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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Men’s – Il Nuovo Abito. Zegna AW22

Men’s Milan Fashion Week has officially started! And here’s lesson number one: you just can’t go wrong with Zegna. I know it myself – I’ve got a couple of my dad’s clothes coming from the brand, and really, this brand is not just timeless, but its quality is indestructible. Alessandro Sartori, Zegna’s creative director, embraces what the Italian brand stands for with every season, delivering absolutely desirable, refined and relevant investment pieces for a contemporary man. For autumn-winter 2022, Sartori said he was presenting “il nuovo abito“: the new suit. Yet this collection represented something far bolder than that. It was a tilt at meeting that migration by erasing the categorical imperatives that have long codified menswear. These old-fashioned either-ors include formal and casual, sartorial and sporting, street and fashion, executive and worker, masculine and feminine – all of them habit-forming dichotomies that signpost the traditional menswear roadmap. This shift came in sync with multiple others in Zegna’s landscape. Early last month the company dropped the Ermenegildo from its title and also quietly phased out the really excellent sub-brand Z Zegna in order to combine everything under one mainline menswear empire. The simplification is meant to add emphasis to the Zegna identity, which is now represented by a signifier-logo that sandwiches the brand name within two vicuna-toned strips of brown with a strip of black between them. The logo represents the road that winds through the 100 km2 of land – the Oasi Zegna – that the original Ermenegildo purchased, reforested, and conserved in order to increase the quality of life and wellbeing of the employees and their families at the original Zegna lanificio, which continues to operate today. Another categorical dichotomy that Sartori has worked to blur is that of physical vs digital – fashion-wise, phygital was first coined here back in 2020. Today’s presentation had been planned as what Sartori today called “metatheater – not the metaverse – a combination of cinema, fashion, and live… My goal is a digital background to a live presentation, and I am sure we will do it in June.” The latest offering was shot between the Oasi Zegna and a Milan TV studio over five days. But those clothes don’t need any additional, fancy background. A dark, gabardine jacket that featured an eye-catchingly unorthodox notch lapel construction, no bolstering material in the shoulder, and no buttons at its split cuff. This was worn atop matching pants, vaguely carrot shaped like most here, and the handsome galvanized slip-on ankle boots that were also shown on most looks treading through the snow in the Oasi. Under the jacket was an oatily-toned midlayer that featured a one-sided, curved flap that lent the look a roguish, piratic air. When the model took the jacket off, it turned out that midlayer was a soberly silhouetted technical turtleneck whose curving came from the shape of the zippers running across the body. You could see the fossilized remains of both sportswear and tailoring in the look’s elements, but when worn as an ensemble it did, indeed, look like an outfit that was uncategorizable as either. Other highlights included sharply silhouetted deformalized jackets and pants in ultra-thin padded fabrics, parkas in wool ripstop, and shirting with fabric-soft panels of leather cut into their cashmere whole. Knitwear featured tonal jacquards whose abstract shapes reflected the patches of forest and snow they were shot against. Whether in camel hair, scuba, or cashmere, the shacket-and-pant fusion ensemble – a luxury-chore-jacket-workwear outfit meets supremely-soft pajama – was well represented and made a powerful candidate for Sartori’s post-abito habit.

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.

Men’s: Suite Up. Berluti AW14


Alessandro Sartori who gave a rebirth to the old label Berluti, known for the best men suits and shoes, simply nailed it yesterday at the first to date live runway collection. Elegant, comfortable suits made with the best tailoring; cashmere sweaters in warm colours; shoes made of triple layered wool and leather; and amazing camel coats are just few of the highlights. I really loved the selection of models; mature, with a specific chic in them. The way they wore the outfits (nonchalantly, a bit loosely) with gloves and huge bags was like a poetry. After discovering Berluti once again, I am already waiting for the new changes made by Mr. Sartori!

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