Men’s Fashion Week kicks off live in Milan, Gucci brings back the boys

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Milan (AFP) – The return of Gucci to the menswear fashion calendar, strong sales of Italian fashion and a farewell to the pandemic-imposed trend of virtual shows — that’s all that counts for men’s fashion week in Milan, which opened on Friday.

Promising spectacle and optimism after a year in which sales of Italian fashion recorded the highest growth in the last 20 years, the presentation of men’s fall-winter 2023/2024 collections continues until Tuesday.

Of the 79 shows, only four are digital, a legacy of the debilitating pandemic period that caused sales to plummet and halted live runway shows.

Nothing can replace “the live experience, the madness, the anticipation, the applause, the top models parading the catwalk and the powerful music,” fashion consultant Elisabetta Cavatorta told AFP.

The most anticipated was fashion powerhouse Gucci, which staged a menswear-only show for the first time in three years and the luxury brand’s first show since the sudden departure of artistic director Alessandro Michele in November.

A new direction at Gucci?

At its minimalist show on Friday, Gucci said it celebrated an “aesthetic of improvisation” with a collection inspired by the classic gentleman’s wardrobe, reinterpreted in a subversive spirit.

Combining faded jeans with sequined tops and green and red or pink heeled boots, the collection mixed genres and colors.

Long oversized coats with large shoulder pads and wide skirts split to reveal bare legs spiced up the collection, while wool hats and rectangular bags casually slung over the shoulder added to Gucci’s arsenal of accessories.

With his colorful collections leaked in the 1970s, Michele has been given a new lease of life after being selected in 2015 to revive the sales of the famous brand with the world-famous striped logo in green and red.

While sales exploded 44 percent in 2018 for flagship brand Kering, growth has lagged behind rivals over the past two years.

“It remains to be seen whether Alessandro Michele’s departure will trigger a change in direction for the fashion house,” Cavatorta said.

Alessandro Michele left Gucci in November, and a successor to the artistic director has not yet been named
Alessandro Michele left Gucci in November, and a successor to the artistic director has not yet been named © Miguel MEDINA / AFP

As for who will take over the leadership of Gucci, the fashion world can’t wait to hear about Michele’s successor.

Big incomes

Armani, Prada, Fendi, Dolce & Gabbana and Zegna are among the big brands that will present their men’s collections in the Italian fashion capital.

But there have been defections, including Versace, which plans to show its men’s and women’s collections together in Los Angeles on March 10.

Despite the war in Ukraine and the impact of the energy crisis on the energy-intensive fashion supply chain, Italian fashion sales rose 16 percent to 96.6 billion euros ($104.4 billion) last year.

Big labels like Giorgio Armani answered the call for live men's shows at Milan Fashion Week
Big labels like Giorgio Armani answered the call for live men’s shows at Milan Fashion Week © Miguel MEDINA / AFP/File

“This is the biggest revenue in the last 20 years,” Carlo Capasa, president of the Italian Chamber of Fashion, said at a presentation ahead of the show last month.

Inflation has had an impact, as Italian fashion prices have risen by around nine percent in 2022, but their increase is “a positive sign that closes a year marked by dramatic events and difficult times,” Capasa added.

Exports of “Made in Italy” fashion products rose 18.7 percent in the first nine months of last year, boosted by demand in the United States and Gulf countries where exports jumped by more than 50 percent.

Sales in China grew more moderately, at 18.8 percent, while exports to Russia fell by 26 percent, after the invasion of Ukraine.

But one area where the impact of the Covid-19 crisis will continue to be felt in Milan is the absence of Chinese buyers.

Despite the lifting of coronavirus-related health restrictions by Beijing authorities, the number of buyers traveling to the city for exhibitions will be “limited”, Capasa said.

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