Florence and Milan take menswear back to its roots
Has the flood of street and sportswear finally subsided? The sporty tracksuit and sweater look, which still dominated last summer's collections, faded into the background somewhat during this Italian menswear Fashion Week, which began with Pitti Uomo in Florence on 8th January and drew to a close on Monday, 14th January, with the last of the Milan runway presentations.
One things is certain: trousers have dethroned jogging pants! And even the tie made a comeback in some collections. Sportswear has obviously not disappeared from the menswear wardrobe but, even as it continues to free wearers from traditional restraints, it is no longer quite so visible, having been fused into a silhouette with much more classic lines. Similarly, animal prints and flashes of fluorescent colour were still present throughout these latest menswear collections, but were reserved for small touches, appearing here and there, on a collar or a lapel, for example.
Indeed, designers seemed to send more suits down the runway for this Fall/Winter 2019-20 season than ever before. The characteristic menswear ensemble took a number of different forms, from a slim graphic look in jersey and a laid-back version worn with a t-shirt and sneakers to a classic tweed suit and a grungey oversized affair, not to mention all the pieces in the quintessential chequered pattern, which cropped up everywhere.
channelling something of a retro 1940s vibe, bankers' suits and blazers paired with wide-legged trousers with a crease were by far the most recurrent pieces on the runway, while Prince of Wales check was a close runner-up. The pattern was celebrated with particular enthusiasm by Dolce & Gabbana at their show based around the idea of "eleganza", where the Italian duo showed that they, more than anyone, knew that the tide was turning. The two designers dazzled show attendees with their three-piece suits and their long tailored coats in sumptuous fabrics, even moving some audience members to tears when they revealed impeccable ensembles in marvelous salt-and-pepper wool or chic chevrons, the likes of which have not been seen on menswear runways for some years now.
"This week we saw a reaction against streetwear, a desire for a classier, more understated and more refined man. But the collections are still very schizophrenic, with no real dominant trend to speak of," commented Beppe Angiolini, head of the Sugar boutique in Arezzo, Tuscany, and new creative director of Milanese luxury concept store Excelsior.
It was certainly a return to the classics but with that vaguely nonchalant edge that makes all the difference, immediately making silhouettes feel younger and trendier. For this reason, Italian designers declared that this season was an example of deliberate imperfection and disorder. Pullovers were worn over jackets or even over down parkas, that is to say when they weren't slipped on under shirts, as suggested by Miuccia Prada. Shirts and jackets were doubled up and absent-mindedly buttoned into each other at Marni and Bed J.W. Ford, while Korean brand Beyond Closet explored the possibilities offered by putting shirts over vests.
Silhouettes were bulked up by all-engulfing cocoon-like volumes and unstructured garments. Overall, more attention was paid to quality and sustainable development, to natural materials and centuries-old craftsmanship. Technology was put to work for the environment, as designers experimented with new, less polluting techniques, while also developing increasingly high-performance apparel.
This time round, the menswear calendar also seemed to line up once more with real-world seasons. For winter, the emphasis was therefore on extreme cold and polar conditions. Igloo installations were all the rage at Pitti Uomo, while in Milan, Billionaire made it snow on a polo pitch set up inside a cloister.
Large parkas and sheepskin coats were the staples of this wintery menswear wardrobe, where lace-up mountain boots with lugged soles were also pride of place, as well as heavy-duty leather gloves. Alpine sports served as a particularly strong source of inspiration for Italian designers, evident in the ski-ready over-trousers at Dsquared2 and the technical ski suits fit for Himalayan expeditions sent out by Les Hommes.
The whole "mountain chic" repertoire was on show, with outdoor looks proving to be particularly popular, but also traditional plaid shirts and alpine jumpers. Another noteworthy trend was the arrival of bouclé and boiled wool in the menswear wardrobe, accompanied by a plethora of plush jackets and coats.
All in all, a good start to the season, as pointed out by a number of exhibitors ar Pitti Uomo. "For us, it's been very positive. It's a very qualitative trade show, where we receive large orders. We've seen a lot of people, in particular from Asia: Japan, Korea and China, but also from America, England and Germany. None from France though, except for discounters," commented Stan Chaveau, export manager at Armor-Lux. It was the same story at small French hat brand Béton Ciré: "We received some orders, whereas at the last two or three editions of Pitti, things had slowed down."
Overall, however, the Florentine trade show's report card seems a little more mixed. Its organisers announced a level of attendance in line with previous seasons: a total of 24,000 buyers attended, a decrease of 4% compared to January 2018, when there were 25,000. Pitti Uomo has suffered above all from a decline in Italian (-8%) and French (-11%) buyers at this edition, while there were 11% more buyers from Canada and 10% more from Hong Kong.
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