We’ve become used to seeing conceptual creations in the designer collections: tricky-to-wear pieces which make a big impact on the catwalk, but can be difficult to incorporate when it comes to day-to-day dressing. So when a flurry of wearable fashion was shown at a major fashion event for autumn/winter 2016-17, industry insiders took note. At Milano Moda Uomo, where menswear collections from the most influential designers are shown, cutting-edge concepts were tempered by shapes, textures and tailoring all within comfortable reach of the man on the street.
In Gucci’s show, Alessandro Michele’s intense and ornate designs were evident, but in addition to brocade suits and silk pyjamas were far more accessible pieces. Unstructured pleat-front trousers in deep greens and indigo blues were loose cut to give a casual, lived-in feel. Knitwear, the backbone of a stylish winter wardrobe, comprised chic, Andy Warhol-esque polo necks layered underneath loose-knit jumpers with wide necks and cropped sleeves. For the more adventurous, long grandpa cardigans came in Schiaparelli pink, while others featured teddy bears and collars trimmed with fur. And then there were the block-colour single- breasted blazers; lightweight, loosely tailored and – much like Michele himself does – worn open and loose, with a smile and without a care.
‘There was an air of humility in Milan,’ Charlie Porter said in his menswear round-up for the Financial Times, noting that designers want to ‘engage’ customers around the world. Although many collections carried statement-heavy themes there were individual pieces at Milano Moda Uomo which spoke directly to consumers.
Prada is a fashion house which has a penchant for complex fashion dialogue at its core, so it was intriguing to see designer Miuccia Prada illustrate her message with accessible pieces. The overarching theme this season is the navy, with sailor’s jackets leading the charge. The jackets were rich with Napoleonic touches and there were large buttons, open collars, long and short lengths, and single- and double-breasted versions. Some were in pale-brown lightweight cotton, others in navy or black wool. There were tartans too, with blazers and coats in brownish greys; the most striking featured wide lapels that opened to reveal a brightly coloured furry lining.
Tomas Maier has injected considered, urban sensibility into the latest collection for Bottega Veneta which is likely to have customers rushing to the boutiques. Bottega Veneta’s archetypal luxury is well represented – through the use of copious amounts of cashmere and elegant, elongated silhouettes – and realised in a traditional colour palette which includes shades of Yves Klein blue and nicely aged pinot noir. Heavy coats are trimmed with fur and lined with yellow and black twill, while patches of tartan appear on the shoulders of jumpers and coat lapels. Maier’s approach is clever: luxe-dressing with a measured degree of edge is intriguing but won’t alienate customers.
The future is bright at Versace, where Donatella Versace has taken classic pieces and turned them a vivid shade of purple. Coats with duffle-inspired design work, angora cardigans, tailored slim-fitting suits and heavy, unstructured coats have all been given the lilac treatment. This might not render them easily wearable together, but in isolation each piece is accessible and will work with other items in your wardrobe.
‘No one else makes clothes that are so reach-out-and-touch,’ Tim Blanks noted about the Emporio Armani collection in the Business of Fashion. And this is a collection that makes you want to do just that. Loose, unstructured trousers made an appearance once again (these are likely to be the trouser of the season), this time in soft wool, leather and even denim. Elsewhere at Emporio Armani it is all about texture, with suits in bouclé and twill, collarless blazers in tonal grey herringbone, and simple uncomplicated knitwear that can be layered under suits – a combination that is fast becoming the look du jour.
Years ago, before the men’s collections had such an esteemed position at fashion’s table, menswear was all about subtle details. The industry then started to grow and boundaries were pushed, but what happened on the catwalk wasn’t always easy to translate into pieces for day-to-day life. Which is why autumn/winter 2016-17, with an impressive option of, quite literally, ready-to-wear pieces, might just be what every man needs.