Something old, something new — and something not so blue.

This story first appeared in the January 13, 2016 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Milan Men’s Fashion Week starts Jan. 15 with some novelty and freshness against the backdrop of a local economy that is showing the first whiffs of a moderate pickup.

Exports were dented in the second half of last year by the slowdown in Asia, a “freeze” of European markets — except for the U.K. — and a further deterioration in Russia, according to the Italian Chamber of Fashion’s latest Fashion Economic Trends.

The association’s study expected the Italian fashion industry to close 2015 with a 1.4 percent increase in revenues, reaching 62 billion euros, or $67.7 billion at current exchange, followed by a 2.5 percent increase in the first half of 2016.

Sales continued to pick up in Italy in the third quarter, showing a 1.5 percent increase, “the best quarter in terms of growth since 2010” in the region, the group said.

According to the latest Fondazione Altagamma and Bain & Co. 2015 Worldwide Markets Monitor presented in October, Italy is “back to positive with a 6 percent growth in 2015 compared with 2014,” with Milan a standout in terms of growth.

Globally, last year, men’s ready-to-wear was up 13 percent with revenues of 29 billion euros, or $31.4 billion. At constant rates, the increase stood at 2 percent.

Casualwear posted low, single-digit growth while more formal apparel continued to suffer. Outerwear, denim and cashmere outperformed 2014 and the study highlighted the growing success of fur and shearling, as well as customized denim.

The blurring of the boundaries between genders provided a strong boost to unisex styles, the monitor said.

While the Milan schedule remains filled with megabrands, there are a slew of newcomers — as well as debuts — set for the five days of shows.

The first Roberto Cavalli men’s collection designed by creative director Peter Dundas under the new ownership of private equity fund Clessidra will be presented in a new location for the brand — in the gilded rooms of the storied Palazzo Crespi — on the evening of Jan. 15.

Cavalli sold 90 percent of his namesake company to Clessidra last April in a deal that market sources pegged at between 400 million and 420 million euros, or $408.5 million to $430 million.

“The show is a first step, a debut. Our men’s division still only accounts for 8 percent of our sales,” said chief executive officer Renato Semerari, noting that this is the first men’s collection Dundas is tackling. “We see it as an opportunity to grow, also because it’s a core category [to develop business in] Asia.”

The executive explained that Cavalli’s men’s line was previously “not as defined” as the women’s, hence “not very visible.” There are no dedicated men’s stores, but the brand’s directly operated stores carry the men’s category.

Semerari characterized 2016 as a year of transition, as the company goes through a restructuring and reorganization. “We are building a new Cavalli universe,” he said.

Young designer Lucio Vanotti will hold his first runway show the following morning, courtesy of Giorgio Armani. Vanotti is the latest guest designer to be offered Armani’s theater.

For the first time, Pal Zileri appears on the Italian Chamber of Fashion’s official calendar, securing a spot on Jan. 16 at the former city fairgrounds. Ceo Paolo Roviera struck a positive note, saying spring 2016 sales were in line with the same season a year earlier, despite the cancellation of 150 wholesale accounts as part of a strategy to streamline distribution.

The devaluation of the ruble and a drop of business in Russia, also affected by the enforced international sanctions, also weighed on performance last year, as Pal Zileri was particularly exposed to that market.

“We knew 2015 was going to be a difficult year because we had planned to streamline the number of clients that were not in line with our medium- to long-term vision, and we terminated our ceremony collection,” Roviera said. Formal, sartorial designs still represent the backbone of the brand, representing 70 percent of sales, but increasingly, outerwear, knits and jackets are gaining strength.

Leveraging “more reliable clients and agreements with stronger partners,” Roviera is expecting an upswing in 2016, “reaping the fruits of the work done in 2015.” Pal Zileri was acquired by the Qatar-based Mayhoola for Investments in February 2014.

Boglioli will hold its first-ever fashion show designed by its first creative director, Davide Marello. The event will be held on Jan. 17 at Milan’s exclusive gentleman’s club, the Società del Giardino, in the 16th-century Palazzo Spinola’s “Gold Room” and adjacent salons.

Ceo Giovanni Mannucci hailed the arrival of a head designer, seeing it as a way to “further identify the brand with more creativity, helping to offer a unique proposition.” At the same time, Mannucci highlighted the relevance of other elements. “There is an increased awareness and attention to the price-quality ratio,” he said, while he also spoke of the “psychological aspect. Men want to feel cool, they are very insecure in dressing and they want to know that they are choosing a brand that will not throw them outside their sphere of reference.”

Mannucci said he had seen an uptick in business in Italy and underscored how the international Expo, which closed at the end of October, helped draw attention to Milan, with more social and cultural initiatives, new infrastructure, hotels, restaurants and ideas. “Milan has always been seen as a financial city, but now there is more interest in lifestyle here,” he said.

A stronger dollar helped attract more American tourists to Italy, even though the number of Russians fell and there has been a slowdown of Chinese visitors. “The year 2015 was not particularly happy. The only turnaround was in Italy, with a change in trend, more optimism and more selected visitors,” observed Mannucci.

“Italy has an indestructible image,” said Umberto Angeloni, chairman, ceo and majority shareholder of Raffaele Caruso SpA. “The country leverages art, culture, know-how, fashion and its very essence.” A sequel of the short movie presented in June, meant to promote the Italian lifestyle, was launched at Pitti Uomo on Jan. 12 and then shown in Milan on Jan. 16 at the Four Seasons Hotel in Via Gesù, now dubbed the “Via dell’Uomo,” or men’s street.

Called “The Good Italian II, The Prince goes to Milan,” actor Giancarlo Giannini once again interprets the role of the Prince of Soragna, seen traveling from the medieval castle in the small town near Parma where Caruso is based to the luxury hotel on a legendary Lancia Aurelia B24 Spider.

This season, Isaia is holding its first presentation in Milan, skipping Pitti Uomo and, for the occasion, the storied brand will also release a short film. Produced by Gianluca Migliarotti, it is called “Tailor-Made Crime. Style calls, Napoli answers.”

To support its expansion in the U.S. at the end of last year, Isaia developed a new omnichannel experience with San Francisco-based tech company Toovia C3, launching its global e-commerce platform.

Kiton ceo Antonio De Matteis was also optimistic about business in Italy, where “there are the bases for a quicker pickup and the mood is more serene.” Globally, he said, “Markets are unstable, which doesn’t help business, but, despite this, our sales were up 7 percent in 2015.” Kiton registered “an excellent first half” in the U.S., followed by a slowdown “due to the warm weather.”

China, a market Kiton entered in 2010, experienced a “small decrease,” but the downturn was not significant. “It’s still a small market for the company,” noted De Matteis.

Kiton will open a second store in Tokyo in March, and a second unit in Paris in September.

In terms of style, De Matteis said the market is “split. Young customers who are becoming successful professionally are looking for more formal suits with a contemporary twist.” Conversely, a more established generation is “asking for sportier looks for their leisure time.”

Stefano Canali, general director of the family-owned Canali, defined 2015 as “an important year of consolidation in terms of organization and infrastructure.” At the end of the year, the brand launched e-commerce in Europe, a sales tool that is expected to account for 43 percent of sales in the U.S., the group’s main market, in 2016.

In the U.S. last year, Canali opened stores in Washington, Las Vegas and Houston. In February, a new unit will bow in Dallas. After opening four stores in Korea in 2015, global expansion will continue this year, with the unveiling of additional boutiques in Beijing and Shanghai. Exports account for 91 percent of total production.

Canali touted the “right balance between caution and innovation,” which helped offset the impact of “several socioeconomic crises” last year, and leading the company to expect another year of growth in 2016. A new state-of-the-art and sustainable warehouse will open this year near Canali’s headquarters in Sovico, outside Milan.

It’s a good moment, given the inclination of men to buy precious objects,” said Anton Magnani, ceo of storied footwear brand Sutor Mantellassi. Magnani believes this is “a great opportunity” for Sutor Mantellassi, which has a strong heritage. “This brand has deep roots, more than a century of expertise and strong brand awareness,” he said.

Magnani has been working on the relaunch of the brand under a new owner, the Korean fund E-Land, which involves restructuring the company and renovating its Via Montenapoleone store in Milan.

Sutor Mantellassi is reentering the U.S. market with Saks Fifth Avenue with the fall collection and Magnani said he expects the company to break even in 2017.

Concurring with Boglioli’s Mannucci, Magnani said: “There is a revival [in Milan] connected to the Expo, which did not bring any real advantages in the golden shopping triangle, but it helped change the perception of the city, drawing American tourists.”

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