During Milan Men’s Clothing Week for Spring / Summer 2023, we were invited to several designer homes – somehow. Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons made a minimal paper house with carved windows, erected in Prada’s huge art foundation; Donatella Versace opened the doors of the headquarters of the label, a baroque palace in the center of Milan originally bought by her brother, the founder of the label Gianni; Zegna drove a fashion package two hours outside Milan to his historic mill in Piedmont at the foot of the Alps.
Half a dozen other Milanese designers have come up with similar ideas for a fashion season that, with masks largely avoided and audience numbers approaching pre-pandemic levels – albeit without media representatives or buyers from major Asian markets – looks like Milan’s first menswear week returns to normal, not “new normality”.
From there, returning home seemed weirder, as if the designers were experiencing group Stockholm Syndrome together, longing for the closure and closure of WFH over the past two years – although in fact returning home meant returning to what they do best. Milan shows rarely spoke in a single voice, instead allowing brands to break up their own different territories in order to take advantage of them.
Strong was the word, for example, for the vision in Versace, where models held gilded vases from the assortment of goods for the home of this brand as they meandered along the catwalk like thieves trying to escape the murky staff. The clothes, in vibrant colors, baroque patterns and lots of colorful Versace logos, looked designed with a new generation in mind. Versace hired the children of its favorite supermodels from the 1990s, such as Mark Vanderloo and Helena Christensen, to model a redux version of the 1991 theatrical mask print label.
If Versace hinted at the past, Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana basically borrowed DeLorean from Marty McFly to dive into their latest catalog and re-release, piece by piece, a bunch of looks that span the last 30 years. It was a relief that, after several seasons of catching up for transient, alien trends, they headed home and found their heart. It was also a testament to the diversity of their work, from homemade knits to a stunning combination of gleaming crystal-encrusted shirts and draped denim that called for the unwarranted audacity of the early 2000s. The best was a suit from the mid-1990s which, wide at the shoulder, tight at the waist and slender at the leg, made everything old look suddenly new.
From time travel to the globe. The latter was the subject of Silvia Venturini Fendi’s menswear collection under her family name, but strangely enough, the results were homey, and actually cute, with wide-brimmed shirts, moccasin slippers and worn-out, flared pieces of denim – the fabric was one of several trends are appearing everywhere in Milan. “For me, denim represents freedom,” Fendi said behind the scenes, and her style included not only real things but also hyper-luxury imitation. If you want a printed mink coat to look like a denim jacket, Fendi is your choice. There was a touristy atmosphere, but the idea seemed to come home, to carry your own souvenirs – which included many of the best-selling bags of this label here, as well as jewelry like found gold stones. After several seasons of formality, this was Fendi in a sloppy, more relaxed way. It was more real.
Was there much real about Jonathan Anderson’s debut in Milan? This collection additionally played with surreal sets that she has been researching for several seasons. While some designers in Milan seem desperately looking for Generation Z, Anderson seems to truly and innately understand their way of thinking. And they want to be noticed, and that won’t happen in a beige suit. This collection was exciting – perhaps reminiscent of a memory – with bicycle handles and soup can lids embedded in sweaters, and a model dressed as a giant loofah. But it was also unforgettable, which is more than half the work in a crowded landscape.
It seems that children do not care at all about the patrician Giorgio Armani, whose fashion is innately personal. This season’s clothes were Armani at home: the models were deeply tanned, walking in navy and gray colors without a single pair of socks between them. In the end, tanned, without socks, dressed in navy color, Mr. Armani bowed.
The most powerful collections in Milan this season, Prada and Zegna, have both approached the same concept – rediscovering the familiar – for different purposes. Zegne’s creative director, Alessandro Sartori, was looking for a “kind of normalcy”, but he was also thinking about the “future of tailoring”. This meant using innovative knitted fabrics – some warm pressed for lamination or sewn into techno terry reminiscent of curly wool – or leaving details on linen and raw cotton, despite their fiercely traditional interiors with a linen lining. While the tailoring was softened, the sportswear was tempered in hyper-luxury dupioni silk. It was this contradictory interplay that gave this collection its popularity, in addition to unusual colors such as fluoro-limoncello or dusty chocolate-gray that looked different from anything else.
Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons wanted things to be simple. “The collection speaks to simplicity as a concept, as a choice,” Prada said before the show. Simons supported her: “We are attracted to the idea of ’normal’ clothes.” Here it looked normal new, with a clean beige or Vichy-check coat coats stacked on top of each other and then, often, over leather sleeveless shirts and shorts. There was something of the notion of design by the curator, recontextualizing the items to change their impact – the coat may look a bit twisted worn over bare feet and short shorts.
He had a serious fashion influence as a fashion show, the models marched in cowboy boots with sharply raised toes that will look like shoes for next season. And the fact that coats have caused a lot of fashion press and customers to crave them even in the Milan flight of 35 degrees Celsius is a measure of genius. Everyone in the room wanted to bring home at least one – which is the point of these shows.
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