This season may have been calmer than usual in the Italian fashion capital. With Gucci, Bottega Veneta, and Ferragamo having deserted the men’s shows to present joint collections during womenswear, it sometimes feels like there isn’t much left (on the plus side, overworked editors, stylists, and photographers can spend more time eating pasta). And yet, for the troopers that still resist on the men’s front, this was, without a shadow of a doubt, a more exciting season than the last one. Of course, it always helps when the season in show is Fall/Winter (the looks are usually a lot stronger than their summer counterparts), but there was also a noticeable shift in perspective. No more do the established Italian brands want to mimic the streetwear aesthetics of Supreme and Vetements and, as a general rule, houses were clearer on their identities. This was perfectly exemplified by Versace: Donatella gave us a masterful collection, full of nods to the hottest trends (thigh-high boots for her, bulky trainers for him), and yet still as Versace as it gets, eccentrically mixing zebra, leopard, printed velvet, tartan, and multicolored Italian prints with genuinely exciting – and desirable – results. Of course, not all brands are created equal, but even some of the contemporary ones came up with products that were a little more distinctive than in the last few seasons (Palm Angels’ American Gothic print, all over trousers, skirts, and dresses was one of them). As for the shows, there was also plenty to choose from, but here are five of our favourite moments of the week.
ERMENEGILDO ZEGNA FW18 menswear show in Milan. Picture by Gio Staiano.
Did you know the Zegna family owns a natural reserve near the Alps in northern Italy? It was the inspiration behind the set design of Ermenegildo Zegna’s Fall/Winter 2018/19 show: set against the brutalist backdrop of the Milanese Bocconi University, the show happened in the middle of a man-made snow storm. Artificial snow, granted (which set awkwardly in guests’ hair, clothes, and even into their Prosecco glasses), but that was about all the artifice in a collection marked by nature, even sustainability. For the last three seasons, Alessandro Sartori has been successful at establishing a new direction for the Italian house. This time, he took things up a notch. Knowing perfectly well that the Zegna client is a well-to-do man about town and a connoisseur, he gave him what he wants: beautifully cut, classic tailoring in exquisite Zegna fabrics, with some quirky details (mountain-influenced shearling and quilted jumpers, graphic prints) thrown in for good measure. However, a closer look reveals much more than just that. Inspired by the family’s natural reserve, dubbed Oasi Zegna, Sartori has developed a double-faced cashmere (also called Oasi), entirely dyed with natural, chemical-free ingredients, so that the collection’s tea, tobacco, and crocus violet tones actually came from tea leaves, tobacco, and crocus flowers… A sustainable luxury detail that left us in awe. More of that, please.
MOSCHINO FW18 menswear show in Milan. Picture by Gio Staiano.
In the era of social media, the conversation around identity is more complex than ever. On one hand, we are often reduced to an aesthetically pleasing Instagram feed and a series of hashtags, our self-value measured by the number of likes strangers decide to grace us with at any given moment. On the other, sexual identity has seldom known fewer limits. All this is what Jeremy Scott decided to play on with his latest effort for Moschino. In a show that felt very eighties’ Madonna, with more than a wink to kink and BDSM, the American designer sent down the runway an array of gender-neutral models (the purpose of a leather BDSM mask is always to efface the wearer’s identity) clad in serious office attire – little black dresses, pinstripe suits, trench coats – donned over black latex catsuits. We can only imagine the stress and the amounts of talcum powder being used backstage; it was all worth it, from RuPaul’s Drag Race winner Violet Chachki walking the finale to the show’s invite, a mysterious VHS tape. “Maybe it’s surveillance, maybe you’re not sure what it is. It makes you feel uneasy,” said Scott backstage. For a very retro-inspired show, the message felt thoroughly current.
MSGM’s university student casting
MSGM FW18 menswear show in Milan. Picture by Gio Staiano.
There was much to see at MSGM on Sunday morning: puffa jackets worn over good old-fashioned jacquard knitwear and corduroy trousers. Bubble-gum pink silk shirts. Denim ensembles. Pendleton-style jackets. Oversized cardigans, worn over other oversized cardigans. Ties even. But what mostly caught our eye were the models, none of whom were professional ones. It wasn’t by chance that the show took place in Milan’s Università Statale, birthplace of many progressive political groups in the 70s. Helped by Barbara Nicoli (the mastermind behind the eclectic Gucci castings), Massimo Giorgetti set out to find Italian university students willing to partake in a slightly more superficial activity than those in their everyday lives. “We did an extensive casting in all the Milanese universities and we picked up great new faces,” said Giorgetti backstage. Unabashedly Italian (lots of curly hair, aquiline noses, healthy tans, and Mediterranean masculinity), they made us wish we had never left uni.
Billionaire’s over-the-top show
PHILIPP PLEIN portrait in New York. Picture by Regis Colin Berthelier.
We have been missing Philipp Plein’s and Plein Sport’s menswear shows in the Milanese calendar recently. But, even if the German business maverick has lately decided to embark on the conquest of the American market, he isn’t entirely forgoing Italy: Billionaire, the brand with the least subtle name around, created by Flavio Briatore and bought by Plein, showed its latest collection on Sunday night at Club William, one of Milan’s classic nightlife enclaves. There might not have been cars on fire, monster trucks, famous rappers, or basketball games, but it was a 100% Philipp Plein experience that left his many fans (ironic and unironic) feeling fulfilled. Surrounded by red velvet Chesterfield sofas and carpet, while sipping on champagne and nibbling on truffles and caviar, guests enjoyed a live Italian band playing Tom Jones’s hits while 40 of the hottest silver foxes peacocked around dressed in crocodile trousers, chinchilla coats, and sequined tuxedo jackets. The atmosphere might have been one of lightness and un-serious fun, but the product was not too different from Justin O’Shea’s uber serious take at Brioni a couple seasons ago (he was at the helm of the brand for less than 3 months), and the quality was similar. Philipp Plein is clever enough not to take his aesthetic choices too seriously, and that’s what is allowing him to laugh all the way to the bank. Happily for us, he’s taking us along for the ride.
Fendi’s airport set
FENDI FW18 menswear show in Milan. Picture by Gio Staiano.
There’s a fair chance that Fendi’s average client holds a platinum Flying Blue card, hoarding frequent flyer miles year after year. It was only a matter of time then for the Roman house to stage a show in an airport. Milan Fashion Week went out with a bang thanks to Fendi’s playful set design mimicking an arrivals lounge. There were flights coming in from… “Family,” “Freedom,” and “Fabulous” (also words written all over knitted jumpers and T-shirts in the collection), and all kinds of Fendi-fied baggage items passing by on a conveyor belt, from vanity cases to an unclaimed logo-ed stroller. The set up was also the starting point for a collection focused on comfort more than anything else. If Karl Lagerfeld stated, a few years ago, that “elasticated waistbands are synonymous to giving up,” it was far from true today. Joggers, trainers, and comfy coats became ultra chic under the Fendi logo. As did the collage prints created by Scottish Instagram artist @hey_reilly, featuring everyday objects in surreal combinations such as a horse standing atop of a chunk of cheese. Again, it was about the ordinary becoming extraordinary. We could come fly with Fendi anytime.