01 July 2012

Milan Menswear Spring/ Summer 2013

Where does fashion go when the going gets tough?
With the world in financial meltdown mode, with the traditional order in gender, politics and media gone topsy-turvy, with the planet’s natural resources challenged as never before, menswear for Spring/Summer 2013 is headed for the nearest exit. The Milan menswear collections took flight to a simpler, more innocent time: childhood.

All the key trends seemed to be inspired by the obedient schoolboy and the lost innocence of the playground: eye-popping colour, nursery school florals, the T-shirt, shorts, a simple, stripped-down aesthetic, and an easy fit dominated.

Jil Sander
Jil Sander’s much-heralded return to her eponymous label (after seven years) was a re-stating of her trademark minimalism, but softened. Sander’s scrubbed schoolboys were de-sexed in prim little collars, wide sleeves and billowing shorts. The deconstructed jackets and coats, though precise and boldly coloured, had the cosy fit of a granny’s cardigan. 

The Prada man was also dressed in a child’s androgynous clothes which had the graphic, flat pattern of paper doll separates. The tick-tock sameness, like an assembly line of uniformed students, is another form of retreat from the times into the order and discipline of a Utopian age. Square, oversized tunics, and cropped straight pants are decorated by wide white stripes; a contrast border outlines a clean neck or a cartoonish placket or hem; Sharp lines emphasise reduction and simplicity. There is a 1970s (the decade of peace and love) note, the wide stripes bringing to mind the athletic clothes of that era. The shoes were unisex athletic sandal from beginning to end, unsexily styled with black socks.  

Bottega Veneta
Tomas Maier's collections, usually gritty, had an ease that said flight-from-the-city. The overall trope seems to be the freedom of the open road, hinting at the all-is-well hippie movement. The suede fringe and exaggerated eyelet closings (lacing was used rather than buttons) for collars are childish features, and have a Robin Hood quality about them. Are we playing Sherwood Forest today? The matching fringed booties immediately recalled the happiness of playing at cowboys and Indians. Little boys grow up into jocks in the athletic separates, a hot teenager off to a game perhaps, with the sporty panels and zip-fronts. In the mix was a dreamy floral, in ensembles of gauzy floral print, that is as feminine as it sounds, rendering straightforward jackets a cute ‘play-date’ quality.

Dolce & Gabbana
Nostalgia and an escape to a more innocent era (here Cinema Paradiso 1950s) marked this collection. Domenico Dolce's and Stefano Gabbana Sicilian roots were shown in rose-tinted splendour in a recreation an entire village. The cast of urchins, salesmen, sailors and piano-tuner were actually drawn from Sicilian towns and villages. It said authentic and felt emotional, a rare and beautiful thing in fashion.
Although Dolce & Gabbana have carved out a business making clothes mined from fashions past, the appeal of this season has a lot to do with a rustic simplicity and innocence, obvious if you compare this collection with the gilded opulence of the last one (Fall 2012). The high-waisted, pleated shorts, the faded colours and antique prints, the oversized shirts, the awning-stripes and pyjama tops, the sailor tees, all spelt summer, sun and sea. The escape is from the formality of the city and the cares of the adult. The tightly belted hand-me-down pants, and three-piece suits do not say ‘slick banker’ but have that well-worn look of something worn by a country doctor.

Ermenegildo Zegna
The banker was also in retreat at Ermenegildo Zegna, the bastion of traditional masculinity. Instead of the dour shades of wool from their famous mills, the suitings were made in colour-saturated, glossy silks. Silk showed up in every look, from sensual knits to shining shantung suiting, to softly wafting shirts. The use of bold print was unusual at Zegna as well, not just the traditional pinstripes or checks but botanical, organic repeat patterns. The silhouette had the narrowness of youth, with tapered, high-waist pants, a nipped waist and strong shoulders.

Salvatore Ferragamo
Salvatore Ferragamo, another bastion of the classic, was doused in blinding Marvel comic colour. Creative Director Massimiliano Giornetti completed the looks with vibrant-coloured sneakers instead of sober leather, which had more than a dollop of Osh Kosh B’gosh.

Calvin Klein Collection
Creative director Italo Zucchelli recalls Calvin Klein’s heyday in anachronistic ‘youth cult’ looks that seemed to come straight out of 1982. The iconography of American sportswear, a Never Never Land of jeans, khakis, bomber jackets and some of the shortest shorts of the season (printed with pansies to boot!) seemed taken directly from the boys’ department. (See the three looks above.)

Conclusion: The flight from troubled times has taken shape in easy fit clothes that can be pulled over heads, like most children’s clothes, such as T-shirts. The majority of tops were in fact collarless and based on the tee – with short, wide sleeves for easy movement. A curious sexless note is evident in the many Eastern inflections, including tunic shirts, draped overshirts, and loose, pleated pants that hid the crotch, an obvious sign that the virile alpha male has gone on retreat. 

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