Aside from the exuberance and renegade style that’s dominated certain elements of the Milan men’s shows – buoyant citrus shades at Salvatore Ferragamo even in the depths of bleak midwinter, Alessandro Michele’s magpie-eye for decoration, pattern and adornment at Gucci – many of Italy’s more traditionally classic labels are experimenting with how to hold firm with their customer base while innovating along the way.
The plummeting temperatures in Milan only served to make Giorgio Armani's winterwear all the more desirable; who wouldn't want to wrap up in those shaggy shearling jackets, swaddling-like scarves and sweeping shawls? But alongside the pieces that make up the Armani DNA – the muted colour palette, easy-fit suiting and nods to sportswear, the designer’s focus on surface texture and intricate fabrication saw fringing on knitwear and a tufted shearling diamond effect on leather.
The emphasis on soft fluidity that's Armani's calling card was in effect on the louche velvet lapelled dinner suits worn with trainers for a casual feel, a blending of the formal and the more at ease being one of the men's shows' biggest stories for autumn/ winter 2016. Actor Dan Stevens, who was front row thanks to being the face of Armani’s Made To Measure range, said of the history of Armani; “the brand have a long history with Hollywood. They have a great relationship with the older famous names and I think this campaign was about looking at a new wave.” A passing mention by Stevens on how his style has changed since he moved to New York – more casual, less “buttoned up, Savile Row formal” chimes with a mood that also infused the Milan shows, as evident at Brunello Cucinelli.
It's testament to Mr Cucinelli's approach (as he is referred to) that the fusion of casualwear and formal dress is now one of the biggest stories in menswear; tailoring with the stuffing taken out. This mood continued for autumn/winter with soft fit suit jackets worn with denim and padded layering worn with cashmere blazers, and easy, everyday trousers rendered in pinstripe - the perfect encapsulation of sharp and slouchy. It spoke volumes that there was not a single tie in the collection. Forget the New Normal; this is the New Formal.
At Ralph Lauren Purple Label outfit, the house brought a distinct sheen of refinement and luxury to the notion of solid outdoorsy attire; fully functioning skis in walnut effect that's inspired by Lauren's prized vintage Bugatti anyone? Heavy, rugged outerwear was the predominant theme for this American In Milan, with specially treated shearling that lent the appearance of fur but - crucially - wasn't. Alongside the Montana homestead ensembles - as filtered through Ralph Lauren's lens - was a section of sumptuous evening wear; a plush olive velvet dinner jacket the ideal counterbalance to the rigours of the slopes for apres ski cocktails.
At Canali, Andrea Pompilio eschewed the standard grey shades of winter for a collection that experimented with accents of colour; a blast of coral on the collar of a shirt, a jewel bright knit with sleek navy. Materialisation was at its heart, he said, and the shades that ushered forth were the result of experiments from the house in what the gradients of various fabrics were capable of. The result was sleek, sharp and polished tailoring with blasts of exuberant shade, a stylistic device which served to lighten the effect of the heavy coats and outerwear pieces. And if guests needed a reminder of just how glacial the temperatures were, Brendan Mullane's Arctic wonderland setting at Brioni acted as the perfect backdrop, offering a marriage of solid outerwear and sumptuous luxurious fabrics. Coats in windowpane check or houndstooth were rendered in softest cashmere, padded from within, and a thread of graphic, geometric, grid-like pattern emerged across knitwear and wool coats, a nod to the contemporary architectural influence within this most august of Italian heritage houses with some of the most exceptionally skilled craftspeople in the world at its disposal.
- Source: Luxury By: Stephen Doig