On the spring/summer 2018 catwalks, Italy’s leading menswear designers presented a new vision of office dressing. Fendi, Marni, Bottega Veneta and Giorgio Armani provide the perfect wardrobe for the modern working man
The modern two-piece suit – the workplace uniform for so many – was largely the invention of Beau Brummell. An arbiter of men’s fashion in England during the Regency period of the early 19th century, Brummell eschewed the very ornate approach to dressing that was popular at the time in favour of a more tailored outfit characterised by a dark coat, full-length trousers, an immaculately pressed shirt and a cravat. Fast forward more than 200 years and while the cravat might be the preserve of the sartorially bold, the two-piece suit continues to have a place in many men’s wardrobes. It was a significant feature this season as Italy’s menswear designers focused their attention on what dressing for the office means today.
Italy’s menswear designers focused their attention on what dressing for the office means today
At Fendi, creative director Silvia Venturini Fendi took emblems of traditional office dress (a brown pinstripe suit, a grey check double-breasted suit, a silk tie, leather loafers) and styled them with more casual, less conventional pieces that included furry baseball jackets, suede-sleeved cardigans and colour-panelled raincoats. Many of the looks were corporate on top, with a shirt and jacket, and casual on the bottom, with shorts and sandals. This, Silvia Venturini Fendi termed the ‘half-Skype look’.
As fashion critic Tim Blanks commented on the Business of Fashion website, ‘when you’re on Skype, people only see your top half, so that’s where the effort goes. With the bottom half you can get away with murder.’ Well, perhaps not murder; red gingham shorts with leather sliders, cream jodhpur-style trousers with stirrup ankles, and shiny waterproof combat trousers were what Silvia Venturini Fendi came up with.
Thanks to a collaboration with the artist Sue Tilley, illustrations of inanimate workplace objects ‒ a desk lamp, a cup of tea, a banana ‒ were printed on shirts or embroidered on to jackets. For Silvia Venturini Fendi, the new office menswear look was all about taking the essence of corporate dressing and making it more engaging.
‘The work wardrobe has become a hybrid, incorporating suits, athleisurewear and travel-friendly fabrics,’ commented Nick Remsen in the Financial Times. ‘Big roles today come with responsibilities that extend far beyond the boardroom,’ he added. This was a factor that Marni’s creative director Francesco Risso seemed to be contemplating in the execution of his spring offering, in which suits had contrasting panels and pinstripe, patchwork textures. Shirt collars were left open and ties were loosened, as if the men were breaking away from the office and were off on an adventure. The clothes were meant to ‘surf the topography of a city’, Risso said after the show.
Tomas Maier, creative director of Bottega Veneta, is no stranger to colour or conceptualism and this season he evidently relished the opportunity to breathe life into the office man’s uniform. The blazer was replaced with a cropped, pocketed worker jacket in a range of styles including a brown suede version with the brand’s signature intrecciato weave. There were also roomy trench coats in silk and in heavy-duty shiny leather.
The mood was on the comfortable side of corporate; these were clothes for the modern, fashion-forward man rather than anyone trying to conform to strict office dress codes. The colour palette was where the designer really ran riot; the designs ranged from a pale pink sequinned leather jacket to a chartreuse-yellow zip-through bomber jacket made from velour.
This season Giorgio Armani’s designs celebrated the brand’s long association with luxury corporate dressing. This included an update of the classic double-breasted grey silk suits we knew and loved in the 80s; they were cut a little narrower so they felt more relevant to today. Much of the collection followed a grayscale colour palette, a journey in texture where each piece was a variation on neutral sophistication. Casual, worker-style chinos were paired with foiled zip-up anoraks. Washed-out wool check trousers were styled with metallic crinkled bomber jackets.
Giorgio Armani also incorporated single-breasted suits in pinstripes and navy blue for men for whom dressing down their workday look is not an option. Finally, six blindingly white suits reiterated the appeal of simple textural contrasts. During the show, the words ‘Made in Armani’ were projected on to the catwalk. It was something of a reminder that when it comes to the suit, there isn’t a style that the house hasn’t presented.
Along with his exuberant style of clothing, Beau Brummell was rumoured to have taken five hours a day to dress and to have polished his boots with champagne. Neither of these rituals might be practical for the modern working man, but Italy’s designers are evidently enjoying a jovial approach to office wear that resonates with this spirit.