Milan Menswear Presentations: Brioni, Tod’s, Aspesi, Andrea Incontri, Massimo Alba, Dhruv Kapoor and Almini
Upmarket Italian menswear brands have struggled in the past few years as their unique tailoring skills became less relevant in a market dominated by luxury streetwear. But as tastes have swung to a more casual take on classicism, and away from street luxury, several high-level houses have responded with statement ideas.
This weekend in the four-day Milano Moda Uomo, which ended on Monday, was also a season of new generation designers and venerable insider's labels making important statements, as creative minds profited from the lockdown to explore new options.
There might not have been that many runway shows in Milan, but there were multiple presentations dotted throughout the city. We caught up with a handful of brands that grabbed our attention.
Chez Brioni, designer Norbert Stumpfl developed new proportions and new attitudes as he subtly moved the tony Roman brand forward.
All about ease, as Stumpfl combined elements of street – from drawstring trousers to over-shirts – with soft and supremely well-made tailoring. From a deconstructed all-gray Prince of Wales blazer paired with a steel gray over-shirt and drawstring pants that managed to be relaxed and yet rather regal.
Presented in a series of tableaux on stockmen in a beautifully decayed Milanese palazzo on whose worn walls were projected tracking shots of ancient Roman monuments. Norbert also showed a series of impeccable town coats; and deconstructed blazers in a great series of blue – from midnight blue redingote to indigo work-shirt to lapis lazuli double-pocket work shirts.
“Well, one couldn't live in Rome, without appreciating lapis lazuli. It’s all over the city,” chuckled Stumpfl, who also mingled in some women’s looks into the half-dozen tableaux.
“One thing we have been struck by recently is how many women are coming into our stores recently searching for custom-made looks. They want to smart, elegant and not like a businesswoman. This is our response,” added CEO Mehdi Benabadji.
A great leader in casual chic is Tod’s, which this season tweaked and tucked its aesthetic in some smart new versions of its classic canon.
Best example, a brand-new version of the Gommino, Tod’s signature dimple-soled moccasin. For next fall, Tod’s creative director Walter Chiapponi widened the last and shape and added far larger new dimples to the sole, leading to more comfort and a surer step. Plus, he showed great Walking Gommino or WG boots, with thicker rimmed soles and dimples.
While in fashion, Walter played with volumes gently and showed several natty over-shirts, the garment of the season in Italy this past week.
“Casualwear in super, super expensive fabrics to make a statement of elegance and chicness coming back. Like a big over-shirt in either vicuna or flannel. Everything is around chic,” explained Chiapponi.
Walter also produced a swish new video, shot inside a Castello di Rivoli, a fantastic art foundation and castle in the hills above Turin, never before used in fashion.
Hirsute youths marching in drawstring cargo pants in a light grey flannel; harlequin pattern matelassé jackets with an archive 'T'-plus-lion logo; perfect shearling flight jackets and some smart blousons, that appeared to be shearling but turned out to flocked fresh wool.
“Playing with codes, and every season trying to touch something classic but make it look different, and a fresh significance,” noted Chiapponi, who divides his work schedule between a studio on Corso Venezia in Milan and one in Le Marche, the Adriatic region where Tod’s was born and is based.
One brand hitting the sweet spot of both commercial success and critical recognition is Aspesi, which presented a swish and concise collection with a smart dosage of inventive tailoring, and a sustainable slant.
“It’s about adding a zest and adding a little extraordinary to wearable fashion,” explained Aspesi’s creative director Lawrence Steele, a veteran but preternaturally young American-born designer.
Even just stepping off the elevator into Aspesi’s Corso Venezia showroom, one was wowed by a great image of a defiant men’s top coat made in panels of sinful red duchesse satin and Prince of Wales check. It looked even better on a stockman, and punchily posh on a live model touring the light-filled space.
A highly-assured designer, Steele also dreamed up some great Canadian Rocky red plaid wool coats with padded nylon backs; and cunning padded oversized ribbed cardigans. The best example of volume in knitwear for guys in Milan.
Aspesi’s look book was spot-on too: male models with attitude and starring the scion of fashion icons like Camilla Nickerson and Maria Cornejo. Even the simplest items – like precision cut tuxedos, and check blazers – felt just right in this collection.
And, in a novel innovation, Aspesi has introduced a full-size genderless range – from XXS to XXL – making its urban outdoor technical styles more easily available for boys and girls to layer them with multiple outfits.
In a welcome return of his indie label, Andrea Incontri presented both menswear and womenswear in a brand-new showroom. Located just off the very central Via Turati, the space also featured an excellent debut photo shoot by Andrea’s old buddy, expert lens man Giampaolo Sgura, of this collection.
Blessed with a fertile imagination, Incontri has a special ability to tweak traditional workwear and take it somewhere very new. Like revamping a porter’s jacket with deft matelassé nylon; softening up jogging pants or basketball shorts in deft Burgundy jersey; or reinventing the safari jacket in padded washed satin.
The designer also introduced a concise new 'I' logo and monogram.
“I stands for independent, for instinctive, for incredibly real, for the individual,” smiled Incontri, who has the support of two new backers in this project.
After several successful years helming menswear at Tod’s, it felt good to see this subtly original designer back at his best.
“It’s about rendering color elegantly,” explained Massimo Alba, one of the great masters of fabric design in Italian menswear.
A concept well captured in great collection video of a gang of youthful lotharios at ski station Courmayeur as they took a gondola lift over the Alps and into France.
“We shot at 3,400 meters under a bright blue ski. And above pure white snow, precisely to show how these colors function. Putting together fuchsia and orange, and sky blue with turquoise,” said Alba.
“Designing textiles that have the possibility to be hyper colorful but always elegant. Taking the finest cashmere threads and mixing it with mohair, to break a certain rhythm. Or we took Harris tweed and turned it from an English tweed into a multi-cultural tweed, led by African tints like saffron,” he added.
Alba also softens all his fabrics, like his great denim and silk-blend double-breasted jackets, that looked made of Japanese denim but are not.
“I don’t see what is the point of flying rolls of Japanese denim for nine hours to an apparel plant in Italy! What is sustainable about that? We prefer to make our own denim. Every fabric and every garment is Made in Italy,” enthused Alba in his showroom and headquarters in the atmospheric Navigli canal district of Milan.
A dozen live models perched on small stands, each with explanatory label and title beside them in a display of techno romantic menswear by Indian designer Dhruv Kapoor.
Often made of end-run upcycled denim, seeing as “Indian manufacturers have literally millions of meters of denim stock lying around!” explained the Delhi-based designer, a graduate of Marangoni in Milan who also did a stint at Etro, which he called “my insight into print.”
Though this was denim taken somewhere very new thanks to the exuberant embroidery, blends of improbable space-age flowers, techy tsunami waves and sci-fi graphics.
“The starting point is what I am mostly watching in TV lately. Which has completely moved from Netflix to interviews with extra-terrestrials, channeling other worldly species and what they are talking about. They talk about science; they talk about spirit, and how we are looking inside ourselves, which is what this collection is about,” said Kapoor, who launched his house in 2013.
Custom-made jacquards, fused with interior linings and a thin sheet of foam led to novel spongy jackets that best expressed his intriguing vision.
“Ancient wisdom covered up. That’s why we present these models like artifacts in a museum,” insisted Kapoor.
One thing you can never cease to admire is how Italian families keep on building and maintaining hyper quality, hand-made brands. Case in point: Almini, a family-owned-and-run marque from Vigevano, a key city for the Italian shoe industry.
Very much an insider marque, five years ago, Almini opened its first store on Via Bagutta in Milan, the better to display its rather unique footwear and accessories.
“We have our own unique technique. We like to build shoes from inside out,” smiles Alessandro Ruggero Almini, CEO and the member of the fourth generation in this 101-year-old business.
Skilled staff in Vigevano, where Almini has a plant with 60 artisans, stitch shoe interiors first and then flip them inside out, creating shoes with a special subtlety.
Almini footwear does not come cheap – burnished double-strap minks retail at 1,200 euros, but the shoes reek class. As do their very haute gamme wheelies. An entry-level model of burnished leather is made by gently streaking calf leather with make-up brushes. It costs 6,200 euros. While a top of the line crocodile wheelie will set you back 42,000 euros.
Though all made in Italy, Almini sources the best possible raw materials internationally, from New Zealand reindeer for uber flexible slip-ons in Louisiana alligator. Though only using the belly of the reptile to make the highest quality of dress shoes.
Even the brand’s logo is subtle – a triple infinity or three interlocked loops – frequently seen on the tongues of shoes, even on heels. Or on the sole of a fresh collection of sneakers, which can be customized in multiple leathers and colors.
“It took us 100 years to make our first sneaker but we got there eventually!” chuckled Alessandro.
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