Inspiration is the proverbial seed that sprouts the first ideas of a seasonal collection. And if the menswear shows in Milan this past week are anything to go by, it’s clear just how important these initial springboard seedlings can be to creating an aesthetically cohesive collection.
For the first Alexander McQueen menswear show since the label’s namesake designer’s passing, creative director Sarah Burton used pomp and circumstance as a thematic bridge. Distinguished red flowing coats, plaid ponchos and a royal color palette were combined to create the essential English gentry. The collection teemed with tracksuit pants and royal-esque stiff tailoring, hinting that Burton may be having a little joke on the reemergence of rock and royalty—at least since the recent engagement. But like the ever-enigmatic McQueen himself, this substantive inspiration will remain unclear.
Burberry Prorsum creative director Christopher Bailey, meanwhile, delved once again into the dusty archives of this successful heritage brand by seeking inspiration from an old advertisement. Bailey’s focus became one of coats and outerwear for every occasion and weather condition. Think shearling double-breasted aviator style jackets, pea green military coats, buffalo check jackets and bright orange duffles among the many over-the-top outerwear items that were sent down the runway. Transparent ponchos perfect for biking and luxe beige button-downs were also on show, hiding skinny black jeans and platform toe Doc Marten’s underneath.
Raf Simons, by contrast, tried to escape the dreaded pull of an idea starter. As head creative of Jil Sander, he looked purely to the past collections of the design house to build a collection based on high tones of bright color, worked into fuschia suiting, green doubled up polo necks, orange ring-lined knits and blasts of head to toe black.
This year mark’s Gucci’s 90th year in the rag trade, and Frida Giannini lived up to the occasion by bringing understated style into a house that has suffered some tragedy in its past. Her streamlined luxury aesthetic featured fur-lined overcoats paired with razor-sharp suiting with a slightly flared trouser. Texture was key throughout, as much of the color palette was teamed with muted greys, tonal reds and oak-browns. Suede-look trousers, mohair knits, crocodile double-breasted jackets and leather combinations were elegantly chic and cut to fit.
Although Bottega Veneta’s tagline “when initials are enough” effortlessly speaks to the appeal of its accessories line, the house’s menswear outing demanded its own attention. Cardigans were layered over jackets, while washed leather trenchcoats and mango colored trousers were combined to mix texture with traditional ideas. Much of the collection was monochrome, with pops of color coming through in mustard, burgundy and cobalt blue, while occasional bold choices—a burnished brown leather jacket, for one—spoke to the label’s ability to challenge conventions.
Umit Benan, the meek and mild designer who is as much a creator of trends as he is a designer, has a track record for predicting urban style staples with his seasonal signature looks. Come six months time, contrasting socks with shortened pants will be the norm in the lower east side of New York, while cropped jumpers over suiting will be seen in the east end of London and houndstooth three-piece suits will be common officewear. Leggings played a big role in Benan’s collection, with the entire season’s creations based on American Psycho character, Patrick Batemen. Ego was the key focus, and any man who can pull together an Umit Benan outfit deserves to be loved, and to love himself just as much.
It’s been a while since a beanie worked its way into a Marni menswear collection, but along with short cuffed pants and contrast buckle-over boots, this style of headgear almost became semi-chic. The collection further invoked a ‘50s Dick Tracy style of tailoring with a modern edge, additionally offering up trilby hats, khaki cottons and two-tone trousers with a drop crotch. In a different permutation of past iconography, Dolce and Gabbana’s mix of leather braces and black-rimmed glasses seemed to go against their stated Bryan Ferry reference for inspiration. Still, Ferry’s svelte crooning was nonetheless perfectly modernized for today’s lad by the ever-innovative duo.
Zegna seemed to orient its collection toward the biggest market: China. A 3D visual feast was part of the spectacular show, with red and gold tuxedos making their way down the runway to the sounds of an eastern soundtrack. Lining the future pockets of a Zegna suit has never been so literal. Vivienne Westwood stayed true to her political roots and dedicated her show to the warnings of climate change, while DSquared produced its signature urban-influenced suiting and John Varvatos provided wardrobe options for the man that moves from day to night without the need to change.
Inspiration is key to recreating a look, a collection and a feel of the time. This season, Milan showcased the work of some of the world’s most inspiring minds as well as those that are slightly weary.