Men’s – The Milan Classics. Brioni, Giorgio Armani & Zegna AW23

This Milan Fashion Week, the three Italian brands known for exquisite tailoring and eternal elegance – Brioni, Giorgio Armani and Zegna – have really nailed it with absolutely gorgeous collections filled with investment pieces and simply beautiful garments. You can’t go wrong with the classics!

Brioni’s Norbert Stumpfl declared this season: “I have the most excellent team of artisans behind me, and what they are able to achieve is a dream come true for me”. He has every reason to feel so elated, as what Brioni stands for is an idea of luxury which is as refined as it is private and understated. “As a designer, I don’t need to scream,” he said. Every season, the unbelievable quality of fabrications and execution seems to reach new heights, a sort of limitless research whose results never cease to amaze. For autumn-winter 2023, cashmeres were proposed in varieties so weightless, a whisper probably would be heavier. Vicuñas and alpacas were more ethereal than a passing cloud; deerskin, suede and nappa were as soft to the touch as the skin of a newborn. Going through a Brioni collection makes for an almost preternatural sensorial experience. The same sense of rarity and sophistication was expressed in the subtlest of color sensibilities, with tones so suave they brought to mind Caravaggio’s chiaroscuro. No wonder Brioni is a Roman house: if there’s a place where the light is glorious, resplendent of every possible hue from gold to amber to topaz, that’s Rome. Stumpfl captured it in the sensuous fall palette, which emphasized the ease and fluidity of the soft tailoring that Brioni masters. This season, the play on proportion was subtle as usual, with a tad more room for enhanced comfort in longer jackets, fuller trousers, lighter and rounder shoulders. “Brioni’s style is almost invisible, not overpowering,” said Stumpfl. “It gives you comfort and confidence at the same time. We definitely enjoy spoiling our customers.

Shortly before Giorgio Armani’s now traditional runway show sports-diffusion interlude, Milan’s 88-year-old master menswear architect discreetly showed his hand. Out came two three-piece suits, one blue and the other black, in a silky looking material whose movement suggested they were almost certainly shot through with technical ingredients. Each was delicately to (the point of imperceptibly) crinkled with raised rivulets of irregular lines. As later confirmed in the notes, this was a Giorgio collection that took subtle inspiration from the architecture of Milan. The narrow paneling in leather bags, lightly padded jackets, a mixed-material sweatshirt, and even some of the ski pieces reflected the ground-floor rustication you will see in many of the city’s pre-war buildings. The geometric gridding and zigzags worked into jacquard knits mirrored the many beautifully marble-inlaid communal spaces in buildings across the city. And the richly textured gray wools, velvets, and cashmeres used in the opening sequence were this collection’s equivalents of the finely carved gray stone doorways through which you must pass to see them. This was the conceit, but it was not overplayed. You gradually suspected that the audience was positioned as his portieri, or doormen, in order to observe a steady procession pass the runway threshold dressed in a manner characteristic of Armani’s this-season conception of Milan-born menswear. That contemporary version naturally related back to his mid-’70s conception of it, but the refurbishment was full of fresh pleasures and unusual touches. Business or casual, evening or day, and post-ski weekend too, almost every inhabitant- arguably except for the pair in full length faux-fur animalia coats and wraparound sunglasses – were patently inhabiting Armani’s architecture of style.

Alessandro Sartori’s lifelong study of fabric development and tailoring means that he is possibly uniquely qualified in his depth of technical knowledge as a fashion house creative director. And as the captain of Zegna, which has long been committed to vertical integration and material innovation, he is also uniquely placed to push forward the hardware of fabrication while developing his own fashion software. These attributes synced in a Zegna show that displayed the complementary relationship between both. Starting with the technical – without getting too technical – Sartori named the collection the Oasi of Cashmere as a nod to the house’s century old nature reserve as well as his ambition to broaden the fiber’s traditional application as yarn in knitwear in order to apply it in multiple fabrications. Those successfully achieved by Zegna and its owned-affiliates today included bobbled casentino, fluffy pile, sturdy bouclé, hardily rain-resistant wool-like melton, light flannel, and so many more that the house asserted that a full 70% of the runway garments here were cashmere. The remaining material was mostly recycled Zegna ‘Use The Existing’ wool, which was the chief protagonist especially in an opening gray section that employed chore coat, “tailored” (but construction free) jacket, and short-sleeved jacket as template shapers of top-half silhouettes. There was also a strong raw-hemmed collarless jacket in more recycled wool, this time undyed. Another early highlight included a hand-folded and painted leather jacket padded with down worn over a cashmere casentino shacket. The designer’s thriving template is currently based on a strong and consistent silhouette combining a wide leg-shape and a more form-fitting top half (at least when not layered with outerwear). Now the house is broadening its offer – without diluting quality – to give Zegna-heads infinite opportunity to add new elements to their wardrobe that will work in tandem with the old. Another upcoming opportunity – teased in look 21’s shirt and carried overcoat – will come when he reveals the fruits of a two-years-in-development collaboration with Greg Chait, of The Elder Statesman, in Paris next month.

All collages by Edward Kanarecki.
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