A return to elegance at Men’s Fashion Week in Milan

The catwalks in the Italian city feature designs from Prada, Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana and others, which jettison sporty styles and emphasize contemporary cuts, luxurious fabrics and comfortable garments

Moda hombre Milan 2023
Models wear Prada designs during men's fashion week in Milan, Italy, on January 15, 2023Matteo Corner (EFE)
Carlos Primo

The fashion show that kicked off men’s fashion week in Milan last Friday was also the one that generated the most buzz among the public. It was the first Gucci collection since the departure of Alessandro Michele, the brand’s creative director between 2015 and 2022. The new collection, designed by the brand’s creative team, emphasized polished and elemental offerings, stripped of the baroque to instead lean on Gucci’s past styles. For example, it featured lacquered canvas fabrics that give shape to the brand’s accessories with prints from 1970s. The collection also borrowed from the archives, alluding to rock aesthetics and the brand’s classic tailoring. Gucci’s suits, both structured and wide, exemplified the return to elegance that has been a common thread in the week’s fashion shows.

In fact, Dolce & Gabbana’s collection for next fall is refining the fashion house’s language. In the summer collection they showcased last June, Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana revisited some of their greatest hits; now these are complemented by a primarily black collection - with some gray and several white jackets, some of which feature the brand’s feminine tailoring in an effort to strip away ornamentation and emphasize silhouettes instead. “We are saturated with images, so we wanted to reflect who we are [by really] polishing each garment,” Dolce commented before the fashion show. “It’s not minimalism but our codes.” They have brought back their legendary corsets from the early 1990s, which stylize the waist and contrast with huge coats. And they are emphasizing tailoring in response to now overused sportswear. “When you ask any young person, what they want is a suit, not a sweatshirt,” Gabbana said. “It’s not true that this generation doesn’t like suits.”

Dolce & Gabbana
Tailoring is essential to Dolce & Gabbana’s menswear styles for next season, which were presented in Milan in January

This hedonistic conception of tailoring also permeates the Fendi collection, which is presented to a soundtrack by Giorgio Moroder, in one of the line’s nods to disco. The color palette is inspired by the reflection of a disco ball; some garments are stitched with tiny silver discs alongside the customary sequins. “Nightlife brings people together,” as Silvia Venturini Fendi, the line’s creative director, explained moments before the fashion show. Several elements are inspired by her own life and personal style. For example, the disco details and asymmetrical vests recall Venturini Fendi’s time in New York, when she went straight from the club to the office, wearing a sequined shirt under her suit (“it was my way of seeing the world,” she reflected). Another personal touch: tailored jackets and coats that extend into fabric pieces that drape the body like a cape. Fur, one of the Roman fashion house’s specialties, is presented in trompe l’oeil fashion, as are its airbrushed and stencil-dyed sheepskin jackets.

Layers, leather and metallics are among Fendi's proposals for next season's menswear.

Semiotic games are common at Prada; since Raf Simons joined the brand, they’ve become immediately recognizable details. For the coming winter, Simons and Prada have formulated a sort of false collar for their coats and jackets, evoking the shape of a knitted collar superimposed on a shirt collar with elongated points cut in half. There are also minimalist tunics – almost mid-length dresses – with wide boatneck collars, and quilted jackets and coats, suggesting the rounded shapes cultivated by both designers.

Four menswear styles that Prada presented at the January 2023 Milan fashion week

Continuity has been a constant this season, and the styles focus on reinventing comfortable elegance. This has posed a challenge for Italian fashion designers, who have learned that they cannot rely solely on a legion of tracksuits and sneakers, which are already showing signs of falling out of favor. Perhaps that is why Armani’s two collections – Emporio Armani and Giorgio Armani, the brand’s two main lines, reflect a comforting classicism in which the sporty elements, such as pants with pockets and quilted coats, do not distract from Armani’s customary precise lines and sober hues (blues, blacks, grays, velvets and pearl tones).

Previous designs can be both a refuge and a burden for historic fashion houses. Marco de Vincenzo, who was appointed creative director of Etro last summer, debuted his first menswear collection, which features barely any prints; it showcases motifs that allude to the company’s history instead. The designs are translated into knitted elements - for example, a pixelized version of the house’s paisley print – and floral and fruity embroidery on coats and knitwear. Since de Vincenzo’s arrival at Etro, the fashion house’s silhouettes have become more contemporary and graphic.

Zegna Milano 2023
Judging by its January 2023 fashion show in Milan, floral and fruity prints and embroidery are integral to Etro's menswear next season.

But not all the styles are solemnly elegant. Brothers Dan and Dean Caten reflect and translate Milan’s most hedonistic side. Their Dsquared2 brand proposes a collection for men and women that features urban, adolescent and provocative tints; in it, T-shirts with erotic messages and allusions to rural life in their native Canada coexist. The collection’s double-waisted pants, wide knitwear and unrestrained commitment to accessorizing highlight the brand’s euphoric identity. Magliano, the new Bolognese brand, explores ordinary clothes and the dignity of working-class clothing from the opposite point of view: the brand’s deconstructed, superimposed and meticulously tailored garments combine without overshadowing their excellent workmanship.

Similarly, in his eponymous label JW Anderson, Jonathan Anderson declines to offer a bouquet of styles that are conceived as dynamite for social media and stores. His tiny shorts with knitted motifs, boots with buckles and knitwear screen-printed with nudes are less whimsical than one might think and reveal Anderson’s unerring talent for creating unmistakable, long-lasting garments.

Zegna Milano 2023
Several models present Ermenegildo Zegna creations for the 2023–2024 autumn-winter collection in MilanMIGUEL MEDINA (AFP)

Alessandro Sartori, Zegna’s creative director, emphasizes the house’s commitment to artisanal and sustainable materials in his new collection. Seventy percent of the styles are composed of cashmere garments treated with complex techniques similar to those applied to traditional fabrics. For example, ratiné – the treatment used in the mid-20th century to give ordinary fabrics a fluffy appearance – is now applied to the fashion house’s luxurious cashmere, Oasi Cashmere. The remaining 30% consists of recycled wool fabrics, which are used in lightweight tailored garments. The result is an infinitely combinable wardrobe that is as comfortable and flexible as sportswear, but it simultaneously reflects the brand’s noble and minimalist elegance. Putting one’s eggs in a single basket is risky, but Sartori knows what he’s doing. An installation that replicates the room in which cashmere fibers flutter and settle on the floor before becoming yarn greets the audience when they arrive at the fashion show. In an era of visual debauchery, fashion offers tactile delights and a certain elegance that nobody can define precisely, but it is nevertheless fundamental to the Italian brands’ future.

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