MILAN — Retailers left Milan energized by a season that was seen as strong and directional.
Alessandro Michele’s new path for Gucci continued to generate interest, and trends including soft tailoring, light fabrics and outerwear, roomy trousers, shorts and a rich color palette were seen as hits, prompting some retailers to ramp up their spending despite the continued strength of the dollar against the euro.
“We are leaving Milan very optimistic as we have seen a continuation of the market trends that have been driving our business this last season,” said Kevin Harter, vice president of men’s fashion direction at Bloomingdale’s. “The biggest trend has been the disintegration of the line between tailored clothing and what is considered sportswear. We continue to see more relaxed tailored silhouettes and a movement toward nontraditional fabrics. We are obviously in a huge knit cycle where the knit seems to have replaced the dress shirt,” he said.
Tiziana Cardini, fashion director of La Rinascente, said this was “a good season with strong collections,” and that both Prada and Gucci “confirmed Milan is now directional, pointing to new trends and content.” She praised Gucci, which is “complex to decode and stirs discussion, but this is a positive sign.” Likewise for Prada, she said, which shines the spotlight on “today’s complexities,” highlighting the gender-neutral issue.
Cardini also liked Bottega Veneta and Zegna.
Ken Downing, senior vice president and fashion director of Neiman Marcus, said he was “excited about the new direction of Gucci and the conversation it is creating throughout the industry. Change is exciting. Alessandro Michele is looking at fashion through a fresh and different lens at Gucci. The past becomes the present in a poetic beauty. I am a big fan.”
Downing highlighted the “softer side of sartorial” as “the most important idea in a season of mixed messages in Milan, with the soft tailored jacket adding polish with a dressed down spirit. Soft duster coats and bombers were highlights, as were the safari/utilitarian, often belted jackets.” Downing liked the continuation of summer suede, “adding luxury to many collections.” Among the top collections were Prada, Brioni, Kiton and the great bags at Fendi, especially the mini backpack.
“This was a dynamic season. Milan is sometimes too Italian for Le Bon Marché, a little too much. But this time we saw some interesting new brands. We feel there is a new energy here,” said the French department store’s men’s wear stylist Virginie Sartres, citing a fleet of easy outerwear options, including raincoats, Windbreakers and parkas, as the hottest category this season. Her favorite collection was Marni.
“There is a new generation of design talent bubbling up on the surface and it’s very exciting to see,” observed Eric Jennings, vice president and men’s fashion director of Saks Fifth Avenue, noting how most of the action was happening not on but off the catwalks. “The established guard in Milan still remains relevant, but it’s more theater, while with the new guard it’s lifestyle,” he challenged, singling out Marcelo Burlon among those leading the way. In terms of category, Jennings said most innovation came via footwear. “I feel like guys start with their feet and then work their way up. We saw anything from chunky and slide sandals to dressy sneakers — the offering was amazing, and it was ageless,” he said, citing “stellar results” in men’s wear.
Tom Kalenderian, executive vice president and general merchandise manager of men’s wear at Barneys New York, also cited an “uptick” in accessories and footwear that has “helped to push increases for the total men’s division.” He characterized the spring season as “good overall, but with some strong shifts in spending away from special-order clothing to ready-to-wear.” Kalenderian cited Gucci, Zegna, Prada, Moncler Gamme Bleu and Armani as his favorites in Milan. He said the “lightness of the fabrications and colors was a nice break. The pops of bright accents are especially appealing in prints and on trim and even [in] embroidery,” he said.
“This was a good season,” said Hirofumi Kurino, chief creative director of United Arrows, singling out Prada as his favorite show. “Prada was different from the others. While we noticed a relaxed, nomad feeling everywhere else, Prada remained independent, a few steps ahead of the others with her post-industrial, post-pop, post-modest show. She created a new image of the man,” he said, adding that the Japanese customer responds well to Italian fashion when it’s “creative and realistic” at the same time. “Gucci for instance was interesting, but too much fantasy. It’s a tough time for Italian brands because the exchange rate is working against us. We have to stay realistic,” he said.
David Witman, executive vice president and general merchandise manager of men’s wear for Nordstrom, said “Milan is playing with how male and female elements can come together in a modern man’s wardrobe. We saw androgyny in sheer and fluid materials, and lots of feminine detailing. It’s a timely concept, certainly in the cultural zeitgeist, but perhaps not the most commercial.” He also highlighted the “continued casualization of men’s apparel,” and how “tailoring is less strict and often worn with casual elements like shorts or knits.” Witman singled out Gucci, Prada and Neil Barrett as strong collections.
“Our men’s wear business continues to be strong and we project it to be even stronger especially as we educate our male customer in China. They have a great appreciation and appetite for Italian fashion,” said Joo Woo, general merchandise manager of men’s wear at Hong Kong-based Lane Crawford. She noted “the hot topic of the season has been global pricing with the fluctuation in the euro.” Lane Crawford’s favorite collections were Neil Barrett, Dolce & Gabbana and Marni, as well as Isaia and Lardini for tailoring.
“There was a distinct casualization of men’s wear this season in Milan,” said Steven Cook, senior vice president, buying and merchandising at Toronto-based Holt Renfrew, mentioning nonchalant, necktie-less shows including Canali and Zegna. “Relaxed-fit trousers will be a key commodity next spring, as will be the pleated pant. Milan continues to be a key market for leather goods and footwear, and we’ll continue to make significant investments in these divisions.” Holt Renfrew’s favorites were Neil Barrett, Fendi, Marcelo Burlon and Gucci with Bally one to watch, especially in footwear.
Ahmet Öcal, buying director of the men’s merchandising group at Turkey’s Beymen, said a new androgynous aesthetic framed Milan Fashion Week and signaled “a new era for Italian designers being braver in terms of creativity.” California lifestyle elements — hippy culture, surfing and palm tree motifs — were an alternative trend.
“The main increase of our budgets will be allocated for Milan,” Öcal said, while lamenting that many colors and fabrics did not “reflect the feeling of summer and are more like a continuation of winter season.” Beymen plans to focus on designer sportswear, spending more on leather blousons, pants and Bermudas. In accessories, Öcal said luxury sneakers continue to lead trends, and he would add light, unlined and soft summer shoes. Beymen’s favorite collections were Zegna, Neil Barrett, Missoni and Pal Zileri, and Santoni shoes.
Nelson Mui, men’s fashion director for Hudson’s Bay and Lord & Taylor, lauded the relaxation of silhouettes in Milan, seen in loose and light tailoring, slouchy trousers, oversize T-shirts and wide shorts.
“The Italians have really been leading the way with creating ultralight, unconstructed tailoring and sportswear that men can really embrace,” Mui said.
“It’s refreshing to see the softer color palettes,” he added. “Transparencies and silky fabrics, two-tone or multitone denims, plaids and elastic-band everything seems to be everywhere.” Missoni, Etro, Prada, Marni, Zegna, No. 21 and MSGM were Hudson’s Bay’s favorites.
Bosse Myhr, director of men’s wear and head of accessories buying at Selfridges, said the “idea of presenting men’s wear and women’s wear together is now firmly established on the fashion schedule.” Myhr said he was “excited to see how genders continue to blur in the way they are presented by designers and how this will evolve the fashion retail experience. The feeling of newness was palpable at Gucci, with Alessandro Michele so successfully recontextualizing the house and its heritage for next spring.” He also cited Versace and Zegna. “The key category for us in Milan is tailoring, and the idea of a new and more fluid, experimental attitude to suiting. We are also seeing Italian brands establishing themselves as leaders in overall fashion direction for the season.”
Darren Skey, head of men’s wear at Harvey Nichols, said Zegna, Neil Barrett, Calvin Klein and Marcelo Burlon were among his favorite collections, as well as Philipp Plein for its impact. “Not as commercial, but beautifully done, was the genderless trend coming through from Prada and Gucci. Great editorial pieces but trickier to retail.”
Damien Paul, head of men’s wear at Matchesfashion.com, said Bottega Veneta and Marni were favorites with their “easier, more relaxed approach that feels in step with how men are dressing now.” Gucci was also a highlight, he said. “The schedule this season felt stronger — it was great to see Marni on the runway here, and having newer names like Marcelo Burlon continues to give some energy to the week.”
Jo Harris, general merchandise manager for men’s wear at Harrods, said this season Milan had “a renewed energy,” and felt “revitalized,” also impacted by the Milan Expo, which was being held at the same time. Harris praised Gucci, with its “fresh, new spirit and an eclectic mix of fabrics, patterns and silhouettes,” as well as “the strong elements of femininity, through the use of lace, presenting a modern take on masculinity.” Harris cited Brioni, Neil Barrett and Fendi as other top collections.
Bruce Pask, men’s fashion director at Bergdorf Goodman, said the “deconstruction of tailoring and the unconstructed sports jacket were big themes, and they are becoming pivotal pieces of a man’s wardrobe, and key parts of a relaxed, tailored wardrobe. The shows were very strong here with a lot of excitement, with Gucci and its gender-bending, elements of decoration, embroidery and lace. It was provocative in a really fresh way.” Pask also liked Prada’s “fresh ideas,” Brioni, and Ralph Lauren’s uniformlike tuxedo jackets. “It was great to see the Ralph Lauren collection here, with a big focus on evening.”
Odile Boucher, men’s department purchasing director at Galeries Lafayette, praised the “dynamic, comfy, young and colorful fashion week that announce an evolution of the men silhouette and a fresh new free spirited [man].” Best categories of the season for Boucher were “the large Bermudas, the large and fluid pants, the multipocket jacket,the oversize and fluid outerwear, the overlong shirts and the sandal with socks.” Best collections included Prada, Gucci, Zegna, MSGM and Andrea Pompilio.