Pointing out that the men on the Milan catwalks are somewhat exuberantly attired might seem like stating the patently obvious, but the autumn/winter 2013/14 menswear offering from the Italian city sees a dandyish dash at even some of the most classic of labels. Whether it’s intricate needlepoint embroidery, plush jacquard techniques, rich, textured prints or lavish velvet trims, Italy’s menswear designers are striking sober suits from the agenda in favour of a peacock approach to dressing.
And why wouldn’t they? This is the country, after all, where the wardrobe prowess of its well-heeled men has acted as a calling card for centuries. From Milan’s reputation for creating luxury clothing from the Middle Ages onwards, to its role as a tailoring hub in the 19th century and the fashion focus created by 1950s Italian cinema, Italy has never been shy about its affection for impeccable menswear. Some of the country’s most famous names have, in their unabashed approach to menswear, redefined notions of male aesthetics. For example, Gianni Versace’s richly patterned, wildly theatrical, acid-bright (some might say brilliantly audacious) aesthetic in his menswear designs saw Medusa tendrils in electric neon over shirts, leopard-print swimming trunks and neo-classical columns on trousers: nothing was too daring for the Versace man’s wardrobe. And while today’s crop of menswear designers aren’t exactly suggesting that you trade in your black suit jacket for a Warhol-print bomber jacket, there are touches of exuberance and dandyism across the catwalks in the most innovative ways.
No stranger to a dash of theatricality, Dolce & Gabbana turned its back on Godfather-style Sicilian suiting and fisherman knits this season to incorporate beautiful embroidered floral motifs into its menswear. Teal and buttercup dinner jackets were covered in painterly bouquets, which also came printed on sweatshirts. Ornate brocade and embroidery also covered long evening coats. This wasn’t showmanship for showmanship’s sake; the incredibly detailed needlework took hundreds of hours to create by hand in Dolce & Gabbana’s workshops. Etro also adopted the use of rich pattern, a hallmark of the label, on dinner jackets, while other, loucher jackets came in shimmering copper velvet.
Baroque and roll
Unsurprisingly from a house such as Versace, Donatella’s men have little time for cosy knits and sober palettes for winter. Baroque gold curls came emblazoned on bomber jackets, ski jackets and trousers, and tailoring turned into a piece of walking art as jackets and trousers were scrawled with swirls, flower heads and graffiti. In need of a zebra-print down jacket or giraffe-print suit? Look no further.
Of course, not everyone is in the market for an all-over animal-print suit to wear in the boardroom, but even Milan’s great classicists are adding a dash of showman style to their looks this season. At Canali, a label known for handsome suiting and elegant cashmere, trousers came in a subtle print or with a metallic wash, long overcoats swishing open to reveal a flash of rust satin. At Trussardi models crunched over dead leaves dressed in a suitably autumnal palette, as in a suit in plush amber-toned corduroy. And at Valentino, brushed moleskin gave a shimmering effect to a sleek black jacket, while plump pelts of fur placed on an aviator jacket almost resembled a print pattern.
Milan may have reductionist designers such as Jil Sander and Prada who prefer to pare back their menswear aesthetic, but this season the city’s made a solid case for embracing your inner showman and being bold in your sartorial approach.