Eight Stand Outs from Milan’s Menswear Shows
1: Brioni’s East-meets-West vibe
You have to go back a long way to uncover the roots of Brioni’s Fall/Winter 2014/15 collection—all the way back to Caravaggio, in fact. Take, for example, Giusquiamo green—yes, I had never heard of it either, but a chief pleasure of fashion is how it expands your appreciation of color. Giusquiamo green—dark and mossy—is named after a leaf (henbane in English), that was said to help witches fly, and the dead forget their loved ones, as well as more practical purposes in treating colic, irritable bladder, and gastric ulcers. And now it is a shade of beautiful knits and jackets by Brioni, taking the color palette from the shades of Carvaggio’s compositional chiaroscuros. There’s also midnight smoke, cherry brandy, dry bougainvillea, and geisha red. Talk about a (cashmere) coat of many colors. And that geisha red is no anomaly: a 1963 travel journal by Brioni co-founder Gaetano Savini, in which he recorded his impressions of Tokyo, serves as the anchor to this sublime collection in which silk shirts and a varsity jacket are embroidered with traditional Japanese scenes that you don’t need to be an extrovert to wear. Current creative director, London-born Brendan Mullane, let me look through Savini’s yellowed notebook, full of scribbles and doodles, and practically humming with inspiration and passion. Mullane and his team have taken that inspiration and expanded it for a collection that genuinely merits that overused trope “east meets west,” by synthesizing the best of both worlds.
2: Bottega Veneta’s everything.
There were many shades of green on show at the Bottega Veneta presentation early on Sunday morning—at an hour that Tomas Meier, the brand’s reserved, somewhat cerebral creative director, tends to favor, presumably because he thinks that afternoons are for slackers. Meier has helmed the luxe Italian brand, Bottega Veneta for over 12 years—and for good reason. His collections are never less than impeccable, and consistency is his hallmark. There is almost nothing that materializes on his runway that I wouldn’t want to wear, and almost nothing I could ever afford. This season’s signature was a dip-dyed sweater, as well as cashmere sweat pants that will never be worn to the gym.
3: Canali’s Grand Piano
The music for the Canali presentation was a live performance by pianist Ludovico Einaudi, playing his own pastoral compositions on a grand piano. Yes, it was exhilarating to hear Beyonce’s Superpower at Bottega Veneta, and the blast of Pulp’s Hardcore at Feragamo was a delightful mindfuck, but after all the pop and rock that propels the svelte young boys down the catwalks, how nice to have the grown-up sound of Einaudi at the piano. I’d never heard of him before, but when I fly back to New York, this is the song I shall be playing to calm my nerves.
4: Bebel’s Puntarelle salad
Man cannot live on style alone. Sometimes he needs bread, too—preferably dipped in a little olive oil, and served with a heaping bowl of puntarelle salad. Let me come clean: I had no idea what puntarelle was when I first encountered it at Bebels, one of those typical Milanese restaurants that are over-lit, and basic, but which serve fresh, simple dishes that you crave after a day of sitting endlessly on hard, narrow benches waiting for shows to start 30 minutes after their scheduled time. Puntarelle is a winter chicory that grows in southern Italy, and which is transformed by a little chopped anchovy, garlic, vinegar, and olive oil. Reader, I could eat this every day, and when I am here I do.
5: Pink? No, Flamingo.
I overheard Deborah Needleman, now making waves as editrix of T Magazine, marveling one morning at the rise of the men’s clutch. Men’s fashion had become a little more feminine, she noted, while women’s wear was a little more masculine, and so much the better. It’s a good and true observation, but Valextra, a cult Italian bag company, suggests the wheel has simply been dialed back to the 1960s when European men thought nothing of running around with a slim, elegant purse under their arm. Velextra’s fall collection of leather goods come in three colors—petroleum, dark brown, and what they refer to as Flamingo, a bright poppy pink that would add just the right amount of dash to a man’s wardrobe. It surfaces in attaché cases, document wallets, even a cool little case for your computer cables, but I liked the wallet best of all. Is it too early to draw up a Christmas list?
6: This model
Watching Pier-Gabrile LaJoie stroll down the runway for the Fall/Winter 2014/15 Calvin Klein’s menswear collection was my Death in Venice moment of this season’s shows (you’ll have to read the novel/watch the movie to understand). In Gerontophilia, the most recent movie by director Bruce LaBruce, the young French Canadian plays an 18-year old attracted to an 82-year old man, and it’s easily LaBruce’s most touching and mainstream movie to date. There was something cinematic, too, about Italo Zuccheli’s latest collection with its masculine suiting and the slick-haired models strutting confidently down the catwalk. Leading the charge, LaJoie wore a green trench and pleated, roomy pants that brought to mind a Raymond Chandler crime noir. Later that night, at an extravagant cocktail party festooned with tureens of caviar, LaJoie reflected the same lovely ease and grace he shows on camera, and yes—I was charmed. And no, I did not ask his age. That would be too depressing.
7: Donatella Versace
When her brother was shot and killed by Andrew Cunanan on July 15, 1997 few fashion world observers expected Donatella Versace to have the combination of talent and business acumen to keep the fashion house relevant. And yet, here she is in 2014 with a collection that had the audience at the Versace mansion cheering at the weekend. It was, perhaps, the most purely entertaining and joyous occasion that this year’s shows had to offer. There were men in assless chaps that might have been ripped from the pages of gay illustrator Tom of Finland; and men in elaborate jewel-encrusted cod-pieces; and men in ferociously-patterned biker helmets. I had the pleasure of interviewing Donatella some years ago, and still remember thrilling to her deep-throated purr as she discussed fashion and sex. Was there such a thing as being too sexy or seductive, I asked? “Never, never!” she responded, “You can be too boring, but you can never be too seductive.” Nothing about Donatella has ever been boring. And when she came out at the end—a gush of silky blonde hair and a buoyant smile—seductive was precisely the word that sprang to mind.
8: The enigma that is Prada
Aaron Hicklin is the editor in chief of Out magazine and editor of BlackBook.