In Milan A Debate on Form over Function

“We all need means of supplementing our natural capabilities since nature is indifferent, inhuman (extra-human), and inclement; we are born naked and with insufficient armour,” stated modernist architect Le Corbusier in his book The Decorative Art of Today, in 1987. Considered to be one of the most groundbreaking and influential critiques on the world of design and architecture, the book called for an architecture that satisfied the imperatives of function through form. 

The debate surrounding form over function isn’t a new one. However, it appeared to find its home in Milan on the second/third day of menswear fashion week. 

United Standard, the brainchild of multimedia artist Giorgio di Salvo, took its starting point exactly from this assertion and recontextualized Le Corbusier’s quote with the help of a catalogue by Nero Editions, the Italian publishing company. The small catalogue featured essays by intellectuals Helen Hester, Matt Colquhoun, Luigi Alberto Cippini and Simon Sellars, all previous contributors to other titles published by Nero. Used to generate a provocation to explore the concept of prosthetics in today’s digital society, the collection itself was an extension of this concept, serving as a form of uniform for the contemporary man. A hallucinatory range of graphic illustrations which included Corbusier’s quote, designed by Di Salvo and his habitual set of collaborators, covered t-shirts, sweaters, jackets and the occasional pair of soft joggers. 

 

Returning to Milan after a long hiatus was British label, Alexander McQueen. Set to the melodic sounds of London’s Orchestra, creative director Sarah Burton presented her ideal wardrobe for artistic men, continuing the dialogue between heritage tailoring, uniform, hybrids and garment beetling. Inspired by British sculptor Henry Moore’s lesser-known abstract organic sketches, perfectly crafted suits and oversized knits in mohair were covered with an engineer artwork of Moore. Of note were a series of ‘hybrid’ pieces that played a game of tug war between high-quality craftsmanship and functionality: panels from classical military garments were cut into signature tailoring and camel overcoats; coats and jackets were sewn together in black wool and camel; sharp signature tailored eveningwear came in a palette of stronger colours such as deep orange and carnelian red, in contrast to the classic blacks, and worn with leather harnesses; tread boots were made stronger through the integration of metal toe caps and a heavier sole. 

 

At Missoni, form and function merged superbly. It was Missoni in its finest form, as the house experimented with their house codes reissuing a series of archival prints and playing with their usual array of bright knitted zig zags and stripes. This season, the brand was inspired by the astonishing avant-garde funkadelic vibes fiercely reeling around the seventies and eighties jazz clubs. The styling was definitely seventies inspired as turtlenecks were layered under matching printed suits and argyle cardigans were paired with striped turtlenecks or with shiny lurex shirts. Last but not least, the brand also presented a standout piece which hid a special trompe l’oeil aspect: a grey coat in Prince of Wales check pattern hid a jacquard lining. 

 

Iceberg decided to play with this contrasting duality by presenting us with a collection of which merged contrasting forces and styles: “I started by looking at a lot of police, law inforcement references mixed in with sportswear,” said creative director James Long backstage. The collection opened by presenting a series of static and stronger silhouettes styled with sportier pieces. “I then decided to let the guards join the party and let loose,” stated Long. Case in point, the collection was showcased at Alcatraz, the historical Milanese clubbing venue, which takes the name of the renown world-famous prison. Starting from a darker palette of navy blues, blacks and greens, the collection progressed into a bolder direction featuring touches of red, neon green and pink, as well as re-interpretations of the iconic Looney Tunes characters on degradè sweaters, jackets and coats. The collection finally reached its raver peaked through the collaboration with British artist Eddie Peake, who designed a series of bold graphic artworks and prints which featured the text “Rave! Rave! Rave!” all over shirts, sweaters and deconstructed knits.

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