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 – Transgressive. JW Anderson AW23

JW Anderson‘s menswear events have become the most exciting moments of Milan Fashion Week. And there’s a lot to unpack in the autumn-winter 2023 collection. Jonathan Anderson reflected on all his past work by returning to one of his most transgressive statements. Ten years ago, his ruffled shorts, skirts, and minidresses – all modeled by men – drove the London fashion scene crazy. Recalling the moment pre-show, Anderson said: “I found it very strange… that collection was about a shared wardrobe.” Even if, he added, he knew he was being something of a “brat” at the time, the force of the reaction revealed the depth of the subversion. He returned to it tonight to interrogate the notion that recent history’s radical rephrasing – even if still polarizing – discourse around gender would soften its impact. He said: “this feels like an old fashioned thing for myself to say now, but it is still something as a society we have yet to work out. How do we package people? Do we need to package people or not?” The Milan show opened with two boys in underwear holding bolts of cloth: the undressed waiting to be dressed, the unpackaged waiting to be packaged. Then came two models clutching pillows inserted into their garments, whose limbs were painted with tomato images. And then came the ruffled short. The difference between this and the original was that version 2.0 came in leather, but otherwise it was effectively a fresh edition of the garment this designer could barely sell the first time round, and which he still works to buy back at auction when they re-enter the market. The following looks teased your notions of facade and identity. The fully grown non-binary cast wore anthropomorphic frog-faced slides and boots by Wellipets, a recently relaunched but until now kids-only brand that was once worn by the British royal family’s heir and the spare back in the 1990s. As any basic biologist knows, certain healthy frogs can change gender according to circumstance. Torsos, some butch and some slender, were printed on terry vests worn over slouchy pants. There were some infantile animal print briefs and a series of uniform-aping duffle coats, fastened with lock and key instead of horn and eye, in leather and faux fur. The ruffle returned on occasion. Certain garments came inserted at the top of the spine with the decorative leather and plastic SIM cards that also acted as show invitations. One model had his placed over his heart. “Everyone’s attached to one,” said Anderson of this detail. “The idea is that you are taking it and turning it into something completely useless. Also all technology becomes useless in the end.” In the whole this was a radical wardrobe ready to come out and be inhabited, now that the times have caught up with the spirit of its inception.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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Men’s – Looking Inward. Magliano AW23

Of all the fashion capitals, Milan seems to be the most harsh for emerging and independent designers. Luchino Magliano is one of these designers, and he finally gains the much deserved spotlight. Sitting in the cavernous dark space of the show, held in the underbelly of a school, with a huge wall of stacked chairs as rather ominous backdrop, he said, “this time we have chosen a less challenging location because we wanted to be a little more hospitable towards our guests, but not too much.” Making people slightly uncomfortable is just one of Magliano’s many charms. “I’m afraid this collection is a bit tough,” he said. “It’s a really somber, gloomy collection. It’s gray, it’s melancholy. It’s shrouded in shadows, but it isn’t sad or desperate. It just comes from an inner place, it looks inward, like this venue, we wanted to represent a luogo interiore, an inner ground.” The theme of the collection was No by Magliano. In the show, it screamed as a manifesto from the back of a gray tailored blazer – a logo of protest, a slogan that “wants you to remember not to be complacent,” the designer said, “because life brings you to say yes most of the time, to accept and bend, but it’s vital to learn to say no. It’s an affectionate no, joyful and beautiful. But it’s a no.” If anyone thinks that success will change Magliano’s mindset, making him content to meekly oblige to rules and regulations, well, better think again. The collection was excellent – more mature and polished, while keeping intact the under-the-surface vehemence that makes you wriggle slightly uncomfortably in your seat. Riffing on the slouchy, languid pajama look, garments were inventive while remaining wearable. Assembled/disassembled cashmere jumpers were repurposed from surplus finds, and military blankets were turned into dressing gowns. Utility wear, one of Magliano’s fundamentals as it pertains to the world of labor, was given a less antagonistic, more laid-back vibe, as in a scarf made from pockets thrown over a soft-tailored blazer. Raw borders, knotted and braided hems, and dangling drawstring ropes hinted at the inner tension of the garments’ construction. But tension is an everlasting propulsive presence in Magliano’s universe. A long lock of hair was dangling as a charm from a belt; a broken glass bottle neck was pinned on a lapel as a brooch, as was fly; a shirt was printed with a bunch of stray cats in a bad mood. “I know, they’re disturbing objects,” said Magliano. “But I can’t help keeping on my retina images of what happens in the world. Bombs have been made out of bottles; women’s long hair has been cut. The fly is a memento mori, reminding us of the impermanence of our lives on earth. As for the cats, they’re certainly not cute TikTok creatures.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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Men’s – Let’s Talk About Clothes. Prada AW23

Whenever Prada delivers a collection this stern and reductive, you can expect a recession, economic crisis or a global disaster to happen in the near future. But since the last couple of years feel like a 24/7 state of being at verge of the world’s end, Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons‘ extremely minimal and modest-looking outing might foreshadow the ultimate dystopia. Or maybe not? Maybe these are investment pieces for a yet unknown utopia?

The collection was entitled “Let’s Talk About Clothes“. The show was held in a Fondazione space pared back as never before, right down to its poured concrete bones. Above the guests’ head was installed a sunken roof of plasterboard in the same sludgy tone, about a meter above their heads. During the show it slowly rose, until sinking again at the finale. Clothes-wise, it was really about clothes. Of their recent dialogues, Raf Simons said: “we talk about how we want to work really hard to make clothes that can have a reality in this world, but which on the other hand still push it, which have a fashion point of view.” To achieve that they worked on a series of archetypal masculine garments in which they tried simultaneously to transmit both minimalism along with comfort and warmth. The first cluster of looks presented minutely-articulated variations – three-buttoned or two-, single-breasted or slightly doubled – in a kaleidoscope of charcoals. The cut was slim but floating, both to cut and physique. Instead of shirting the models wore detachable collars in various patterned fabrics, a motif that returned throughout the collection. These crisp cottons were the same used for the pillowcases, with accompanying pillows, sent out along with the show invitations. They were there to echo as “a Prada gesture” the floating sailor collars we had seen in past house collections for both men and women. The jackets were suddenly replaced with two blazers in suede, before a cocoon-like top – prefigured by those pillows – that more resembled something to lay your head on than slip your body into. An equivalent piumino version of Prada’s vaunted vest followed directly. Two (collarless) engorged and pillowish MA-1 bombers in the classic orange-lined colorways were next. These were the first in what Simons called “the stereotypes” of outerwear, a series that included a parka, a donkey jacket, and a duffel coat. They were cut extra-long, like formal feminine evening dress, and then quickly repeated in radically foreshortened equivalents. The collection continued its unfolding with a dialogue between color, texture, and form articulated through slim fit pants worn over colored cardigans and top coats shot through with retro-futuristic go-faster panels of contrasting and dynamic tones. The models carried totes, seemingly containing water bottles that were sometimes puckered in texture like cast-steel industrial flooring. At the end the white collar uniform of the introduction was supplanted by a modern version of a blue-collar equivalent; suede work aprons transformed into dresses, sometimes worn under topcoats. These pieces spoke of several assumptions at once relating to work, class, and gender.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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Men’s – Tactile Legacy. Etro AW23

Marco De Vincenzo‘s first menswear collection for Etro is definitely much better than his womenswear debut that we’ve seen last September. The brand’s massive textile warehouse in Como was transported and installed in its entirety into a vast industrial space to become the immersive show’s set, with samples hanging from wooden racks and rolls of vintage fabrics scattered around. It was the homage De Vincenzo wanted to pay to the house’s patrimony of textile culture, which is the groundwork on which he’s building his interpretation of the label’s codes. Connecting with Etro’s history is pivotal for De Vincenzo, and his way of dealing with its legacy is respectful; yet he isn’t intimidated by its scale. At a preview, he said that he wanted to throw a little of his own past into the picture. Cue a little fetish, a small wool blanket from his childhood “which I brought with me, a lucky charm of sorts that gave me not only the inspiration for graphics and colors, but also the sentimental impulse to put my story alongside that of the Etro family.” In his menswear outing for the house, what De Vincenzo was keen to express was a sense of coziness and eccentricity. “Comfort of lines but eccentricity in the image” is how he summarized his take on the collection. The idea of masculinity he suggested came with an aura of artsy domesticity, and the look was balanced between a flair for romantic extravagance and supple refinement. Malleable high-end fabrics were cut into soft, gentle shapes: kimonos, shirt coats, and duffels were fluid, unstructured, and unlined, with rounded shoulders, often nonchalantly belted and wrapped as robes de chambre; fuzzy teddy bear pajamas embroidered with florals had an ironic childlike charm. Knitwear was outstanding, with big, chunky sweaters handknitted in imaginative kinetic patterns rendered in an acidic-rainbow palette. On the playful side, tight-fitting jumpers crocheted in open-weave cashmere were appliquéd with 3D bunches of mulberries or kumquats, and worn with roomy high-waisted flares in bright-colored windowpane checks or with low-slung washed denims. At the opposite end of the spectrum, said De Vincenzo, “I wanted tailoring to look sexy.” Inflected with a ‘70s groove, pantsuits were cut in eye-popping tartans, with double-breasted fitted blazers worn over fluid roomy flares, or with long pleated kilts open at the front.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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