MILAN — In between design commitments, Marco De Vincenzo could easily give one or two lessons in pressure management, as “super serene, zero stress” was how the Etro creative director felt a few days before presenting his first men’s collection for the brand.
Not even the frenzy of models perched on the staircase of the Etro headquarters here, the quick tempo of the casting process and the occasional interruption for final touches to the collection could ruffle his placid character, a testament to his confidence but also a sign of his increasing familiarity with the company that put him in charge of its women’s, men’s and home collections last June.
“I’m super happy because it seems to me that each collection [I’m working on] is teaching me something, and at the same time it seems that I can give something of my own to the brand in return. There’s a nice balance right now, between what I’m learning and what I’m trying to convey,” he told WWD.
The runway show slated for Sunday at noon CET will actually mark De Vincenzo’s second debut for Etro. In September he opened a new chapter at the historic house by unveiling a women’s collection that pointed in a different direction — younger, more approachable and straightforward — despite being put together in a whirlwind. Following that initial effort, his first pre-collection presented in November offered greater clarity on the design seeds he’s planting at Etro, with a deeper development of the rich texture and clean silhouettes he’s put at the core of his vision.
According to the preview De Vincenzo offered to WWD this week, the upcoming lineup will take another decisive step in that direction. “It’s been a few months but everything is very different. I really feel the evolution of being in [the company for longer]. I feel there are steps and we’re climbing them in a natural way. Obviously now it’s been six months since my arrival and I believe I know the brand better, I’m absorbing it,” said De Vincenzo.
For men’s fall 2023, Etro’s textile heritage will continue to shine with a display of bold patterns and mix-and-match prints and textures. Tapestry-like fabrications will pop on mannish tropes such as suits and denim jackets, only crafted from plush velvet, which De Vincenzo defined “almost like a code for the brand: every time we include it, it clicks with clients.”
Some of these renditions will have an optical effect, including one that holds a special place in the designer’s heart. “This derives from a blanket I had when I was little and I had it replicated because I thought it was perfect for this [collection],” he said, holding a blazer jacket splashed with an overall geometric motif rendered in purplish tones. A subtler version worked with tonal colors stood out on a roomy long coat instead.
While the outerwear piece embodied the cocooning sense of comfort and ease De Vincenzo injected into other outdoor options crafted from soft wool or cozy knits, the eccentric patterns and flared silhouettes of tailoring channeled an overall ‘70s vibe that is in sync with the DNA of the company, which started as a textile firm in 1968.
The introduction of tartan pieces will build on both the visual breadth and nods to Etro’s origins, as De Vincenzo recalled the company “was launched manufacturing tartan fabrics that were sold to all the most important brands of the world, so there’s really a strong bond with its history.”
As a counterpoint to the flashy patterns, the designer continued to push clean looks combining just two or three pieces for easy approachability, and included monochrome separates that could still express the brand’s ethos but in a less literal way. In the process, he didn’t forgo that romantic touch his predecessor Kean Etro expressed for menswear — but tweaked it for a new generation of consumers.
Little details like floral embroideries on buttons embellished sartorial classics and wardrobe essentials with a delicate touch. “When it comes to menswear, all it takes are a few ingredients to make a garment shine… And it really takes little to turn something into ‘Etro’: You put together an embroidery and the right print and the brand is there, it speaks for itself. It’s a little bit like magic,” enthused De Vincenzo.
It’s not the first time the designer has fallen under the spell of menswear, as he toyed with the category for his namesake label. In June 2019, 10 years after the launch of his womenswear brand, De Vincenzo staged a runway show during Pitti Uomo at Florence’s Tepidarium Del Roster inside the Horticulture Garden. At the time, the collection featured his personal signatures that are still valid, such as bold textures and optical illusions, in addition to glitter and shiny surfaces.
“I had the same serene attitude also at the time,” he recalled. “It was fun. I did just that experiment and then stopped but the desire to do menswear remained as I liked the lightness in the approach.
“Everybody always says that doing menswear is easier. It’s not — but it’s also true that men’s fashion has been less saturated throughout the years and it enables you not to have performance anxiety. While womenswear sometimes sparks it… the men’s world is more relaxed. On menswear all you need is a little touch… moving the hem of a shirt can really make the difference, and I started to grasp this at that debut. For example, I remember moving the waistline of an inch and everything changed it,” said De Vincenzo.
Lending these discoveries to Etro is a process that is teaching him a lot, too, said the designer. “I started my namesake brand from scratch, but working for established brands is giving me the opportunity to change. Just like actors in action, I’ve stepped in another story, another family and I’m happy not to be armored in an aesthetic that has become prison,” he said.
“Although I have clear ideas about what I like and what I don’t, I like to find out that I’m still soft and can let the brand enter in my vision,” continued De Vincenzo. “This experience is showing me that I’m still free, that I’m a person who can renew himself. I’m 40 and I could love just one color or a single silhouette but no, I’m still so in love with fashion that I can change, too. So I’m not even the Marco of the debut in September, I’m someone else and that’s the beauty of it. It’s a good proof of youth,” he said with a smile.
Menswear in particular is offering De Vincenzo the “space to invent” and have fun incursions as well, as some of the elements in the upcoming collection prove, ranging from fruit-shaped appliqués on sweaters to hybrid footwear styles merging sneakers with clogs.
Given his personal history, accessories are a big focus for the designer. A former winner of the Vogue Italia “Who Is on Next?” talent search, De Vincenzo has worked for two decades at Fendi’s leather goods design department. Hence, in continuity with what he’s shown so far for Etro, the men’s show will have its generous dose of big tote bags and little pouches in leather or fabric.
“It’s my history, my world. I care particularly about this and to the fact that they are really luxury, not only perceived that way,” he said. “I’m a strong believer in products. It’s nice to talk about image, and fashion lives of images, but I’m fixated with the tactile perception of things. For me, they have to be nice even when you get close and today is easy to bluff as many successes are built from the distance, but I like when consumers receive a knit or a bag and discover it is even better [than it looks like].”
Asked for a third word to add to “romantic” and “fun” to describe his vision for menswear, De Vincenzo pondered over it for a while and said it still has to be coined. “I would like a word that combines eccentricity and comfort in one, because sometimes eccentricity goes in the opposite direction. Yet I feel that some of the looks in this collection embody that mix. There’s not a word for it yet, but I will find it,” he concluded.