The fashion industry is forever filled with good intentions. It embraces one cause after another. Yesterday, it was defending minorities. Today, it fights for the environment. At last week's Pitti Uomo in Florence, you could not even find one single exhibitor who didn't feature a garment crafted from eco-friendly or recycled fabrics — a garment that was produced in conditions respectful of nature and people, obviously. Later that week, Ermenegildo Zegna opened Milan Fashion Week and orchestrated the brand's runway show around a monumental artwork by American artist Anne Patterson based on the use of old ribbons, with the hashtag #UseTheExisting woven onto them.
The next day, Giorgio Armani proclaimed that he was "saying yes to recycling" — a statement which was written on luminous panels all around the stage of his Emporio Armani show, while a bunch of R-EA models made of upcycled materials featured the same sentence printed in capital letters on their back and front panels... In short, during Milan Fashion Week, many brands were sending a few flawlessly cut eco-friendly garments onto the runway in the hope of proving their relentless commitment to environmental causes, and encourage customers to buy differently. Did you say "buy"? Yes, brands are inviting you to buytheir products over and over again — even though the whole world is calling for a drastic cut in consumption.
However, this blatant contradiction comes as no surprise: the fashion industry has often been sending out mixed signals. Today, however, the luxury industry cannot afford to ignore environmental issues and causes, and yet, at the same time, its business model, which is based on constant creation and renewal, cannot be changed overnight. When it is not keeping up with recycling, menswear is making new clothes with old ideas. Thus Walter Chiapponi reinterpreted archetypal menswear staples for his very first ready-to-wear capsule for Tod's. At Ermenegildo Zegna, Alessandro Sartori reinvented the suit, shifted the buttoning, played with jackets and pantsuits and subtly mismatched fabrics, and superimposed short jackets over longer jackets... Even Miuccia Prada relied on great classics whose proportions she distorted, and showcased a collection that was much more playful and colorful than the majority of the Milanese runway offerings, which evolved around darker shades. At Gucci, Alessandro Michele remembers his childhood years. He multiplied references to children's clothing and infused them with a vintage flair. Meanwhile, Dolce & Gabbana opted for a completely different style, that of their early days. The designer-duo celebrated artisanal crafts throughout their collection, as well as multiple manual skills that required a certain amount of time to be completed and, by extension, conveyed the idea of a superior, "sustainable" sense of quality ... This approach on "fatto a mano" had the advantage of being sophisticated enough to protect itself from fast-fashion copycats.
No matter how luxurious and meticulous the Fall-Winter 2020-2021 offerings in Milan may have been, they often lacked vision — a strong idea or an innovative concept that would set these designer collections apart from their competition. However, it is worth noting that very high hopes were initially set with Stefano Pilati's Random Identities fashion show that took place during Pitti Uomo in Florence, so before the runway shows in Milan started. On the one hand, Pilati excelled at crossing masculine and feminine elements with absolute naturalness, chic, and elegance, and, on the other hand, he democratized his fashion collection with relatively affordable prices. Just like him, most designers aim to tug on the purse strings of the younger generation. Unfortunately, most of them sell their collections at astronomical prices! Back in Milan, a few older men graced the line-up of the Salvatore Ferragamo fashion show. Of course, there's also a sense of "déjà vu" that emanates from this collection as it was inspired by workwear outfits — the banker, the sailor, or the mechanic — that were reworked in dense, neutral and luxurious fabrics. But with minimalism and a form of simplicity that rhymes with modernity. This collection has de facto every chance of seducing a contemporary man who doesn't want to wear streetwear or traditional suits. A similar feel emanated from Caruso's latest collection by Aldo Maria Camillo, who also reworked everyday items such as the work jacket in soft, carefully selected woolen fabrics. At Fendi, technical innovation was the driving force behind the brand's seasonal offering. Silvia Venturi Fendi collaborated with Anrealage's designer Kunihiko Morinaga to create genuinely outstanding garments. They had that unique touch of originality that rounded up the season.
By Frédéric Martin-Bernard