Milan Goes On a Thrilling Hike

While the whole world seems to still be in a shock mode after hearing the unfortunate catastrophe in Haiti, the fashion industry is keeping things moving, (though most would suggest that's the least of their problems). The Men 2010/11 Fall/Winter season, offerings the latest men's garb for next season kicked off in Milan last week and some things have gone terribly unnoticed. I'm still in a bit of a feud with the high fashion power players. To the best of my knowledge there were no signs of efforts or generous contributions from any institution, fashion house, nor brand. I often hear people say a fashion show must reflect the state of our times, and after reviewing collection after collection, I only saw the usual; sturdy, well-groomed models strutting their stuff back and forth the glossy catwalk and bevy of industry insiders in head-to-toe designers get-ups. It would be a crime to suggest the industry is completely oblivious to the fact that the most impecunious country on the western hemisphere just suffered one of the most damaging natural disasters in recent memory and even worst not do nothing about it. I just hope this time, this facade the industry is displaying is deceiving and donations, in any form or amount, were at least discreetly given to relief efforts in the aforementioned country.

It would be nice to see those same bonafide sentiments like the ones displayed when Barack Obama was elected president and the industry rejoiced as one. During the 2008 F/W European shows most designers hinted their enthusiasm by incorporating an "Obama-nia" element into their show, such as at Lanvin, when a black model resembling Mr. O, wearing a black coat and those coveted Lanvin high-tops (yes, he was wearing sneakers) headed the finale, beckoning to the attendees, while waves of applause and cheers were heard all over the venue, that moment suggested a new beginning in menswear fashion, at least to me, where anybody armed with the right knowledge and enough mass-appeal, baring a non-caucasian complexion still could hold the mightiest position in a leading nation and presumably look impeccably well. This momentarily state of felicity reached to a point where Donatella Versace presumably dedicated her menswear show to Mr. O, whether it was true or not, it was palpable to witness assorted designer's point of views in something other than how a dress is made or how a suit should fit.

In a more progressive note, this season could possibly go down in fashion history as the moment when designers made the closest efforts to adapt to a more relatively complex speedy high-tech world we live in today. This season, brands such as Burberry, Dolce and Gabbana and first-timer, Prada, streamed-lived their shows treating fashion followers worldwide a virtual front-row seat without leaving their desktop, and not having to wait several hours to see the fresh catwalk pictures on wwd.com or style.com. The popular and somewhat elusive belief that globe is becoming a smaller living space via the internet may now easily become a reality of our times. This could potentially signify terrific news for those fashion campers who don't necessarily receive a Dior Homme front row invitation in their mailbox. In addition, this brings us, the consumers/fans/followers/stalkers alike, almost intimately closer to our much esteemed designers and industry insiders. It only takes a click to find out what's going on the runway or who showed up at a certain show via Tweeter and simultaneously watch the show in each respective website. After all the bitching some folks have been vociferously divulging in regards to the internet now we can finally be graceful for its much appreciated qualities.

Milan opened up with
Dolce and Gabbana and their Sicilan-inspired utilitarian collection, and we already got the message of heritage, loud and clear. The metropolitan city has been the starting point for this italian duo for quite too many times in the past, but in this occasion, it seemed to exude a more cinematic approach. It's probably because there was a huge movie-like screen above their catwalk showing live the Oscar-worthy movie Baari directed by Giuseppe Tornatore, while chiseled studs came down the runway wearing long johns, henleys and heavy knits in earthy tones, accessorized by newspaper boy caps and dusty combat boots, in a rather disorderly manner. The show formation was a bit unexpected since DG shows are typically well alined and so well put-together, this time...well, it was a bit random. Nevertheless, the film being display and the confusing exits from the models did not obscure the finesse of the clothes. One more thing worth mentioning was the taut sleek tailoring of the chalk-colored, gray and black pinstripe suits that we seen from them time and time again echoed a message of understated luxury that would surely resonate through the rest of the Milan season. This message of heritage  also hit the doors at Burberry. Christopher Bailey played to Burberry's strengths, which is outwear.  The look was pretty much this; soft knit tops, skinny black trousers, paired with shearling-lined boots and to top it all of, this parade of coats including trenches in military olive green and black leather and also a reinterpretation on shearling jackets featuring a high double collar and intricate zipper detailing and brass buttons are soon to be the "it" pieces for next season.

At Prada, there was a reinterpretation of classics pieces that has been staples in men's wardrobes for decades. However, thought, when it comes to Miuccia Prada, things never look as ordinary as they seem. In order to decode   the Prada codification, we must first look at the scenery. The venue was broken down into different areas that could potentially be interpreted as a modern-city layout. There was a this long red velvet hallway, then the models stepped onto this shiny green surface, perhaps resembling nature, and then there was this map with a whole bunch of weirds symbols, lines and graphics that sort of reminded me of the Metro train map. However, the clothes did looked rather simple: camel sportcoats, topcoats with thick ribbed neck collars and cozy beige cardigans and camouflage in olive green and pink. Along with the presentation, Miuccia decided to include her women's pre-fall collection, though it looked like the girls fitted the theme of the show, I would've appreciated more to see the collection presented in a more cohesive format. 

One thing that did not go unnoticed under the light was the fit of the knit garments, though they fabric looks expensive enough, the sweaters worn underneath the navy and camel-colored coats looked a bit tight, as if it was done intentionally, if there was a message of financial shrinkage in the business, then these pieces exposed the cruel reality of the times. By the time the last model was exited this bizarre runway-format, a message "to be continued" unexpectedly appeared on this humongous screen, perhaps suggesting a continuation onto the Women 2010/11 Fall Winter collection, but when it comes to Prada, you never really know. 

Versace was probably the most fashion-forward collection in Milan. Creative director, Donatella Versace and design director, Alexandre Plokhov conjured a sci-fi spectacle that was less expected from a house that breathes glamour to it's lungs. For this season, the movie "Tron Legacy" inspired this winning collection that composed high-tech motorcycle jackets with details that resembled those weaving lines that appearing on the backdrop, there were also sexy super-tight pants with cut-outs and great zipper detailing. The earrings and silver jewelry surely added a complementary edge to the collection. One look I really liked from the collection was this acid-leaking long sleeve shirts worn underneath these taut suit jackets and in some of them displayed a multi layered-collars. It just seemed to fit well into any man's closet (at least mine) and work successfully with other assorted pieces.Though the colour palette was composed of black, metal grey, cyber blue and deep purples, it was nowhere near boring, instead it introduced a modern, self-assured man through this portal and what's to come in the near future.

Then we saw some spectacular human skulls and bone print and tailoring at McQueen, who hits it right on the target season after season. This time he showed his 2010/11 FW collection in a smaller venue than last season but he still managed to get the message across, at first glance you might not make sense of it all, but I'm sure his clothes are going to be fixtures in editorials in every men's fashion magazine (at least the European ones).

This macabre mood transcended into the Dsquared show. The collection is said to be inspired by the infamous Friday the 13th and as usual the twins make the most stylish-movie-inspired clothes that can easily be dissected and turned into an everyday look. The rocky-whorish moment took place when Tokio Hotel lead man, Bill Kaulitz strode down the runway in a pair of black (angel/demon?) wings that set the mood for the rest of the show. Folks go to Dean and Dan for the coolest gear out there are, and this season they gave their customers what they been demanding; skinny black pants, studded leather jackets and belts, super hot evening blazers and obviously the coolest denim you ever seen. Surprisingly enough there were crisp white shirts with Jason's mask embedded on the front, while models looked like they just came out the movie set, with blood dripping from different parts on their face and displaying a militant attitude that just did the clothes some justice. 

One of few emerging trends that came out of Milan was the puffa jacket that were seen in D&G, Moncler and Armani. For those who shun away from a bulkier look, designers offered different options. At D&G, there were snowboard suits in shimmering textures, paired with Disney characters-festooned t-shirts, faire isle sweaters, velvet vests, bombers and shearlings, there were even evening black-and-white evening looks all paired with snowboots, almost looked like younger 007 agent in the slopes. Moreover, all this layering of different textures brought a nostalgic moment from their women Fall/Winter 2006 collection, where the girls seemed to be going on a slope hike in prissy knitwear layered under Madonna t-shirts. Nonetheless, both collections, in their respective moments delivered a message of youth and joy. At Moncler, creative director Thom Browne had a zany approach to the trend. He respected the Moncler heritage, but included his quirky sartorial details to this collection, such as the puffa shorts paired with some hideous footwear, striped jackets in green and navy blue, and those fur hats, gloves and trims around the edge of a jacket that in occasions made the guy look like a grisly bear, but that's going to be taken care of in another post.

Mr. Armani sticked to his guns, and his sartorial eye is one of the best in the business. As usual, there were immaculate tailored two and three pieced suits, black velvet waistcoats, loosen trousers, leather coats and berets that hinted parisian men in their mid 30s. The majority of the clothes displayed  a really cool night blue and shades of black and grey. This color scheme has been present in Armani's collection for years, but what felt somewhat fresh and relevant were those head-to-toe denim looks, which I love. Perhaps, he is appealing to a more younger crowd that appreciates quality and taste and this plethora of customers could potentially take this brand to unreachable heights. Therefore, it should not be a secret that soccer super and stud Cristiano Ronaldo is the new face of his secondary line, that has recently caused a stir on the blogosphere and soon it will continue on the real world once these ads appear on print. I'm not sure if his team has this obsession with soccer stars; before Ronaldo was Beckham, and probably after him, we'll see...Zidane? (who by the way is starring in the new Y-3 ad campaign).

What I always look forward in Milan besides all the great suits and such, are the mood that the menswear industry is eluding for the rest of the season to follow. I think this season, the best collections had a strong point of view, the message came out loud and clear since the first exit. There were no fillers, and every look was well thought out and embody a man that I'm sure most want to look like. We've also seen an array of designers reenergize their brand and rely on their strengths to push their business forward. And that's great to watch. The messages of heritage and craftsmanship were also reinforce and shown in various commercially successful presentations, thus making it this time a bit more difficult to spot trends for next season. This approach would most likely force editors and buyers to select clothes that will later be feature in an editorial or a window display to go through a much more thoughtful process, which will inevitably dissect the weak from the strong. I also believe that especially in this recession, customers are just not going to purchase a trend but a quality garment that would last for years and be worn time and time again, without looking like a fashion victim. In my part, I'm going to still be waving an optimistic flag, continue to appreciate great design, and celebrate the fabulous qualities of fashion.
Pictures: style.com

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