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.

The Look(s) – Prada SS21

I knew I would end up being obsessed with the new Prada, co-designed by Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons. The nylon wrap-coats from the show (which we’ve all seen live-streamed from Milan back in September), with utilitarian, triangle-shaped pocket on the back, yet draped and cut in a lady-like, statuesque silhouette, are the definition of contemporary elegance and a sharp exercise in refinement.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Intimate Tactility. Bottega Veneta SS21

Here it is: one of the most anticipated collections of the season, presented publically three months after the usual spring-summer schedule. Daniel Lee came up with the most challenging and intriguing line-up yet, proving that his Bottega Veneta isn’t just about hype accessories. Back in October, selected guests arrived at Sadler’s Wells in London and sat on the stage immersed in light and sound as models wearing Lee’s new collection snaked through the socially distanced chairs. Had the pandemic not prevented it, Lee would’ve liked to take the concept around the world. “It was a bit like going backwards and thinking about how fashion shows began. This idea of salon shows,” he explained. “It felt extremely intimate and much more personal.” Throughout the show, which rather felt like an improvised happening, Neneh Cherry’s musings on style and clothes were the soothing soundtrack. The collection is defined by its tactility. Much of it is knit, sometimes in quite thick-gauge yarns. The jacquards practically pulsate, and there are dresses made entirely from car seat beads or tiny shards of pearlescent shells. Lee studied knitwear at Central Saint Martins, so no wonder why he feels confident with this medium. Case in point is the stretch-knit skirt suit in Bottega green that opens this look book. With its buttoned-to-the-neck cropped jacket and its mini-length carwash hem skirt, it doesn’t so much speak to our shut-in moment as it does gleefully anticipate our reemergence. “I wanted to create a world and a universe that felt very glamorous and done up, but also quite stripped and quite pure,” Lee said. “I’m always interested in this idea, of how you can feel done up and elegant at the same time as feeling comfortable. That’s really my kind of mission for Bottega.” Lee saved his boldest experiments for silhouettes. Many of the dresses are built up at the hips with padding. On a raw linen sundress the padding is hidden inside, but on a series of knit dresses it’s exposed as surface decoration. He explained that they were looking at the Tudor period, Henry VIII specifically. It’s a demanding shape, which will definitely keep the clients surprised and amused. And yes, all this creativity emerged from the early months of the pandemic makes it more impressive. On that subject Lee said: “A lot of us moved to Milan for Bottega, and obviously with the world shut down, all we really have is each other at the studio and the work. It’s almost like a therapy. It gets you through the darkest times because you can completely lose yourself in making a beautiful fabric, a beautiful garment.” So, not everything is becoming virtual, after all.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Voyager. Etro Pre-Fall 2021

For the past few seasons, I take peeks at Etro and I must admit that something good is going on there. Comparing to the pretentious dustiness I always had in mind when thinking of the Italian brand, now I’m really intrigued with its fresh, revived care-freeness. And guess what – it’s not about a new creative director, since Veronica Etro designs womenswear since 2000. “I’m a natural-born optimist, I always try to see the glass half full,” said Veronica to Vogue during a Zoom review of Etro’s pre-fall 2021 collection. Italy is still in its second lockdown with no sign that Christmas travels will be possible, but Etro nevertheless sounded positive. “When we finally get out of this – and we will get out of it sooner or later – we’ll be ready to enjoy life to the full again. To travel, to party, to meet with friends, to get our freedom back,” she said. With her hopeful disposition, Etro hasn’t been tempted in the least to propose the elevated version of the stay-at-home loungewear that many designers have turned to for their post-pandemic collections. She believes that fashion should help women to be better versions of themselves, no matter the circumstances. A need for comfort is an inevitable byproduct of our present WFH limitations; it can’t be ignored. However, she said, “Etro has always been about a natural sense of ease, so I didn’t have to change my perspective much. It’s more about celebrating the freedom we’re craving to go back to. I thought about the future, about the clothes we’ll feel good in, and how we’ll enjoy getting dressed.” The collection reads as a free-spirited round-up of the best of the label, individual pieces as imaginative and romantic as they are effortless to wear, spiced up with a dash of Etro’s haute-bohemian flair, and all worn by a community of diverse characters. Paisley-printed garden party dresses alternated with soft tailored pantsuits in plush velvet, while languid tapestry dressing gowns, richly printed kimonos, and jacquard-knitted cozy wool cardis looked versatile enough to sit comfortably in a masculine/feminine wardrobe. “Traveling is always a learning experience and I miss it terribly,” said Etro. So much so that in the look book a model carries an amusing XXXL paisley-printed shopper, big enough to hold the entire collection. A true voyager’s dream!

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.