Italian men’s clothing is returning to Milan Fashion Week

MILAN – Invoking the pleasure of being “good, but simple, dressed” is the way Brunello Cucinelli describes the design that turned him, the son of a farmer from Umbria, into a billionaire he made himself.

It goes without saying that simplicity at the level of Cucinelli is not cheap. For a flawlessly tailored Cucinelli cotton jacket – say, from a new collection of overweight suits, reminiscent of the Brooks Brothers cotton bag redesigned for Gianni Agnelli – you can expect to pay $ 4,000.

You might think that such figures would make even HNWI (wealth manager – a “high net worth individual”, defined as someone with at least a million dollars in liquid capital) think twice before tearing down that American Express Centurion. However, the initial shock of the labels did not prevent the publicly traded Brunello Cucinelli brand from going through a pandemic (after an initial crash during the first closure in 2020); expanding and opening stores in Tokyo, London and New York; or storming the bear market with bullish confidence.

“Men want to get dressed again,” Mr Cucinelli said on Saturday during a presentation at a studio in Milan’s Chinatown.

His own money, he added, goes to prosperous Generation Z consumers – or at least to the types of CEOs for whom Cucinelli is their Gap – who want to trade their Allbirds and sweatshirts for the kind of sartorialism in which he stands out. “Nonchalant elegance” is a phrase he prefers in describing the desired effect of his unlined suits that are structured but not overemphasized; light appearance, though still convincing in the meeting room; and tonally faithful to the neutral palette which is the security value of the new treasure.

This must not be confused with “sprezzatura,” that deliberate recklessness which even Italians seldom retreat with success. Faced with that, Mr. Agnelli often looked a bit absurd in his impractical denim ski slippers, relaxed running shoes, and wristwatches worn outside of his handcuffs.

What Mr. Cucinelli was alluding to was something universal and rooted both in self-awareness and in adhering to the protocol of decency in public spaces that is close to the coat. Can it be rebuilt? It’s hard to say more, especially after two years of living on a futon and Zoom clothes to the waist. Shifting the idea that dressing is very civic as a personal act will require something.

Still, the labels of the various railroads signaled a willingness to seize the opportunity. In a way, it almost felt like there was a men’s clothing version of the Hello Mary pass in Milan this week. Not to explain the scathing metaphor, but the designers moved the ball across the field.

In an open-air show beneath the mercifully shaded trails on the Bocconi University campus, Kean Etro edited perhaps the best show of his decades-long career. Designers sell moods and atmospheres as much as clothing, and looking at Etro models, many barefoot and with gold rings on their toes, limping concrete tape in blouse summer shorts, lace-up shirts, fluttery coats, fluffy coats, soft suits, all in washed-out colors or dissolving prints, I felt like an extra in one of Luca Guadagnino’s dreamy homages to filmmakers like Michelangelo Antonioni.

Wherever those models went dressed like that, you suddenly wanted to follow them. People often joke about retail therapy. However, it is underestimated how effective and necessary a form of escape mode can be.

Does this mean that this critic is ready to apply for a visa for Versaceworld? Probably not. Still, for a brief dizzying time in the garden of an 18th-century palace house, we were transported to another empire as models, incredibly wearing Versace urns and vases, or carrying espresso cups as belt decorations, we walked the gravel paths next to revolving mirrors. covered with gilded busts. Cockamamie classicism is, after all, the signature of the house with the Medusa logo.

You probably couldn’t find five people in the crowd who could name any of the 58 World Heritage sites located in Italy. However, the prints of the house telegraphed something obviously old-fashioned, such as the fridge magnets depicting Michelangelo’s David. That they are unheard of kitsch, of course. Still, Donatella Versace finds humor and a sweet spot because of her lush embrace of borderline vulgarity. The result was a collection with huge python-patterned trousers, first latex raincoats, tailored jackets, men’s overalls and models with hair dressed in waves of Roman busts lacquered with gold sequins.

Giorgio Armani is a designer rooted in heritage like everyone else. What he continues to design in his ninth decade is in itself a dedication to the traumatic personal history of a World War II child. Mr. Armani came to his mature style early on and rarely deviated from it. Although he achieved success in the 1980s, when the whole world discovered his delicately tailored designs in the 1980 film “American Gigolo,” the whole pattern of his career was cautious and methodical. Theme and variations are his working method, and if it sometimes risks monotony, when you retreat you may notice that what he is looking for is something durable like a tightly knitted basket.

Appropriately, the Emporio Armani collection actually contained subtle weave prints, especially displayed in a molded rubber Wave shoe with a hairy texture – think Wookiee Crocs – as well as solid color suits, summer shorts suits, canvas lace pants and paper bag belts, and a jacket with a palm tree painted on it. Aside from the wrong hairstyle that put models of different ethnic groups in cornrows, the show seemed well-rated for a cultural moment when consumers, regardless of gender, take baby steps back in the direction of the dress tradition.

The point was brought home to the exhibition of Giorgio Armani held in the theater in the palace from the 18th century, where the designer lives, so to speak, above the shop. “Do you think that means I’m getting old to suddenly love Armani again,” one prominent editor asked after a presentation that reminded us of how some of the hot labels currently proposing a softened suit for the new generation essentially quote Armani’s innovations half a century ago .

“When I see Armani now, I see Amiri and the Fear of God,” I replied, referring to pieces that were neatly crafted but looked just as comfortable as the luxury sweats produced by designers Mike Amiri and Jerry Lorenzo. The editor spat, “I’m wearing Amiri right now.”

It may seem strange that a designer who has 90 people (Mr. Armani’s 88th birthday is next month) looks more in tune with his moment than someone like Miuccia Prada, who for decades has demonstrated the skill of divination to predict what follows. The Prada collection, designed with Raf Simons, featured tight black suits with one and a half breasts, denim overalls and short leather shorts with a zipper based on lederhosen. A few minutes after the show’s finale, Instagram was flooded with almost identical original images from the kink world.

Although it is not known how harmonious the working partnership of Mr. Simons and Ms. Prada is, it sometimes seems to this observer that in her working life she needs fewer fellow designers than conspirators. Until her death in 2015, that person was the Italian photographer and style eminence Manuela Pavesi. A person who has Ms. Prada’s talent is not helpful in suggesting that she needs crutches. Yet without the yeasty spirit of a woman who was once described by designer Jonathan Anderson, himself a former Prada student, as having such a wacky and unrestrained eye that a man would automatically want to meet her, the atmosphere on Prada’s runway became a bit gloomy.

Her fashion show felt like the antithesis of the charming Gucci capsule collection, designed by Alessandro Michele with Harry Styles (and labeled Gucci HA HA HA, for their paired initials). A group of 25 suits with wide lapels, a shirt with a print of grumpy bears and cherries, tailored pajamas, hats and ties wide enough to please God had a joyful liveliness in them.

The mood of the presentation, held in the famous Milan second-hand shop, was so heated that when Mr. Michele and Mr. Styles met for design, had to be happy as two little ones in a puddle of mud. Maybe Mrs. Prada could use her Harry Styles. Maybe start with a game date.

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