MILAN — Milan fashion designers are sticking to the traditional and familiar in their menswear collection for next winter.
The mood reflects the austerity all around, but it's not all gloom. There are flashes of color and glamour to lighten spirits.
"When you talk about austerity, I don't think it needs to be down in the dumps or dismal," Burberry chief creative officers Christopher Bailey said backstage after his Prorsum menswear collection preview on Saturday.
Coats, from trenches to double-breasted overcoats to fur- or velvet-lapeled evening coats, were the centerpiece of many of the collections previewed the first day of the four-day menswear Milan Fashion Week.
While elegant black and some white are the winter favorites, designers also reached for colors, usually deep purples, teals and midnight blues. Golden details — from brocade underwear to fanciful animal head umbrella handles — celebrate luxury and fun.
Dolce & Gabbana cast a spell of luxury over their latest menswear collection, adorning every outfit — even humble underwear — with opulent gold embroidery.
Set in a make-believe opera house complete with chandeliers, sumptuous red velvet upholstery, and famous Verdi arias sung by the late Luciano Pavarotti, the extravagant menswear collection was a perfect antidote to the current crisis gloom.
Somewhere between Dorian Gray and the Gattopardo's Sicilian prince, the winter 2013 collection by the designing wizards Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana, is an ode to noble dressing from the fur-trimmed evening coats and capes, to the gold brocade jackets, to the gold embroidered breeches.
Never forgetting their penchant for sportswear, the designing duo decorated distressed fabric with gilded fringes and lavish embroidery to create a dandy/grunge effect. The gilded grandpa wooly underwear also fit into the latter category.
"In order to sell well today, a collection has to have the whiff of an old-fashioned trunk," Stefano Gabbana said chatting with reporters before the show.
For their curtain call, the duo sent out 70 models dressed in every imaginable cut of yesteryear's elegant overcoat — all in "de rigeur" black.
Ah, the life of a Burberry gentleman, toing and froing from town and country and back again, with just the right look for whatever the moment.
The tailored suit and heritage trench are at the heart of the Burberry Prorsum collection for next fall and winter. So is the umbrella, which features duck and hound animal head handles.
"I wanted the attitude to be polite. I wanted it to feel charming," Burberry's chief creative officer Christopher Bailey said backstage after the show.
In the city, a tailored gray suit with black polka-dotted tie is topped with herringbone patterned tweed cap and a classic Burberry trench thrown over the shoulders. Besides the ubiquitous umbrella, the city persona carries a leather patchwork document case.
In the country, the suit — fabrics ranging from corduroy to velvet — may be worn with a quilted and cropped bomber jacket or an oversized down-filled car coat.
Perhaps inspired buy the English hunt, Bailey incorporates into some garments images of foxes, big, here's-looking-at-you shrewd fox.
"I think it is important to smile. I think that is what fashion is also about, making you think and making you smile. You don't always have to be serious," Bailey said.
Ermenegildo Zegna is layering up for next fall and winter with menswear looks to cozy up against the winter chill.
The collection featured slim plaid, checked or houndstooth suits under ample shearling jackets or capes styled for men. Suits are worn with shirts layered underneath with a turtle neck — or, when not, with chunky textured ties.
The colors were warm — camel, sandy browns and midnight blue, playfully evoking the desert in a cold weather collection that also featured winter white — while the tactile, layered look was calibrated for warmth against the elements, suggested at the opening of the show by the crackle of a fire against a whipping winter wind soundtrack.
Zegna states that his man is looking for a break from the global financial turmoil — but keeps his Blackberry handy in case opportunity beckons. Luggage is ready for a quick getaway, including carry-ons clad in plaid; large, flat messenger bags in fine leather, and ample duffels.
The prime destination is clearly the mountains, where polished combat boots will protect against the chill while fringed moccasins await for the fireside.
After a day in the elements, apres-ski evening wear is relaxed. Tuxedos are silky and quilted — quite the opposite of the stiff and formal image they normally evoke. A dark robe coat of a brushed alpalca called Spazzolino billows luxuriously over a white tuxedo shirt.
It's a collection that allows each man to find his own comfort level, even considering whether or not to shave: Zegna made beards a fashion option, from full on to a few days' growth to stubble. Clean shaven, of course, is always in style.
A grass green pullover, a similar style in tobacco brown and a series of collars embroidered with naif animal designs, were the only bright lights in the otherwise total black Jil Sander menswear collection for the winter of 2013.
Pale-faced models walked one-by-one through a stage door onto a dimly lit runway in black coats, black jackets, black trousers, black gloves and classic black laced shoes during the presentation of Belgian designer Raf Simons, latest collection for the label known for its minimalist style.
This round, more than minimalist, the collection is monochromatic and at times monotonous.
The predominant look is tailored, with leather the favorite material. Jackets tend to fit close to the body, while trousers are super wide and cuffed.
As in other shows seen on opening day of the four-day preview showings for next year's chilly season, double-breasted styles make a come back in a season that promises to dwell on the safe past rather than the rocky present.
Focal point of the revisited look is an extra long, black leather trench coat belted at the waist. Paired with the omnipresent black leather trousers, gloves and classic lace-ups, it lends a vaguely cloak-and-dagger feel to the entire collection.
"Great, if you're into serial-killer fashion," one fashionista was overheard commenting after the show.
Costume National has devised a novel system for hanging onto winter coats after stepping out of the cold and into a warm public place.
Sewn inside coats in next winter's collection are straps, call them suspenders, that can be used to hang a coat on your back, like a backpack, when not needed for warmth. Hands are free to shop, sip coffee, gaze at artwork, whatever has brought you indoors.
Designer Ennio Capasa's seemingly simple solution to an age-old wintertime dilemma was featured in Costume National's menswear preview for next fall and winter.
Capasa's experiments with coats only started with the backside-suspension coat. He also combined bombers with trench coats, and knitwear with tuxedo jackets, so seamlessly that the view from the back suggested a garment completely different than the one seen from the front.
The color scheme was mostly dark or winter white, with accents of teal and green. Knitwear was mostly fine, and not chunky, and Costume National also favored layered turtlenecks and shirts, a look popping up in this round of previews. The collection was set off by heavy-soled boots and shoes, with bold silver accents.