MILAN — On the last day of the Milan fall collections, Citibank, America’s largest bank, announced the greatest quarterly loss in its history—a staggering $9.83 billion write-down.
With hushed talk about the “R” word circulating in and around the fashion industry, the news sounded ominous. But for fall ’08, designers showing on the Milan runways seemed to offer an antidote: rugged, testosterone-charged clothes, luxuriously embellished and crafted for men. After seasons marked by anorexic silhouettes and wisps of masculinity, male power made a comeback. Shoulders grew more pronounced as designers heaped on raw luxury in the form of shearling, cashmere and fur.
“We know things are going to be expensive, but they look expensive,” said Michael Macko, vice-president and men’s fashion director at Saks Fifth Avenue. “It’s okay if something looks like it warrants the price.”
“There’s a realness and nostalgia to this season,” added Bergdorf Goodman Men fashion director Tommy Fazio.
On the opening day of Milan Fashion Week, Dolce & Gabbana unveiled a forceful collection that embodied both of those qualities. Labels as varied as Bottega Veneta and Dsquared drew inspiration from basic workwear, and Versace was among those who opted for a strong silhouette. The designers hardly spoke in one voice, but collectively they signaled a change of direction.
Here, highlights from the Milan collections:
DOLCE & GABBANA Last season, Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana sent out cargo shorts with a built-in LED system. For fall ’08, they didn’t need high-tech gadgets to shine. In an inspired move, the designing duo abandoned the glossy surfaces and metallic extremes of the past two seasons and, instead. delved into two of their historical leitmotifs—Sicily and romanticism—to produce an unabashedly rich collection.
“There’s a sensuality to the collection,” Gabbana said before show. “It’s a bit of a memory of our first shows—the true Sicily,” Dolce added.
Of course, at Dolce & Gabbana, nothing is quite as straightforward as it seems. Although poorboy caps, slinky white tanks and a kind of idealized rustic sexiness marked the designers’ early men’s collections, the one they presented for this fall offered much more than just memories of their greatest hits. It was an inviting masculine dreamscape where men dress and act like primordial protectors in super-sized shearlings, chunky hand-knit sweaters and sturdy thick-soled boots.
Suits, too, took on new proportions and at times came veiled in organza. The coating was barely perceptible but cast a subtle sheen. Craftsmanship was evident in every piece, adding up to a whole that equalled the sum of its parts.
Let retailers cry foul over the exaggerated proportions, heavy weights and hefty prices. Runway shows encourage a suspension of disbelief and transport the audience beyond mundane reality. The Dolce & Gabbana show did just that. As in a dream, the designers returned home and proved it’s truly where the heart resides.
PRADA A psychologist would have a field day analyzing Miuccia Prada, though it’s unlikely the gifted Italian designer would ever grant anyone the opportunity.
Still, many try, season after season, to pick and prod and get at what she’s getting at. Most fail outright. Others think they’ve made headway only to be blindsided again. (It’s easy to imagine Prada taking a perverse delight in the attempts.)
For fall, the designer said she wanted to convey a sense of flat surfaces in her eccentrically sexy collection. But the show—staged on a sloping, elevated stage—was hardly flat. Once again, it left us scratching our collective heads in inspired wonder and awe.
Prada steamrolled surfaces and turned shirts on their backs. Ties and belts hung from the neck and waist, respectively, like perverse afterthoughts. Shirts—pressed to the chest like hot wax—buttoned in the back and featured optical stripes that swayed and swirled and grew bolder before fading. The compressed silhouette seemed at once emasculating and strangely enticing.
Backstage Prada reiterated her goal to stretch the boundaries of men’s wear and implement new perceptions. She insisted there was no message—which, of course, is a message in itself. You may never understand the “why” behind one of her collections, but you instinctually know when it’s right.
JIL SANDER Has any other designer ever so deftly filled the shoes of his employer’s namesake as Raf Simons at Jil Sander? Only Simons could regard something as static, familiar and succinct as “marble” in such a variety of ways that he sustained an element of surprise throughout his riveting Jil Sander show.
The linearity and meticulous construction of the tailored pieces evoked the timeless grandeur of marble structures, while the molded shoulders of the outerwear echoed the soft contours of marble sculpture. Coats had internal construction inside oversized shoulders to create volume around the arms. Fine leather jackets skimmed the upper body so closely they could have been superhero costumes.
Ensembles in photo-realistic, allover prints of marble’s veins, pebbles and swirls were unexpectedly maximal for this quintessentially minimalist house. But their surfaces appeared so smooth, you could instantly recognize the strain of hermetic flawlessness from previous seasons.
Simons pushed the limits of pattern design in his exploration of marble’s natural inconsistency. In addition to the marbleized prints, he developed opalescent black fabric, check patterns composed of randomly wavy lines and totally woven “patchworks” of classic tweeds, integrated at random angles. Knits, lightly speckled with color, upheld the theme.
In contrast, a group of wool, tailored pieces was composed of fastidiously controlled, narrowly folded knife-pleating that registered on the eye much like pinstripes. These were said to suggest the corrugation of classical columns and pillars.
BURBERRY PRORSUM In recent seasons, Christopher Bailey has appeared eager to flex his creative muscles and explore territory outside the precise tenets of the Burberry aesthetic he established early in his tenure. At times he seemed to have become averse to that which made him famous: trench coats, military might and a coolly modern interpretation of British style. But, for fall, he wisely let go of this notion and returned with a fresh eye to the hallmarks of the English brand. The great overcoat returned, and so did Bailey’s singular sense of British style, as seen in a smattering of printed silk shirts, flared trousers and kooky knit hats.
“It felt right to go back to tradition and explore the archives,” Bailey said. “But everything has a modern hand.”
Modern, yes, but the collection was also moody and warm, with moments of eccentricity. An autumnal palette of mossy greens, slates and muddy browns set the tone, while crochet insets on cashmere cardigans and dress shirts cut out of lace provided an offbeat counterpoint.
Bailey has an affinity for shine and texture, and both worked well when tempered with matte surfaces. Delicate plumes—they looked almost like fishing flies—fluttered romantically up the side of a black V-neck. Another sweater, made entirely out of them and then painted silver, was an exercise in overkill. But that was one of very few missteps. Bailey’s instinct to go back helped bring the collection forward.
VERSACE “His name is Alexandre Versace,” Donatella Versace said backstage of her men’s wear design consultant, Alexandre Plokhov, before Versace’s striking fall show.
Donatella was joking, of course, but the alias was more apropos this season than last. In his sophomore effort for the house, the Russian-born designer did a better job of melding his own distinct design leanings—like graphic, dramatic cuts—into the Versace landscape. And he did so as DV made a compelling case for powerful luxury.
“We did a man who can stand next to today’s woman,” Donatella said.
Not only stand, but tower. Long, longer and longest was the message of the collection, and it came in several forms—from sweeping morning coats to floor-grazing toggle ones—all done in luxury blends, like cashmere and mink. Even the heels of shoes were accented with metal insets to aid in the illusion of length.
Suits took on similar dimensions, and here Plokhov’s handiwork was strongly in evidence. What worked less well was the color palette. The inky blues and bloody Bordeaux looked almost cartoonlike—as though they belonged in a Tim Burton movie—and detracted from the collection’s inherent luxury. Donatella would have been wise to take a lesson out of her own handbook and toss in some sensual neutrals, as she did with her splendid spring women’s show.
Still, Versace established a much more appealing men’s collection this season. Now Donatella needs to let the Versace man stand tall and have some fun while doing so.
Breaking News: @louisvuitton's men's artistic director @mrkimjones is leaving the French fashion house after nearly 7 years. Jones joined Louis Vuitton in 2011, following a three year tenure as creative director of British luxury goods brand Alfred Dunhill. Jones is to exit Louis Vuitton after showing his fall 2018 collection for the brand in Paris on Thursday. Read the full exclusive story on WWD.com. Link in bio. #wwdnews #wwdfashion
For men’s fall 2018, @giuseppezanotti drew on elements from streetwear, sport, biker, combat and rock ‘n’ roll. Pictured here are a pair of shoes from the collection, featuring zippers, rhinestones, and silver hardware. Head to WWD.com to see a roundup of the accessories from Milan’s men’s fall 2018 shows. #wwdfashion (📷: Andrea Delb)
To celebrate the 25th anniversary of @ralphlauren’s snowboarding collection, the brand is mining its archives. The iconic brand is reintroducing vintage styles and dropping new designs for a color capsule that will be available in Ralph Lauren stores and @openingceremony on January 25. The capsule will consist of 10 pieces, including the Snow Beach Pullover, pictured here, which is a collector’s item that rapper Raekwon wore in Wu-Tang Clan’s “Can It Be All So Simple” video. #wwdfashion (📷: Tom Gould)
For @rochasofficial’s pre-fall 2018 collection, creative director Alessandro Dell’Acqua channeled the sophisticated and intriguing Catherine Denevue in the film “Belle de Jour.” Polished collarless coats, midi skirts, suits and ’60s graphic motifs were all featured in the collection, adding a sense of discreet luxury. See the rest of the photos on WWD.com #wwdfashion
“We tried to produce clothing of that couture quality, but the most daunting part was that we only had a matter of days [to do it],” said costume designer Lou Eyrich, who recreated Gianni Versace’s iconic looks for @americancrimestoryfx. Eyrich searched online retailers and vintage shops for original pieces from the design house and for @penelopecruzoficial, who plays Donatella Versace. Head to WWD.com to read how she created the Versace world. #wwdfashion
Only three months after her stellar debut catwalk season, @kaiagerber has inked her first big design collaboration –– with @karllagerfeld. The collection blends Lagerfeld’s Parisian chic aesthetic and the model’s signature West Coast casual style via RTW, accessories, footwear and more. The #KarlLagerfeldxKaia collection will launch in September with a series of events. Get all the details on WWD.com. #wwdnews #wwdfashion
Harrods plans to remove the famous statue of Princess Diana and Dodi Al Fayed from the bottom of the Egyptian escalators and hand it back to Mohamed Al-Fayed. “We are very proud to have played our role in celebrating the lives of Diana, Princess of Wales and Dodi Al Fayed at Harrods and to have welcomed people from around the world to visit the memorial for the past 20 years,” said Michael Ward, Harrods managing director. “With the announcement of the new official memorial statue to Diana, Princess of Wales at Kensington Palace, we feel that the time is right to return this memorial to Mr. Al Fayed and for the public to be invited to pay their respects at the palace.” More on the news, with reporting by @loreleimarfil, at WWD.com. #wwdnews