada AW21

And just like that, we’ve got the second fruit of Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons‘ partnership at Prada – the autumn-winter 2021 collection for men. My first impressions are equal to the ones I had after their debut back in September: a cocktail of feelings. What hits first while watching the fashion show video is the pure mystery, something fashion has forgotten in the last couple of years. The set – a number of geometric chambers made of contrasting colours and textures – had you wonder if it reflects the indoors or outdoors. Or some sort of another dimension, maybe? The analogous sensation of contrasts (something Miuccia always loves) was delivered in the line-up: the oddest colour combinations that worked incredibly well, and clashing textures, from tactile camels and corduroys to synthetic PVC and nylons. Then, the question: who are those guys? Where are they heading to? In the post-show interview with selected students from all over the world, Simons highlighted that he and Miuccia aren’t working with themes. For them gestures, notions and the “unsaid” are much more important. And that keeps the mystery oozing from those characters, who in short video intervals are caught dancing to Plastikman’s soundtrack made specially for the show. Maybe they are raving in the post-COVID world where big gatherings are no longer remembered? As you see, the show sparks a fountain of questions (which don’t really need precise answers). For the clothes, there were some surprises, like knitted body-suits: those “long Johns”, as the designers called them, are body-hugging and “a little dangerous”. There was one take-away that felt distinctly Simons and new to Prada: the bomber jacket, a garment that’s present in Simons’ solo work since the beginning of his name-sake, Antwerp-based label. Another observation: of I course loved each of Miuccia’s men collections, but in the last couple of years there was something mature about them, very grown-up. And Simons, who’s forever youth-obsessed, balances that and invites a younger customer with some signature layered knits and outerwear. Good news: not a lot of logos this time, however, expect for the metal insignias on the patch of jackets and gloves (must-haves!). Similar to the womenswear show, which was like a tabula rasa, the men’s runway line-up featured all new models who had never appeared on a catwalk before. Some of them had home-cut, boyish bangs, just like Danny Torrance, the child character from Stanley Kubrick’s cult classic, The Shining. Who knows, maybe after alll Prada and Simons had that 1980 classic on their secret moodboard. The unsettling ambience of the show, the dramatic music, the unknown destination of the models, even some elements of the peculiar space… there might be some parallels with one of the greatest horrors in history (plus, we’ve seen Raf referring spooky film classics at Calvin Klein!). Summing up: Prada and Simons are warming up, and I’m sure with every season their dialogue will unfold even more intrigue.

“Live” collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Men’s – Updated Classics. Fendi AW21

While Kim Jones is about to present his vision at Fendi, menswear is Silvia Fendi‘s territory. This collection contained both examples of bed-to-bodega attire, along with gorgeous intarsia shearling coats and powerfully colored piumino pajamas. Hidden in plain sight among them was a look that Silvia Fendi laughingly conceded was arguably this season’s most transgressive: a black evening suit that was made extra thanks to its pajama-acknowledging blue piping and a louchely low double-breasted construction, but which was a black evening suit nonetheless. The collection was all about laid-back and relaxed feel, however layered with luxury. Camel hair topcoats; hooded shearlings; mink liner-jackets – that reflected a collection of pieces she called: “very tactile – so soft you can sleep in them – and also very functional. Clothes that make you feel good. Because I do think that fashion can have a therapeutic aspect.” Accessories included slipper-spats for seamless indoor-outdoor footwear functionality, and mini-trolleys to reflect our shrunken but still aspirational physical horizons. As Fendi demonstrated, many of the garments were reversible to double their dosage of potential therapy. And the population of patients who might benefit, she added, was purposefully broad: “To avoid that fashionista attitude, I like to consider menswear through many different men who keep their personality… I think in the future, fashion is going to be more individualistic, and I wanted to keep that idea in the show.” One attention grabbing aspect was the inclusion of artwork (including that cursive Fendi lettering) by Noel Fielding. Probably best known as a host of more recent series of The Great British Baking Show, Fielding is a stalwart of British alternative comedy – see The Mighty Boosh and The IT Crowd – of whom Fendi said: “I like him as a man, and he is a multifaceted talent: writing, comedy, music, art. This is something we all have to do today, I think, to change our own skins. And speaking of therapy, in his graphics you can read what you want to see, like colored yarns that have been thrown on the floor to make a pattern.” What Silvia wants, or at least hopes for, she said, is that this collection “will be something that can be worn on the street next winter, and be enjoyed for its bright colors and tactile feel.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Men’s – Refined-At-Home. Ermenegildo Zegna AW21

The “phygital” men’s Milan Fashion Week started really well with Ermenegildo Zegna‘s stunning exercise in stay-home refinement. Alessandro Sartori, the brand’s creative director, won’t let Zegna clients do WFH style in basic sweats. Just like the architecture of Milan’s Bocconi campus (Zegna’s HQ) in which the collection was framed, the clothes on show were hyper-contemporary yet contained echoes of past forms; some jackets in suede or felted cashmere bore lapels split at the collarbone, or pockets cut on the hip. Fine knit or even nylon turtlenecks – loose at the throat to create a fresh substitute for the shirt collar and consign to history the tie – had buttonable cuff details. These details were nods to a lineage of traditional tailoring that increasingly seems relegated to habit and history, yet the philosophy of tailoring was refreshed and applied to forms once deemed beyond it. Chore coats, updated leisure suits, and softened outwear—often with slit sides to allow the hands to nestle in cozy internal pockets – will all be offered on a made-to-measure basis for men and women. Like the single shoe style of the collection – a rubber-sole, shearling-lined slipper – these garments were built to service a post-pandemic world in which business life is expanded beyond the office to the home, or as Sartori put it, “a world where the indoor and the outdoor are colliding.” The indoor world was shown via a studio set of 12 open-wall rooms in which the models lived their best Zegna lives, sometimes connected, sometimes apart. Ultimate highlights of this season? The striped jacquard wool suit and overcoat and many of the cashmere jersey pieces which are in line with the Zegna “Use the Existing” policy of presenting its collections in fabrics made from materials recovered during the manufacturing process, a philosophy that is continuously being expanded in partnership with house suppliers to apply right down to shoe linings. Other items, like a long green coat in quilted suede or oversized sweaters decorated with stitched leather, might have been entirely new to existence yet demanded to be worn into vintage old age.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.