By  on January 12, 2018

MILAN — “They affectionately call me the upholstery designer here,” said Kean Etro with a laugh.Tanned and refreshed after his Christmas holidays spent between skiing in the Dolomites and sailing across the Indian Ocean, the creative director of the men’s wear line at the family-owned company is brimming with energy as he walks through the collection in an exclusive preview with WWD. His interest in home interiors is reflected in his designs and the nickname also comes from his deep and extensive knowledge of habitats around the world.“Habitat is also the house that surrounds you and that you wear as a dress,” said Etro affably.A medallion detail from Persian carpets that is reproduced on exquisitely embroidered jackets in silk and cotton velour is just one example of Etro's ability to import from interiors to fashion. The lining shows colorful Etro banknotes and is so carefully defined it would be worth wearing the blazer inside out — although it is not reversible, the designer pointed out.On a board is a mock-up of the installation that will serve as the background to the men's wear presentation to be held on Jan. 13 at the Palazzo del Ghiaccio, the ice-skating rink in Milan, which will mark the first event in this year’s celebrations of the brand’s 50th anniversary. Last season the company opted for a coed show, but is returning to the traditional format by gender for this year. Models of different ages and friends of the family will walk through various areas in the 21,600-square-foot space, which will contain pillows and chairs, a gallery of plaster casts and a playroom — with a real pinball machine — and guests will be invited to sit down and interact with the models and one another.The installation, under the Dandy Detour theme, will allow retailers and the press to see, up close, the richness of the fabrics and to touch them. “Touch is an essential sense for me,” said Etro.What does being a dandy mean to the designer? “It's to express one’s creativity in one’s habitat. To be self-aware and in charge, and to know what stands around you,” he explained. The designer said the anniversary helped him to put into focus his own story. “I asked myself, what is my best [trait]? Dandyism, I think, but here it’s not shown in a linear way — hence the detour,” he said.Etro is a tireless globetrotter — while remaining strongly connected to his Milanese roots — and is passionate about nature, whose bounty is reproduced in his collection. A palm tree, or the tree of life, as the designer called it, is stylized on a jacket; golden grapes enrich a long blue coat, and a blazer shows the pattern of a malachite, each ring of the mineral popping out vividly. Turtleneck jumpers are printed like tree bark or cloudy marble. Marble with a “destroyed” effect decorates a bomber.The symbol of the house, a winged horse, or Pegasus, is embroidered in orange on the back of a camel coat, with some of the threads left longer and loose. Etro’s staple paisley print could not be omitted, of course, and it is embroidered on the back of wool coats in a wing-like pattern or swirling psychedelically on an acid orange velvet bomber. Pointing to a caramel-colored leather jacket, Etro showed how the print is revisited with a special technique, “scarred,” he said, onto the back of a caramel-colored leather jacket. The paisley motifs also run around the edge of a long coat as ornamental trimmings. The craftsmanship is stunning and Etro takes the time to pay tribute to the artisans who crafted the clothes, all made in Italy.Etro is a collector of items he picks up during his travels and he speaks knowledgeably of Navajo weaving, Persian textiles and Celtic tapestries, reimagined on wool coats or seen dégradé on parkas and bomber jackets.Jacquard is used heavily: on graphic wool blazers and long coats adorned with winding foliage.Thick corduroy pants come in unusual hues such as "yellow-polentina," Etro said—a diminutive of polenta, the porridge-like corn dish often associated with Milan, worn under a raw-edge, tattersall trench coat with pastel and acid colored checks.Soft gingham shirts are made with sustainable eucalyptus fibers. Canvas is used on workwear-inspired coats that have a worn-in look in sync with the Japanese aesthetic principle of Wabi-sabi, which accepts transience and imperfection. “It’s boho-hobo,” said Etro of this part of the collection, which has a decadent feel. “It’s about the passing of time and the effects it has on things. The clothes are more bristly to the touch and some look like they’ve lost their luster,” he said.Patchwork, another recurring Etro element, returns on boxy canvas coats and soft blazers patterned with squares of velvet, boiled wool and tapestry-like jacquard.The color palette ranges from midnight blues and turquoise to burnt orange, royal purples, fuchsia and amethyst. Silhouettes for the season are subtly exaggerated and cocooning. Wool trousers, cut wide and billowing, sit high on the waist with pleating, but there are also some skinny pants.The ribbed hemlines of cricket-inspired wool V-neck sweaters are elongated and, in a nod to the Seventies, shirt collars are lengthened at their tips.In true dandy style, lapels on blazers and coats are embellished with jewels and collar pins take over ties.Etro has several initiatives planned for the year. The women's collection designed by Veronica Etro and to be shown in February will also celebrate the five-decade milestone, followed by another event in Milan in April during the city’s international furniture and design show Salone del Mobile. An extensive exhibition is planned for September at Milan’s MUDEC [Museum of Cultures].While details are still under wraps, the brand's celebrations throughout 2018 will travel to Tokyo, Seoul, New York, Shanghai, Dubai and Moscow “with the contribution of writers, artists, influencers, designers, directors who will tell us of their visions for the future,” said Etro.

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