With the streets of the world’s financial districts paved in gold, menswear in this city has a new mantra: “Follow the money!”
From extreme glamour to extreme sports, the summer 2008 season has opened with a focus on the man who works hard at his desk and plays on his private yacht. There are more mean, lean suits—and even leaner neckties—on the runway than in a long while. And scuba diving is a fresh inspiration for slick city boots and Neoprene jackets.
What is the buzzword for hot hedge fund managers? They talk ‘transparency”—and so it is on the runways, where shirts are often semisheer and coats are in a globular nylon that has a techno spirit to go with the wearer’s high-tech gizmos in the pockets.
The new generation of “golden boys” was most visible at Burberry Prorsum, where designer Christopher Bailey gilded anything from a gold foil alligator trench coat (strictly for the $10 million bonus crowd) to knits and the swaths of military braiding that decorated the male bags. And he added inspiration from racing boats for scuba fabric used for tops, jackets and footwear. This Burberry show was as upbeat as a bull market and full of energy, even if it did not quite come off—mostly because of the insistent drop-crotch pants and the sense that gilded military lanyards and the favoured Neoprene in eye popping shades were pushing too self-consciously for a “fashion” effect.
“A mix between the elegant regimental gentleman and looking back at the technical side of Burberry,” Bailey said of the collection. “It is such an exciting time for the company. I wanted it to be positive, light, colourful—and gold.” Colour is another leitmotif of the season, and no one did that with more subtle, modern elegance than Raf Simons at Jil Sander, where the white invitation, its reverse just tinged with mint green, captured the aquarelle colour palette.
An ice blue, precisely tailored shirt, shading to an ocean blue translucent top or deeper mallard was matched by declinations of eau de nil to sage green or an apricot to burnt umber for a raincoat. Add sheer nylon layered over cotton and a glaze of a grid pattern and there was a fine play on colour and texture.
“I wanted it to be dynamic and very light—and get away from neutrals and beige,” Simons said backstage. He could get away a touch more from the severity of the Jil Sander aesthetic without betraying her heritage—but the show was convincing.
After playing with the space age as perceived in glam rock, Dolce & Gabbana came back to earth. It was a soft landing, but with a long parade of suits, body-conscious and worn with small-collared shirts and narrow ties, it looked like Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana were insisting that they meant business. That is, if you discount the flashing light bulbs on baggy, ruched pants, although ultra-pocketed cargo pants had a cool factor.
The difficulty for Dolce & Gabbana, now that it has grown into such a powerful brand, is to feed its ravenous consumer base without losing its edge. What works well from the design duo is anything that spells out the alpha male, from the lean crocodile shoes with the sober suits through an intriguing revival of camouflage patterns that, scattered among flower prints, gave a throbbing energy to the sportswear.
Versace’s new sobriety—serious suits, lean trench coats with flap pockets and not a bold pattern or sexy swimsuit in sight—must be attributed to the arrival as design consultant of the Russian-born designer Alexandre Plokhov, formerly with his American Cloak label. But with the 10th anniversary of Gianni Versace’s death next month, this might have been the moment to celebrate con brio. But even the sexy chicks endemic to the menswear runway were banished this season.
“Sharp,” Donatella Versace said in describing the sleek show, which was spot-on in its glazed fabric treatments and also had its dramatic moments as when a classic vest turned to show cross straps at the back. Satin roll necks in sweet colours under evening suits were reminiscent of the 1970s wannabe rebels eschewing the tux tie.
But there was one pure Versace moment when Tuki Brando, the gorgeous grandson of the superstar Marlon Brando and the new menswear face of the brand, sat front row, shaking long blond locks to rival Donatella’s. And what is this golden boy going to choose from the show? ”Red!” he pronounced, picking a leather jacket with Versace panache.
Dries van Noten brought his menswear show to Milan from Paris and in this trans- Alpine move lost none of his identity. Showing in the crumbling hall of the Palazzo Reale by the light of 1,500 candles, the Belgian designer created what backstage he called an “atmosphere of colour” by using glowing pinks and oranges in technical semisheer fabrics while the most manly cuts were reserved for womanly satins and flower prints.
The focus on shimmer and sheen (down to the satin slippers) and on translucent fabrics has become, in just two days, key to the new season. Van Noten incorporated that beautifully into his particular laid-back spirit. But whether the stolid city of Milan is the best environment for van Noten is less certain.
Blue is the hue of the fashion moment and the ode to the sea woven by Luca Missoni was poetic when waves of pattern broke over sweaters, spiffy when straw hats were given a black and white treatment, delicious in its tropical colours from citrus and mango to shrimp — and silly when octopus tentacles and starfish motifs appeared on tops.
But taken in small doses, this ocean-inspired collection was just the medicine for all those hedge fund hotties floating their inflated salaries on the Med next summer.