By and  on February 24, 2011

Casual luxury continues to be the driving trend in men’s wear fabrics for spring-summer 2012, seen in an array of noble qualities with a relaxed, sporty feel. Sportswear fabrics are looking cleaner and more luxurious, while tailoring trends fall into two camps: ultraclassic sartorial fabrics or updated, lighter and softer reinterpretations of traditional cloths.

For example, at the recent Première Vision Paris fabric fair, a number of British mills introduced relaxed yet ever-elegant versions of Savile Row-flavored tailoring fabrics in fresh, light colors like sky blue, olive and burnt orange. These included a clean-cut herringbone linen design by Abraham Moon & Sons and gossamer T-shirt qualities by Johnstons of Elgin, a specialist in cashmere and fine wools based in Scotland.

“There was a lot of nice color, even pastels, or brighter colors contrasted with natural grounds. Things are looking more relaxed, less formal,” said Jason Basmajian, artistic director of Brioni.

“Customers want a suit that doesn’t look like what’s on the market at the moment,” said Roberto Leva, design director at Leggiuno SpA, which introduced a new collection of pure cotton jacket and pant fabrics, as well as a line of cotton-linen blends designed to resemble heavy wools, mohair and tweed. “We look at the past and reinterpret; it’s about extremely modern fabrics with a vintage look,” said Leva.

Highlights at Marzotto included a pure wool blazer fabric that resembles jersey.

Indigo and micro designs were among key trends for shirtings while, in sportswear, Lanvin men’s wear designer Lucas Ossendrijver observed an abundance of dry textured papery fabrics that were “a little more stiff.” He lauded Olmetex’s cotton-nylon blends that resemble nylon but don’t shine.

“Sportswear is starting to become dressier, with clean surfaces, not so many patterns; there’s more of a sophisticated approach to casualwear,” said Christian Lippich, designer of Tiger of Sweden’s men’s line, adding that he saw a lot of micro Oxford weaves and coatings on outerwear fabrics and linen. Paul Surridge, a men’s wear designer at Jil Sander, said he saw a lot of Japanese-style raw, washed or treated fabrics that were “either eco or techno looking.” Paul Smith lauded the lightweight nylons and dry matte fabrics by Dinamo that are good for the summer season. “There were a lot of washed fabrics, especially in men’s shirting. What’s interesting is weavers are suggesting that you make the shirt and then wash the fabric,” said Smith.

At Milano Unica in Italy, mills are gearing up for a bright spring-summer 2012. Exhibitors spearheaded classic collections and branched out into additional experimental and vibrant lines to attract more ready-to-wear clients. Key trends included unusual weaves, lightweight and extra-fine luminous fabrics in radiant tones, and bright hues. Vintage and weathered effects that previously dominated the sector were sidelined for spring.

Manufacturers inside the fair’s Ideabiella section were bullish about newness. “As raw materials [become] more difficult to source, producers have gotten more creative,” said Steven Gronich, U.S. sales director for Lanificio di Tollegno. “The shortages are forcing manufacturers to create new blends from all forms of fibers.”

On show at Tollegno were new cotton, mohair and linen soft-handle blends in macro designs, including checks, and bright hues such as reds.

Italian mill Botto Fila, celebrating its centennial this year, hoped to stand out from the crowd with a collection of reworked classics that included finer weights, silk and wool blends in contrast mélanges and an array of nonsolid colors and patterns.

Lanificio Ermenegildo Zegna & Figli SpA showcased two collections, a new fashion offering of two-tone fabrics in blue hues and an array of technological offerings including cool-effect textiles that reflect sunlight and an anti-stain fabric. The company’s silk mill, Tessitura Novara, exhibited a line of fabrics with the addition of waterproof membranes. Italian mill Botto Giuseppe also harnessed technology for spring with its “liquid wool” line that blends silk with techno fibers to produce effects including stretch, shiny and iridescent surfaces and soft handles.

Men’s suiting wool mill Reda expertly combined a melting pot of cultures in its collection that featured preppy-inspired Vichy squares alongside a Colonial-themed line in intense metallic, green and sand hues.

Luxury producer Loro Piana previewed its lightweight yarn blends in cashmere and silk with evocative names including Sunset, referring to its intended use for cool summer evenings. Natural fibers were utilized to produce the company’s sporty outdoor collection that aims to inject natural fibers — including linen wool blends in neutral colors — with performance qualities.

Within the fair’s Shirt Avenue section, Italian producer Testa spearheaded the sector’s fascination with newness for spring, exhibiting its traditional Made in Italy range alongside a sportier line, also produced in Italy. “Our clients are demanding something different for weekends and evenings, but want to retain a luxury aspect,” said chief designer Gianluca Bena, referring to the collection’s modern striped qualities in bold colors and lightweight denim-look fabrics with jacquard prints. In a confident mood, Bena said after many seasons of price dominating the agenda, buyers are demanding unique and quality shirting again.

Taiana showcased new techniques including subtle chalklike prints over florals, Liberty-style prints, and blue hues including subtle tie-dyed effects.

“There’s finally a willingness to try something new,” said Matteo Taiana, manager of Taiana’s shirting division, which also previewed its new collection of rtw stretch jacquard blazers.

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